It Takes a Village

It takes a village to raise a child.

This is the tragic story of two children raised in isolation.

This African proverb essentially means that “A child does not grow up only in a single home.”‘  “Regardless of a child’s biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community.”  (Quotes from Wikipedia)

This made me think of all the people involved in a child’s life other than their parents and immediate family.  For example, teachers, friends, neighbors, extended family members and clergy are routinely involved a child’s welfare.

These role models help to shape a child and their viewpoints of the world around them. They set examples and influence a child’s thoughts and behaviors.  A child learns how people behave by observing others, and through the experiences they’re exposed to.

Through positive, supportive interactions with the people in their life a child develops a sense of themselves as being worthy and valuable.  They learn confidence. They learn to trust and to reach out to people.

Being part of a community, a culture or social group helps a child develop social skills. They learn what is acceptable as the norm within the group. They learn to conform to social rules of behavior and learn the value of belonging.  A child forms friendships and strong bonds with peers that provide emotionally satisfying experiences.

I believe it’s important to surround a child with as much love and caring as possible.  It’s normal and necessary to meet a child’s needs with an abundance of supportive people and resources outside of the parent home.  I agree that it takes a village to raise a child.

With that being said, what happens to a child who is prevented from becoming a part of the world beyond the parent’s home? It seems hard to believe that there are children who have never been allowed to experience the typical life of a child.

For months I’ve been wrestling with an experience that shook me, seized me with fear and disgust to my very core. I witnessed first-hand what I consider the most extreme case of child abuse and neglect I’ve ever seen.

I’m not naive…I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime that has made me cringe.  I never would have imagined that parents can raise their children in captivity, isolated and hidden from the outside world.

This is the story about those two beautiful children, now in their late teens, and the tyrant who imprisoned them and stole their lives.  I’m compelled to give those children the voice they deserve.

Children are extraordinarily precious members of society; they are exquisitely alert, sensitive, and conscious of their surroundings; and they are extraordinarily vulnerable to maltreatment or emotional abuse by adults who refuse to give them the profound respect and affection to which they are unconditionally entitled. – Unknown

I was shocked when I met two children who were literally raised in captivity in their parents’ home.  London is 19 years old now and his sister Moon is 16.  Their mother died almost two years ago from cancer. They live at home with their father, who I suspect has been solely responsible for raising them in isolation. I’ve been to their home three times, and each time was more disturbing than the last.

These children shouldn’t be confused with the “wild child” who was raised without any human contact.  Seemingly they were nurtured by their mother.  Their father is present physically but unavailable emotionally.  Other family members have distanced themselves and wear blinders. They sit back in silence and have allowed this to occur.

Their father, the tyrant, is a survivalist. He claimed he was preparing to survive the catastrophe of a collapsed society. He believes the Armageddon will happen in his lifetime and he is preparing for it.  He has a cache of weapons and ammunition in the home and a large collection of items a family would need to survive an apocalyptic event.

You may wonder how the parents were able to hide these children all these years. They never attended school, but were home schooled by their mother. To home school a child, the local public school system requires oversight of the child’s education. They also provide the necessary curriculum.  The children were never enrolled in the public schools.  Because of this, they were virtually nonexistent.

Neither parent is educated beyond high school and has no qualifications to independently home school their children. With no input and oversight by the public school system it’s likely their education is way below even the most minimal standards.  Moon claims she has a sixth grade education and has a learning disability.  Without a professional evaluation there’s no way to know what level of education she has and whether or not she has a learning disability. This is what her parents told her and what she believes to be true. London has yet to take his GED.   Since their mother’s death their education, what little there was, has been ignored.

Not only are they unprepared for the world in terms of education and work skills, they have no solid foundation in social skills. They have no friends their age to talk to and socialize with. They have no face to face peer interaction. In fact, they never leave the house.

A typical teenager gets their license, works and goes to school. They have friends they go out with to shop, eat pizza, watch movies, play sports and just hang out together. These children have no such life.  When questioned the father’s responded, “at least they’re in the house. I know where they are and they’re not getting into trouble.”

How pathetic for those children to be forced to live in isolation.  The only contact they have with the outside world is through the internet.  I observed both of them on the internet every minute they’re awake. London is a gamer and is on the computer at least 12 hours a day every day.  Moon is also on the computer at least 12 hours a day unmonitored with no adult supervision.  This is their only source of stimulation and socialization.  They’re maladjusted and aren’t evolving.

I think I’ve made my point. I will never forget these children. I had to leave the situation because I couldn’t do anything to help them.  He would never allow me to influence the children by giving them what they need…a new life.   I believe it would have been dangerous to stay in the situation. I would have become his hostage too. They are the lost, the forgotten, the undiscovered. I wonder how many more children there are who suffer from a similar tragedy.

**************************************************

This is a true story. The children’s names were changed to protect me and them.

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About Karmic Diva

I'm a song in the key of life, a work in progress, a diamond in the rough. I write, scribble, babble and doodle endlessly. I'm here to love and learn. -Karmic Diva-

Posted on September 25, 2012, in Reality, Relationships, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. A sad, sad story. I’ve heard of such situation. Can’t report to the authorities? Clearly the father is unstable … So kind of you to try to help.

    Many blessings,
    Jamie

  2. Jamie thank you for your concern. I’ve spoken to a social worker and a therapist about this and was told not to bother reporting. I’m still trying to figure out why there would be no consequences but I’m told it’s because of their age now.

  3. This is truly sad! I know of a family who lived under similar circumstances. The children are lovely, but have never really grown up mentally. This is an awful thing for them because now they’re out in the big wide world they don’t understand how to communicate well with other people. It’s a long road ahead

  4. As someone who has been in and around the foster care system in my state I have been horrified more than once over the treatment and upbringing of many of our children. Kids denied education, outside friends and even food! Kids forced to sleep on a mattress in a locked basement and the local kids recently put in cages by their parents. We had one set of parents duct tape their 8 year old boy to the table each night so he wouldn’t sneak out and find food or talk to neighbors! Survivalists, extremists and the mentally ill force their ideals on their children, keeping them away from the outside world. Afraid and clinging to the only parents they know, these kids are clueless and lost in what we deem “normal society,” my heart breaks for these kids.I take them in when I can, help all I can, but like you say, I can’t put my life in danger and leave my three kids alone if something happens. So who will step in?

  5. I don’t know how you deal with it. I wish I could have set them free but I knew he would make sure it didn’t happen no matter what. He’s never going to give up his hostages. Scary stuff my friend.

  6. This is pretty harrowing, Karm…

  7. This is serioulsy sad and my heart goes out to those children. I would urge you to keep talking to the authorities. Something good may come out of all this.

  8. That is horrible.

    I’ve never be;lieved in home school. Majority of the parents’ reason for homeschooling is that school and the students are evil and are a bad influence on their children. i hate to say it but these parents are mostly Fundamentalist Christians… those in the fringe whose rational minds have been wreaked by their beliefs. I’m not generalizing. The parents of these students live in a bubble.

  9. Are you still allowed contact with the kids? Do you have email addresses for them? To me, seeing things in person is a big draw. Going to a store, instead of online, smelling a bakery, the tropical feeling of a garden center. Driving could be prodded by taking about how fun go-karts are (if there is a track nearby). Or talking about so and so getting driving lessons, or getting their licence and how it is such a relief that the child can now drive the parent if there is an accident. Buying them a little something, that is the wrong thing (on purpose) and saying, “oh there were so *many* to chose from, do you want to chose yourself?” Free group first aid courses, so they can “be of more help to their father.”

    My perspective is about prodding their interest in leaving the house. They might be able to leave, now, but it may feel like it is not worth the effort of going against their father’s wishes, so they don’t try anymore. A bird will peck at their incubated egg, when it has been too long, and the chick hasn’t been able to break the shell on their own. The mom will get it going, for the chick to take it over.

    The kids would be used to feeling frustrated, even if they seem serene about how they live. They probably have never been around a large group of people their own age, so that would be a draw and an eye opener for them, as well as being very scary. Reproduction drive is the strongest, and the classic way of breaking free of parents. Girls/boys, physical touch. The girl is hardwired to respond to babies, the smell of them in a group, and the sight of them can be overwhelming.

    Just some thoughts. I’ve just started to look at your blog.

  10. I appreciate your thoughts. If only I could have influenced them but he would not allow it under any circumstances. They are prisoners and he saw through my attempts to get them out into the real world. It will be up to them to leave if and when they’re ready.

    • They won’t be the first to have a truly bad start in life. Frank McCourt (McCort?) of “Angela’s Ashes” was giving a interview on TV the other day and I was reminded of his story. Modern life has improved so much and happily there is freedom for it to get even better.

      Take care ~

  11. Having gone through the 12 week process of background checks, being fingerprinted and attending classes to be a foster parent, I heard more of these stories than I wanted to. Hail to all who bring this into the light and help kids find safe, nurturing homes. I also have an Aunt who home schools in the wrong way, keeping her boys slaves. They give her back rubs, refuse to ride in any car she is not driving and more. So sad, they need help.

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