Theresa has been covering a heartbreaking story that’s currently unfolding in Kansas. I should say the sad outcome is unfolding – the actual story began with the adoption of a little boy born Irvin Groeninger, who then became Adam Herrman. He was one of three children adopted by Valerie and Doug Herrmann, who from what I gather have at least one biological child as well.
It’s hard for me to capture the range of emotions I felt upon reading the stories below. There was the initial shock of another sad case of child abuse and possibly murder. Then disbelief about many of the things I read – the fact that this family either did away with this little boy and hid the fact for so long, or (giving the benefit of the long-shot of doubt) never reported him missing, and that family members who witnessed his abuse stood by and did nothing.
We might be tempted to say that this horrible event could happen in any family: Adam's adoptive relationship with his parents might, in fact, play no role at all in what was done to him. But the fact that he WAS adopted, and was so at the mercy of people who were in fact strangers to him brings adoption into the picture, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
There’s first of all the issue of how someone as clearly unbalanced as Valerie Herrmann could have been given approval to adopt in the first place. There's also the issue of Adam’s first parents, and their right to know what has happened to him. Right now, right at this moment, it's very likely that a woman is reading Adam's story, doing the math in her head, and desperately wondering if this was the little one she surrendered 21 years ago. Edited to add that Adam's first family does indeed know what is happening.
Last night I reading some blogs I found from a Wordpress search on the phrase “Korean adoption.” I came across several in which the authors praised the adoption of Korean children by their friends. There’s a post coming about that, but the attitudes I saw in those blogs intersect this story because they represent the attitudes of much of the mainstream: adoption is charity, and those who choose to adopt must therefore be charitable and inherently good people. This kind of thinking numbs us to the reality that bad people adopt in numbers undoubedly proportionate to bad people who conceive and give birth. I wonder if such a view of adoption closed the eyes, ears and minds of Adam's family and friends who stood by silently for so long, leaving him at the mercy of people who clearly did not have his best interests at heart.
We must do better. In adoption, in the care of our children, we simply must do better. And we can. The first step is educate the public to the reality of adoption, and to debunk the notion that adoption is charity and therefore intrinsically good. Hopefully the change our nation is embracing will open up the closed eyes, ears and minds, and make ethical, just, respectful and caring adoption practices a reality.
More on the Adam Herrman story here:
Jan. 01, 2009 Butler County boy may have disappeared in 1999
Jan. 03, 2009 One answer found in missing-boy case
Jan. 06, 2009 Relatives say missing Butler County boy was abused
Jan. 06, 2009 The biological daughter of Adam Herrman's adoptive parents contacts KSN
Jan. 6 & 7, 2009 Missing Boy's Uncle Blames Sister
Jan. 7, 2009 Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy
Additionally, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has released an age-progression photograph and details about Adam at the time he went missing.