Has anyone read this book?
I am teaching sociology right now and got a hand me down copy of the Oprah. I showed it to my class without watching it first and it was traumatic for me. So sad, scary, and interesting at the same time...
I have not read the book, but just read the article I found, from following your link.
Of course, the girl's story is heartbreaking as well as fascinating, in a clinical way - how the human brain develops. But anything further I might say about her would surely be the same thing others have said 100 times.
I was very upset, reading about her mother (at the very end of the article). It's so easy and obvious to simply hate and demonize her. But she has a 77 IQ. I have twin sons who had severe birth trauma and whose IQs have sometimes been scored in that range. They are on the Autism spectrum, which makes it difficult or impossible to get accurate scores from normal IQ tests, especially when they're children. (A friend's Autistic son was reading and writing in 3 languages at age 4 and recognizing complicated numeric patterns that have surely translated into astounding math skills, now that he's a teen; yet IQ tests always reported profound mental retardation...)
In other words, I'm not sure how closely Dani's mother's mental abilities mirror my sons'. She is probably more mentally handicapped than they are. But to give you some idea: My sons can do a lot. They're in a fairly academically rigorous private high school and not flunking out. They're also 16 and in 9th grade. There is a lot about computer software that they latch onto quickly, if they're interested in it. They can run a lawn mower, drive a go-kart, cook some basic things by themselves. If they realize they left something at home, that they need in school, they will take the initiative to text-message me and ask me to bring it to them. But overall, their logic and problem-solving skills are shockingly poor. Examples:
* Starting in grade school, I worked on making them responsible to bring their hamper of dirty clothes to the laundry room and to understand that if they let it pile up, they wouldn't have clean clothes when they needed them. Even at 14, they would sometimes rush into the laundry room 20 minutes before I had to drive them to school and toss in a favorite shirt they wanted to wear that day. In their minds, they had "taken it to the laundry room" and that's what they had to do, to get it clean. Even after repeated explanations and letting them run loads of laundry through the washer and dryer, it still took countless repetition - over years - for them to understand how long it takes to get clothes clean, after you throw them in the laundry room.
* We regularly have situations like this: They'll get back from a weekend at their Dad's house and one of them will realize he left something important there, like a phone charger. Maybe he will think to call his Dad. Most likely not, though, because he doesn't think of having interactions with his Dad, until the next weekly Homework Night or weekend visit. Nor will he take the initiative to tell me he has a problem, because the problem originated at Dad's house. (Despite the fact that, between their 2 biological and 2 step-parents, it is consistently reinforced that they will get help resolving things like this, if they do communicate!) If he doesn't call his Dad - or does, but Dad doesn't answer or immediately call back - he will start looking for the charger at my house (even though he knows it's at Dad's. He may even be able to tell me where it is, there.) After all, looking for things is how you find them. I will usually find out there's a problem when he gets really frustrated and I can hear him banging around his room, dumping out the contents of his desk or laundry hamper, muttering to himself, "Well, it's definitely lost. I guess I'll just have to get a new charger. Or a new phone."
It's hard for me to imagine either of my sons, saddled with the responsibility of a baby, not thinking to introduce solid foods for 7 years or cuddle the baby or take him/her outside for walks or to play. But they've also seen good examples of how to care for younger siblings, at both parents' houses.
Maybe Dani's mother was selfish and cruel on a level that transcends her mental challenges. But there's something about her excuses: "See? My sons did watch the baby. It says so, right here in this CPS report. What's the problem? Why did I need free daycare for her?"; "I tried to potty-train her, but she just wouldn't train."; "I never put clothes on her because she just ripped them off."; "I was afraid to take her to the doctor because he might see how different she is from other kids and take her away."; "The cops said I was starving her, but they didn't listen: everyone in my family is skinny 'til they hit puberty!"...that reminds me of my sons' limited problem-solving abilities.
I'd like to assume if my sons lived on their own as adults, they would take out the trash, clean it up if their kids smeared excrement on the walls, etc. But if they were alone in the world (no parents, step-parents or siblings stopping by to check and see how they were doing); if they had a partner and she died; if they got sick, depressed, overwhelmed...is it unthinkable that they might give up, live in filth and conclude there was nothing they could do about it? Maybe.
I'm certain that, if they (or their children) needed public services, they would not figure out on their own how to get them. It would not occur to them, on their own, that there were people or organizations out there that might help them, if family members weren't around to do it. And if a cop or CPS agent showed up at their house, did an inspection, then offered public services, they would feel like they were in trouble and would be resistant to accept anything.
I am sick, thinking about a woman who functions at - or likely below - the level of my sons, living completely on her own and having society expect the same things of her that we expect from fully-functional adults. Having the responsibility of raising three children on her own. Letting her decide whether to accept helpful services, without anyone to help her make that decision (or override her choice). She could have ended up in prison for child neglect, when she should never have been left to raise children without some level of supervision, in the first place. Neither my husband and I nor my ex and his wife let our twins babysit our babies and preschoolers. The thought of leaving a baby alone with one of them for 7 years, then sending him to prison because of how poorly he cares for the baby seems monstrous. Like leaving our 12-year-old in charge of a business, then sending him to prison for criminal mismanagement.
The only solution I can see to this lies in schools (and agencies that check up on home-schooled kids). We don't need a police state. There's more than one valid way to raise and educate your child. But kids whose disabilities, mental health or low intelligence may inhibit their ability to function with complete independence as adults need to be identified, in case their families can't (or won't) help them, when they're older. That way, hopefully, support will be in place before they have kids. Or at the very least, social workers, CPS agents, police, etc. who may be called to intervene in their adult lives can know - before they walk in the door - that it's not enough to accept "I don't need any services" and turn around and walk back out...or that if the person says, "I'm doing the best I can," maybe - God forbid - they really are.
Sorry this is so long, I was really upset thinking about this. My worst fear is what will happen to my twins if they survive all of their parents and their siblings don't grow up to feel some responsibility for them.