Do Homeschools Defraud the Government? Profiting Off the Adoption of Marginalized Children

In all of the homeschool homicide/abuse cases I have written about, a major factor was defrauding the government. Erica Parson’s adoptive parents were convicted on federal fraud charges for stealing substantial amounts of state and federal money meant for the little girl, and continuing to do so for years after they killed her, also claiming her on their taxes. In the case of Hana Alemu and her surviving adopted brother Immanuel, I am unsure if there were subsidies granted to the family or not, since it was an international adoption. However there are possible ways to receive subsidies for children like Hana due to her status as special needs. Recent developments in the case of the Hart family, written about in my last blog, indicate that parents Sarah and Jennifer received $2,000 a month from the state of Texas to help support their 5 adopted children.

At least one of the Hart children, Devonte, was disabled.

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Sarah and Jennifer Hart with four of their adopted children

Special Needs Children: A Category of Adoption

Adopting what are considered by the state to be “special needs” children, means more money for parents, and this is a good thing, as the money is helpful. However, it can be taken advantage of. Children of color fall under the special needs category when it comes to adoption, although this terminology is outdated when applied to disability, and I do not refer to disabled people as having “special needs”. In this context however, it is not only referring to disability, but to children who are from difficult backgrounds and/or are minorities.

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Disabled Ethiopian Adoptee, Hana Alemu Williams

From a research brief from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation: Children Adopted from Foster Care: Adoption Agreements, Adoption Subsidies, and Other Post-Adoption Supports:

“The percentage [of parents] receiving a subsidy is higher among non-Hispanic African American children than among non-Hispanic white children (85 percent compared with 69 percent). This is likely due to states definitions of special-needs adoption that frequently encompass children of color, as well as older children, sibling groups, and children with medical conditions or disabilities, as being harder to place for adoption (NACAC, 2008).”

Children adopted from foster care receive funding that can last until the child is 21.

“Subsidy payments are intended to assist parents in meeting the special needs of their adopted children and to encourage the adoption of children who would otherwise be difficult to place in adoptive homes.  States define criteria relating to special needs, but in addition to special health care needs typically include children from racial or ethnic minority groups, older children (with the definition of older varying by state) and sibling groups adopted together.”
“For the vast majority of children adopted from foster care who receive a subsidy (88 percent), their parents felt it was very likely or likely that they would have adopted without the subsidy. However, for a minority (12 percent), the parents reported it was not likely or very unlikely they would have adopted in the absence of the subsidy.”

The above statistic states that 12 percent of parents would not likely have adopted a marginalized child, but did so potentially because there was more money involved. This mentality proves to me that yet again, marginalized identities are often looked down on as burdens or being too much work, and not like other children. This is the mentality that can be prevalent in cases of abuse.  The intersection of adoption, homeschool, and disability needs to be understood as an area where children are susceptible not only to abuse, but to torture and homicide. 

It is a good thing that there are higher subsidies in place for children who have been abused and/or who are marginalized identities, because often those children need more services and support. However, this also creates an incentive for predatory types to exploit such children for money. Some families have been known to only adopt disabled children, for various reasons. Sometimes it is for money, sometimes it is to gain accolades and respect from their communities.

Adopting children can also give one a giant tax credit. From the Huffington Post article Adopting a Child Can Bring You Countless Rewards — and Tax Benefits:

“While the adoption credit is no longer refundable, you may still be eligible for a credit of up to $12,970 if you’ve adopted or are planning to adopt a child this year. Yes, you read correctly, an income tax credit of over twelve thousand dollars related to adoption costs — in addition to other benefits. Also, if there is one other true statement about adoption, it is typically a very expensive undertaking. So tax credits, potentially a big one, is often very well received and deserved. The adoption tax credit is available for adopted children who are under 18 years old and who are not the step-child of you or your spouse. The credit also applies to a child any age if they are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves.”

Adoption is very expensive, yes, or it certainly can be, as raising children in general is. But in situations of abuse, this money is not going towards the children, it is providing and income for the parents. Erica Parson’s parents did not accommodate her disabilities, did not send her to school, and starved her. Hana’s parents did the same. These abused children are not seeing the benefits of the money.

Vulnerability of Adopted, Disabled Children

There is a clear intersection between adoption and disability. Adopted children, whether from foster care, directly adopted from the mother, or internationally adopted, often have experienced trauma and/or come from difficult backgrounds. Some of them, like Devonte Hart, were born addicted to drugs. Some, like Hana Alemu, have trauma related disabilities like PTSD. Others, like Erica Parsons, have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and hearing loss. Many of the situations these children came from were abusive and traumatic. If a child put up for adoption was not born disabled, there is still a possibility that a disability can occur later in life as a result of the trauma of losing their birth family or being abused while in care.

As we have seen in the Knox child torture report, which I have cited a few times in this blog, victims of torture are frequently not biological children. The Knox study proves that children who have been adopted or placed in “informal arrangements” are susceptible to torture, which is a severe, prolonged condition of abuse, and all of the adopted children I write about have gone through it. Erica Parsons did not go through the foster care system, but was adopted in a family arrangement. Erica’s adoptive parents received state money for her. A child does not have to come from the foster care system to be eligible for these benefits.

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Homicide victim Erica Parsons

As above statistics indicate, disabled and marginalized children are not the first pick of many people, but the higher subsidies they come with can be an incentive, and these subsidies can be available for different types of adoptions.

Studies show that there are many disabled children in foster care, and that these children are more likely to be abused.

From the National Council on Disability’s Youth with Disabilities in the Foster Care System: Barriers to Success and Proposed Policy Solutions:

“At any given point in time in the United States, approximately 500,000 youth are in the foster care system, although nearly 800,000 youth are served by this system per year. Separately, almost 13 percent of all youth ages 6 through 14 have at least one documented disability. Recent reports estimate that youth with disabilities are between 1.5 and 3.5 times more likely to have experienced abuse or neglect than youth without disabilities. Although determining the cause of a disability for an abused young person is often difficult, research has assessed that disabilities are often caused and/or exacerbated by abuse. At the same time, data suggests that youth born with disabilities are more often abused, and also more often relinquished to the child welfare system (either by choice or force).”

In cases of severe abuse and torture, children are often “homeschooled” and kept away from school and anyone else, such as a doctor or disability accommodations specialist, who might recognize and report signs of abuse. When abuse and starvation, which is also common among tortured children, become very severe, which can happen after it has gone on for many years, parents are more likely to pull the child out of school, and the situation can escalate to homicide.

Rising numbers of homeschooled, disabled children

From my law paper Homeschool, Disability and Homicide: The Relation Between Disability Accommodations and Abuse:

‘The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2003, 1,096,000 children were homeschooled in the United States. This is an increase from 1999 numbers. The top reason given by parents in 2003 for homeschooling their children, ages 5-17, or K-12 equivalent, was “Concern about environment of other schools”, with 31% of respondents citing this reason. The second highest reason, at 30%, was a desire to “provide religious or moral instruction”. “Child has a physical or mental health problem” came in at 7%, along with “Child has other special needs”, also at 7%. [1] The US Department of Education estimated in 2011 that 1,770,000 children in the US were homeschooled. Reasons parents have given in 2011 for homeschooling include, at the top of the list, “A desire to provide religious instruction”, with 64% of respondents stating so. 17% of parents said that the child having special needs was the reason, and 15% said the child having a “physical or mental health problem” caused them to homeschool. [2] As the numbers show, parents have increasingly cited disability and/or health of the child as a reason for homeschooling since 2003.’

It is certainly possible and not at all uncommon that a homeschool is a better option for a disabled child, and there are many homeschooled children who thrive. But that is not what this blog is about, this blog is about people who exploit the system. Statistics and evidence show that disabled children in general are more likely to be abused and murdered; there are high numbers of disabled children in foster care; disabled children are becoming homeschooled at higher rates every year; child torture is often covered by homeschool, and that tortured children are often not biological. 

Homeschool can be an excellent way for an abuser to cover their actions against children. Once abuse becomes very severe, it is likely that the abuser(s) will pull the child(ren) out of school. This is why homeschool needs to be looked at with extra scrutiny instead of being almost completely unregulated. It is also important to understand that adopted, disabled children are likely to end up in situations of homeschool torture, abuse, and homicide. If we as a society would like to reduce the numbers of murdered, abused children, and in particular the high numbers of victimized disabled and Deaf children, this is an area we need to examine and to regulate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES).
[2] “Statistics About Non-Public Education in the United States.” US Department of Education. Office of Non-Public Education, 2012.

 

 

 

 

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