The Menendez Theorem

To get a kid from DHHS you have to attend 24 hours of training, 23 hours of which is basically to scare you witless about the prospect of adopting an abused kid in protective custody. The instructors are adoptive parents who have their own horror stories of trying to parent these damaged and scary kids. They also provide numerous other examples gleaned from years of  anecdotal evidence gathering or maybe from watching Law and Order SUV.

I get that they want to really, really prepare you for the worst and they want to make sure you know what you are doing. But halfway through the classes I reached my limit of hearing about the killing of yet another family pet at the hands of a crazed 8-year-old or how you can love your little adoptive kid all you want but if he has RAD (reactive attachment disorder) there is nothing you can do to get little Charlie Manson to love you back. In fact, your attempts at loving him might be meet with resentful anger.  I was glad we were hopeful to adopt a toddler because I thought I probably had a chance of surviving an attack by someone under 3 feet tall.

I have some experience in public relations and I started thinking, is this really the way to market these kids?  Maybe play up the resiliency of the human spirit aspect. Or talk a little how great you would be perceived by them compared to the hell they had been through. Did these kids know this is how they were being portrayed? Could they sue for defamation of character?

Sure it’s bizarrely humorous to me now, but then I was starting to buy in to what I can only describe as brain washing. My anxiety grew. I shared my fears with my husband – he was at the same point. During a class activity where we were divided into small groups I took the opportunity to poll my group on their thoughts about the classes. Whispering because I didn’t want our instructors, Doris or Karen, to know I was questioning their doctrine – “Hey, I have a question. Is anyone else freaked out about all this stuff about the kids killing us?” Charles, who stands about 6’2, weighs 190 pounds and has 3 kids said, “God, I can’t take it any more! I’m having nightmares!” The consensus with the others was the same.

The next day I came up with the Menendez Theorem. I started making a list of children who killed their biological parents. I couldn’t wait to see my husband that night. I knew the truth would set him free as well. I also Googled adoptive children killing their adoptive parents. The good news – they had a greater chance of being killed by us than them actually killing us. Chalk it up to evolutionary biology – parents have less of a problem killing children who aren’t their biological offspring.

For the remainder of our classes whenever Doris or Karen told a particularly chilling tale my husband and I took turns whispering out of the side of our mouths “Menendez”.

We never filled out the evaluation sent to us by the sponsoring university about the value of the classes. We were afraid that it was a trick to assess what they hoped would be our newly soured view of humanity and that if it were deemed we hadn’t drank the Kool-Aid we would be prevented from getting our kid.

The thing is if I want drama I watch TV.

This entry was posted in Adopting, By Notatypicalmom by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She is the author of the memoir Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at CNN, Psychology Today online, The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: Email:

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