Legislation to protect adopted children from abuse advances in State Senate

Bill aims to prevent tragedies after horrific death of two adopted children in Roane County

(NASHVILLE) — Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) received approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee today for legislation requiring adoptive parents receiving subsidies to annually provide the Department of Children’s Services with medical or school enrollment records to ascertain a health check.  Senate Bill 270 comes after the horrific deaths of two Roane County children.  It  also authorizes DCS to initiate a face-to-face visit if the adoptive parent fails to provide the documentation and foul play might be suspected. 

“This was an abhorrent crime,” said Sen. Yager, who represents Roane County in the Tennessee Senate.  “These children lived in barbaric conditions which are hard for us to imagine in the worst of nightmares.  We must do everything we can to ensure this never happens again and that children in the state’s custody are adopted into loving homes, not those who would abuse them while pocketing their adoption subsidy.”

The arrest warrant said the children were fed a “starvation diet of light bread and water” by their adoptive parents.  They were also locked in a basement and caged in isolation.  Roane County law enforcement authorities found the body of one of the deceased children, a young girl, buried in the family’s barn in Roane County.  The second child, a boy, was found buried in the back yard of the adoptive parent’s adult biological son in Knox County.  Authorities believe the children were buried several years before discovery.  The adoptive parents continued receiving financial benefits for both children after their death. 

The discovery was made last summer when a third child was found walking on a Roane County road alone by a passerby who alerted law enforcement authorities.  The abusers had five adoptive children in which the state reportedly paid them an adoption subsidy. 

“This legislation would ensure that DCS receives an annual notification on any child when the adoptive parents are receiving subsidy payments,” added Sen. Yager.  “Most importantly, it provides DCS with the authority to check on the child when that information is not received and foul play is suspected to hopefully prevent such tragedies.”

The adoptive parents each face multiple counts of felony murder, abuse of a corpse, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. They also each face counts of abuse of a corpse, theft, TennCare fraud, and falsification of educational or academic records.  The adoptive parents had claimed the children were home schooled. 

Presently, DCS gives an incentive for foster families to adopt their foster children by promising a monthly adoption subsidy until the children are age 18 to 21.  Once the adoption is finalized, DCS caseworkers do not check back in. Parents are requested to sign an affidavit to promise they are adhering to the agreement every two years. 

The bill now advances to the floor of the Senate for final consideration.  It is also pending action in the House of Representatives where it is sponsored by Representative Mary Littleton (R-Dickson).