Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

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Beware Magic Cures for Children
by Val Peter and Karen J. Authier

Mon Apr 17 14:52:39 2000

The Omaha World-Herald on-line

Peter is executive director of Boys Town USA, and Authier is its director of public policy.

Desperate people sometimes resort to tragic solutions. A recent report in the Boston Globe described a sad situation involving a desperate adoptive mother of a troubled 10-year-old child.

The child had serious behavior problems, and the mother was told the child suffered from a condition called attachment disorder. Her desperation over repeated failures to find helpful treatment for her child caused her to resort to an unorthodox intervention that was labeled treatment. The treatment, "rebirthing therapy," killed the child.

In carrying out "rebirthing therapy," adults wrapped the child in a blanket and pillows and held her against her will. She cried out to the adults that she could not breathe, but they held tightly and smothered her.

At Boys Town we have been working with troubled children for more than 80 years. We know there are no simple solutions but understand that sometimes it is tempting to believe there are. Many children bear the emotional wounds of serious abuse and neglect. We help many of these children by teaching them that human relationships can be rewarding, teaching them the difference between right and wrong and teaching them better ways to live with others.

When we are not successful in helping them with those methods, we do not resort to dangerous, unproven techniques. From our solid experience with thousands of children across the country, we can tell you this:

1. Use of physical force is not treatment. Common sense tells us that sometimes we must hold a child to keep him or her from engaging in dangerous behavior - like running into heavy traffic. There is no treatment value to restraining or holding a child against his or her will. That type of restraint is dangerous and abusive.

2. There are no magic cures for behavior problems. Turning to a magic cure for behavior problems is like injecting someone suffering from a chronic illness with a potentially poisonous "medicine" and using the argument that the risk is justified because nothing else has worked.

3. Children in treatment have rights. Children have a right to safe, effective and humane treatment. If a treatment approach or setting does not meet those criteria, it is not treatment. It is true that children in treatment may be asked to obey rules they do not like (for example, making their beds or refraining from disrespectful behavior), or they may experience consequences for breaking the rules (for example, losing privileges such as calling friends on the telephone or watching TV). But good treatment does not violate youths'rights.

Rebirthing therapy is a questionable and unproven technique that relies on overpowering a child and rendering him or her physically helpless. We will not attempt to explain the reasoning behind "rebirthing" because it makes no sense. However, if you are desperate for an answer, the proponents of this "therapy" are very convincing because they provide an explanation for the problem and remedy for your pain. There is no shortage of modern-day quacks and medicine men who offer false hope to those who suffer.

Child-rearing brings both pain and pleasure into our lives. We are joyful as our children's lives unfold in positive directions. We are anguished when their lives are marked with disability and disease. When health or behavior problems develop, we say our prayers and look to our usual sources for advice and support: friends, relatives, the clergy or doctors. When all their best advice and assistance do not bring results, we are vulnerable to those who offer "the answer." Because we are desperate and vulnerable, we are eager to embrace the promises of those who profess to have the answers to our problems.

Professionals who purport to help troubled children have a responsibility to those children and to society. The children cannot hold them accountable, so society must. Good intentions are not an excuse for harming children.

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