Those of you reading regularly know that I practice in the local Children's Court, so I was especially interested in the first few new stories on the murder of a couple who had adopted so many special needs kids. Byrd and Melanie Billings -- didn't they look nice in that big family photo?
1. They adopted, not just fostered. They weren't getting those monthly foster care checks, assuming that Florida runs like Texas. Nope. They adopted those kids as their own. Maybe they get some financial support (over and above Medicaid) because the kids are special needs. But they're not being paid by the state to care for them in the same way that they would be as foster parents. Big points in my book.
2. And what about the story that they sued the family member for child support? I'm not seeing a problem here. The parent is supposed to be financially responsible for his or her offspring. If he/she is well-meaning but chaotic, using the system to get an automatic withdrawal out of their paychecks may solve lots of problems. I'm not going to assume that this was an acrimonious lawsuit without knowing more because it may not be the case.
3. Melanie's MySpace comment that these kids are "perfect." This may seem like a bizarre comment to some, even denial of the obvious -- but it's not that strange to hear from someone who has been around special needs kids. There is an innocence, and a joy - yes, a joy - that these folk possess that is quite amazing. They are just so intrinsically GOOD, for lack of a better phrase. You feel better for being around them. Knowing that Melanie Billings felt this way about her kids tells me a lot about her. She knew the wonderfulness of these children, appreciated it. And, knowing that -- and knowing what these kids can be like to be around -- I know that Melanie Billings spent many happy days in that home. She considered herself blessed, and she was.
4. Staying in the House? What a horror for those kids to have been home that day. Horror. My first thought was to wonder if those that loved them would ever want them to return to the scene of the crime, literally. Then I pondered for awhile, and considered that this house was built with special needs in mind. Look at the wide sidewalks. The pool (therapy here, not just fun and games). I'm assuming there are railings and wide hallways (to accommodate wheelchairs) and other specialized construction within this dwelling. And, there are a lot of good memories, too.
So, when I learned that the kids would be returning to live in the house, after new carpeting and other alterations had been made, I thought it was a good idea. Sad, yes. But this is their home, and the security of memories, and tradition, and the special accommodations it provides, may be very beneficial to them. Move them someplace else, it's another big, big loss. Good for Melanie's daughter to make this call -- you know it can't be easy for her, to live in the home that her mother died in. That's a selfless act.
Okay. First impressions. More later.