April 20, 2008


It was another horrifying headline. The kind that are becoming all too common, but with a unique twist: “Mother charged with beating quadruplets.”

I read on. An Arizonian mother, 24 years old, gave birth nine weeks prematurely to three boys and one girl at the time the nation was riveted by the story of the McCaughey septuplets in Iowa.

The mother in Arizona also had a six-year old daughter with Down’s Syndrome.

She was arrested on fourteen counts of child abuse. One son was hospitalized in a near-vegetative state. The other three children suffered skull fractures and broken bones. They were placed in foster care.

I imagined the situation.

Where was the father of the children? He was only 21.

Initially, people opened their hearts and wallets for the young, unmarried woman expecting quadruplets. They gave money, baby formula and even knitted booties.

If a Down’s Syndrome child presents difficulties for wedded parents, how much more challenging would it be for a single parent? Adding quadruplets to the mix would challenge the most prepared of parents, wedded or single. The combination had to be truly stressful.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have carried these children. That option is always available to mothers. But then, the “right-to-lifers” would be up in arms.
Where were these protesters when the Arizona mother needed help. Were they there? Did the village help care for the babies?

Again, perhaps she should not have kept the children. Are there homes available to adopt the combination of quads and Down’s Syndrome?

What financial support did the mother have?

Were the babies fussing?

Was the mother suffering from severe sleep-deprivation or post-partum blues?
Was the mother raised in an abusive home? Was her background so dysfunctional she couldn’t cope? But then, how many of us are prepared to cope with four infants 24/7?

How much care did the Down’s Syndrome child require? Where is her family support while she dealt with her extraordinary circumstances? What about the father and his family?

How would any healthy family cope without tremendous community support, especially in the infant’s first year? How involved was the human service/child welfare system.

I wonder how much community support and help the McCaughey family received. Certainly the two situations aren’t too different—seven infants versus four infants and an older child with Down’s Syndrome.

Many questions. Nothing excuses harming a child. But consider how you would cope in that situation?

Meanwhile, four injured children and one destroyed family.

Where are the answers? What are the answers?

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. Learn what you can do about child abuse in your community. Read more about child abuse by clicking on



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