LORTON, Virginia – A woman is taking the unusual step of trying to unadopt her 15-year-old son, saying she learned of his troubled past only after he molested two younger children.
"You don't want to throw somebody away," said Helen Briggs, a longtime foster mother. "But sometimes you have to."
Briggs, 57, said she did not know that the boy had lived in five foster homes since he was 16 months old, or that he had been physically abused by his alcohol- and drug-addicted biological parents and was possibly psychotically bipolar.
"I did not know any of that," Briggs said. "They just told me he was hyperactive."
Virginia policy mandates that caseworkers provide "full, factual information" about a child to adoptive parents. State child welfare advocates would not comment on the case because of confidentiality rules.
But records obtained by The Washington Post show some caseworkers do not believe Briggs' claim that she was not fully informed and think she may be trying to get out of having to pay child support.
After the youngster molested a 6-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl in 2003, he was deemed a "sexual predator" by psychologists. That meant that if he remained in Briggs' home, she could no longer be a foster parent to others or allow her three grandchildren in her home, so she chose to try to dissolve the adoption.
A judge granted Briggs's bid to relinquish custody, and the boy is back in foster care. But in Virginia, a child older than 14 must give consent, and the teenager wants Briggs to remain his mother.
Briggs, who with her husband adopted the boy when he was 9, is still required to pay $427 per month in child support.
Briggs said the state's failure to fully disclose the boy's background is tantamount to fraud, and she has asked politicians for help finding a way out of the situation.
"At first blush, you think, `What, you're trying to give up your kid? You're a jerk,"' said state Delegate David B. Albo. "Then you find this lady has received awards for all the foster work she's done. And that she never would have adopted the boy and put other children in danger if she had had the information that was withheld from her."