10-year-old Sex Offenders

Caught in the Gray Area of a Child-Abuser Database

“Dear future son,” the North Texas father wrote last year in a prospective adoption letter filled with promises of family bike rides and road trips. “I am a single dad who adopted a middle school boy in 2008. Now we are looking for one more kid so he will have a brother.”

But the father, James, never got custody of a second child. Instead, he received a phone call from a child placement agency with shocking news: He would not be allowed to adopt again because his son, who was sexually abused and badly beaten by his biological parents, is listed on a state registry of people who abuse children.

James and his adoptive son
James and his adoptive son

State investigators were required to put the boy into the database after finding evidence that when he was 10, he had fondled two young children. Now 15, the boy said he will not ever get to have a brother. And what if his friends at school or church find out he is on this list? Unthinkable. “We don’t need some tattletale list, and we certainly don’t need abused children on there,” said James, who is being identified by his first name to protect his son’s identity. The Texas Tribune does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

Read on…


30 thoughts on “10-year-old Sex Offenders”

  1. Wait…when he was 10 he fondled two young children? Wouldn’t 10 make him a young child himself? I mean, we’re talking an abused child here. Claiming him to be a sex offender at the age of 15, never mind 10, is even ridiculous. I swear, people don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.

  2. A perfect example of how the system designed to protect probably overall does more harm/damage than good.

    Or my other thought is that they can decide when he is 10 that he can be listed as an adult and have life long implication imposed on him, if thats so then why is he not alloud to join the army and go kill, smoke or till he’s 18 or let alone touch alchohole till 21… makes little sense to me

    (it sounded better in my head :P)

    1. Your point sounds perfectly reasonable. Unfortunately, too many Americans are unreasonably sexophobic.

      1. You are exactly right and yet this is a country that created and legalized rap music.

  3. I’m not so certain that they acted so wrong. In the article they say that they do not “blame” the abused chap. Only that statistically the chances that he becomes abusive are too high for them to risk putting there another kid (that will most likely have its own problems to deal with already.)
    This isn’t about blame, or punhisment, or even criminalizing him, but about having to make choices. When the Church places a priest again in charge of kids after he had done something inappropriate, we’d all shout in anger. It’s nice to think well of peeps, and we can all wish that the older boy in this case gets enough support and love from his new dad that he’ll have the strength to walk away from the damages done by those grown-ups who mistreated him before. But chances are good that he might not be able to.
    If you weigh the loss of the adoptive dad and his new son of not having another son/brother in their family against the possible hurt for the new kid, can you really claim that they decided badly? Where exactly is the line where trust crosses into folly?

    1. As Matthew says below, “blame, or punishment, or even criminalizing him” is exactly what the State of Texas is doing, whether it says so or not. What this 15 year old needs is good psychological counseling and non-putative monitoring in an environment where he can feel free to discover his sexuality, whatever it is, and work on any problems caused by his being abused, if there are any such problems. But, of course, the good people of the State of Texas don’t want to pay for that, so just putting him on a list is cheaper and easier. The same is true for almost all, if not all, of the other states in America, and probably for a lot of other countries as well. Do any of you posting live in a country where you think this kid, and his family, would get the help and support they may need? I’d like to hear your opinions.

      1. In my country there is no such list and what he did to the other smaller kids won’t even be looked at (ofc it depends on what he did…but i doubt it’s very serious). I don’t know this is because it’s too much hassle to do it or what. Nevertheless, the state here will probably not help you in any major way. Individual people/organizations will.

  4. This is ridiculous: how can an adoptive father be held accountable for the sins of biological parents. Surely this is why the first son was adopted at the outset. Surely despite there being a database, someone could make a judgment call and common sense could prevail. All to often in this society there are these databases and people take them as read without investigation. The Uk is just the same: people do not think these days.

  5. You make a great and valid point Freefox. It is about protecting the future adoptee and weighing out the pro’s and cons of the situation.

    As you said yourself “This isn’t about blame, or punhisment, or even criminalizing him”, while in theory that may be so the State of Texas has done just exactly that. He’s not even considered an adult and already his future prospects are cut short not to mention that of his adoptive father’s. I thought minors of that age (10) aren’t accountable for their criminal actions until they reach an age of understanding? It’s the abusive parents that should be slapped on the registry.

    Statistics may lean towards that particular trend of the abuse victim becoming the abuser, but I think they’re judging a young boy too quickly and not giving him the benifit of the doubt. Just because you get mugged on the street doesn’t mean you’re gonna go off and mugg someone else?

  6. More to the point, putting the abused boy under the care of somebody who truly cares for him is a very good way to ensure that he won’t relive the sins of his biological parents. Thanks to the administration of the State of Texas however, that’s not going to happen.

  7. Somehow I get the feeling that the United States is a more dangerous country to live in than some of those non western country’s where lot’s of western people are so much afraid of.

  8. It’s sad, but some paper pushing bureaucrat can easily ruin someone’s life with less effort than it takes to pour themselves a cup of coffee. The same person who will make damn sure James and his son can’t add to their family can just as easily send an innocent child to the abusive home of a married husband and wife.

    1. I’m not sure which side of this argument I come down on. It certainly is a thorny issue. I definitely agree that the 15 year old needs help, support, and counseling and definitely not blame. But, the state must think about the chances that this help and counseling may not progress to the extent that another boy with similar needs could be unsafe, himself, in this home.

      I feel for this family and think that in all likelihood it would be turn out better than okay if another boy were added to the mix, but what if it didn’t? What if the slightly possible did occur and the potential 2nd boy was abused, neglected, or harmed in any way? What would the calls for justice and fairness sound like then? Would we all be pointing out that the state knew or should have known that this situation was fraught with the possibility of danger? The newspapers are filled with stories of state agencies placing kids in situations that turned out bad and the signs had been there to see for those would have looked. I’m sure that this database was created in response to such a situation. And, the social workers in these understaffed, underfunded state agencies are aware of this and must, however unfortunately, err on the side of caution.

      I don’t know. I really don’t. It’s a sad situation, but I also don’t think anyone’s life was ruined – as some of the comments here imply – by this decision. Sure, a little brother would be nice and probably aid in both boys’ therapy. And, sure, this man seems like he has much to offer another young boy, but the fact this won’t happen doesn’t automatically ruin his life or the life of the first boy. There are many well-adjusted, happy, and successful only-childs in the world. I think the likelihood of this story reaching his friends and acquaintances at school is probably small – and only present at all because of the family’s choice to publicize the issue.

      I’m glad that I don’t work for the state agencies that have to make these kind of tough decisions day in and day out. These people are, overwhelmingly, hard-working, overworked, and conscientious. If you must blame someone for these types of situations blame the legislators who create the rules, not the social workers who have to find ways to play by them while doing what they think is best for the kids.

      I’ll tell you what surprises me most about this story, though: It’s that a single man was even allowed to adopt a young, troubled boy in the first place. I think we should celebrate and appreciate that.

  9. This is not a black and white issue. The 15 year-old is not being held accountable for what he did to his little sister when he was 10 which is as it should be. The damage to the 4 year-old is probably over-stated in this sex phobic nation. On the other hand, would you place your child in this home? Where the error was made was when the adoption agency failed to inform the father, at the time of adoption, that he would not be able to adopt additional children because of his first adopted son’s history. But would he now want to give up his 15 year-old son so that he could raise a larger family? I highly doubt it. As for the social service agencies, their hands are tied. If they place a child in this home and the child suffers abuse they stand to lose their jobs and their agencies may be held liable for large financial payouts. Unfortunately, fear of litigation drives a lot of the decisions made in this country for good or ill. The existence of this list of offenders is troubling and the constitutionality of it should be challenged. But after countless high profile cases where children were placed in abusive homes with disastrous consequences it is understandable that agencies may be overly cautious now.

    1. Thats what I was going to say as well. The dad should have been told prior to the adoption that he would not be able to adopt additional children. Presumably once his son has left home and married etc he will be free to do so if his age isn’t against him. So they were allowed to get up hope of a second son/brother before being dashed years later.

      Dad will get over this. He has had a son to love and guide and has done a good job. I am worried about the son. He must be feeling so bad that he is the cause of his dad not being able to adopt again. He has grown to love his new dad and wants to please him but he is the cause of his dads anguish. Kids have suicided over less. If he thinks, if I wasn’t here dad could readopt. I bet he cries himself to sleep some nights. Dad needs to put it behind him for now, focus on his current son, and let him know that he loves him and wouldn’t trade him for the world. While the idea of a second son was a dream, it isn’t important, he already has the perfect son. Etc. The more the dad goes on about the situation, the more guilty the son will feel when dad is knocked back. When the son has moved on, married, etc then they can pursue removing his name from the database.

      1. It is sad for both father and son but how the father handles the situation will be very important as you point out. This is an impressionable time for his 15 year-old who needs continued support and love.

  10. Ffox and others; I believe some things are being missed. First, he allegedly played doctor, as a 10yr old with other children. This is being used to cast him as an abuser. Did any of the readers here ever play doctor with younger brothers or cousins? Second, he is on this list as a “potential abuser” without the right to due process, the right to contest his placement, or even evidence to back up the placement. Third, that list indicates only that he has a greater chance for abusing another rather than any clear indication that he would. Fourth, when evidence is brought to light, when he is finally examined by a psychologist and found quite unlikely to do such abuse, he is not removed from the list or treated as he should be. Fifth, in his short 15 years, this child has been beaten, sexually abused and neglected by his mother and step-father, beaten to the point of hospitalization by his bio father, abandoned by the entire family, and now cast as an abuser to be without evidence.
    It is about blame, it is about blindness, and it is about failing to protect a child. Now, it is about denying another child a home. Did anyone ask him? This other child, did anyone think that perhaps he should simply be pulled to the side and told of the issue and given the choice, maybe with some occasional counseling and oversight? Nope….and there are some here who would back up this? Shame on you!

    1. You make some good points here and I agree with a lot of what you say. The US is a very sex-phobic country. As a result injustices occur. All parties in this situation may be victims of this hysteria, including the social service agencies that face severe recriminations if they screw up. On the other hand, it is unlikely we or the media know all the facts that went into the decisions made. I would want to know more before I felt totally comfortable judging the decisions made. But the constitutionality of this list should certainly be challenged.

  11. I Live in Finland and tell you the truth most social workers here are more concerned about the parents drinking behaviour than of the sexual. After reading the article I thought “thank God I don’t live in the States”, but it is not so.

    More than anything that matters, it is the point that youngs should be kept safe. I don’t agree with this kind of registers. They’re just a way to keep people in some kind of register. What this 15-year needs, is loving family and seems to be so that he has it. But seems to be so, that if you are in the register, goodbye to some things in the future. Debts get old sometime, why not this. As if “once a thief, always a thief” would be accurate. Doesn’t work in my mind.

    I hope this family can go on with all the love they have. May the force be with them (even if it sounds like Star Wars, I wish that for them).

    1. Ipo, nicely stated.
      The U.S. has become a hotbed of laws and registries on exactly this kind of thing, and I think the points that you make are well-grounded.
      While debts do get old, habits sometimes don’t and it is on this one little point that all the laws are made.
      It is the “what if…” principle.
      And WHAT IF is an awfully big category.

  12. Clearly the boy was abused and then acted out on another child…a common disorder. Most US agencies err on the side of caution, which is clearly the case here. But even with that, foster parents across the country for example, abuse children daily and most people know this. The foster care program is a stop-gap system analogous to sticking your finger in a leaking dam.

    I mentor boys for a local, non-church organization. As much as I’d like to hug them and wrestle with them, I don’t dare. Since I’m ‘out’ in the community, my life is under a microscope. Some miscreant came forward once yrs ago and charged me with ‘inappropriate behavior’. The whole thing was investigated behind my back. When I found out about it, it was already over and the boys interviewed. The boys didn’t even understand what ‘inappropriate behavior’ was, as I did nothing “inappropriate”. I never got to face my accuser and the incident is still in my ‘file’. I’m going to get a lawyer to remove it, but I shouldn’t have to.

  13. If he is a sex offender it means he knows well that all sexual stuff. To be tried and sentenced law requiers that the perpetrator must be aware of his actings. If he is old enough to know, why can’t he consent? If he knows that, it means he can agree when I propose him sex. Can I? ;)

  14. Im astounded that what once was considered a perfectly normal act of children investigating themselves is now called a sex crime and abuse.

    What total bullshit.

    If any one under 18 is incapable of making decisions about their own body and sexuality, then how in hell does a 10 year know he is ‘abusing’ another kid?

    This is all patent nonsense. Psychology gone righteous.

    How any of this ‘helps’ is beyond me since the signals in society are all confused and muddled.

    I would have been in juvenile detention and labeled for life as an evil sex criminal because I liked kissing and sex early. And I had a son, never touched him inappropriately; never touched anyone that way. That kind of simplistic logic is where it all breaks down.

    I will be glad to pass on… I am sorry kids have to face this crap. Of course most wont know the difference. Pity those that do.

    Sorry but I really have to stop reading this stuff. I already had a minor stroke this year, I don’t need another. It would give the hypocrites and fundies too much pleasure.

    1. You are so right. Kids fooling around is now a crime. But this is purtanic america, aways has been and always will be. Such an attitude has destroyed so many lives.

  15. there could be alot of things wrong with this. kids experimenting sexually, lack of proof, lack of disclosure, lack of being able to testify against it, a label for life.

    but we dont have all the facts really

  16. It is irresponsible to knowingly place another innocent child in a high risk situation. The boy’s new father should understand this and be proud knowing how much he is already doing for his adopted son, and for society.

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