Retelling A Tragic Story: Couple Returns Adopted Son

November 18, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Couple Returns Adopted Son
I had seen the headlines — about a couple “returning” their adopted son after 9 years — yet had steered completely clear of reading it.

But then a friend messaged me the link to one of the articles. “Have you seen this? So awful.” was all he said. No shit. That’s why I’d been avoiding it. More sensationalist fodder to fuel the 24-hour-news-cycle hyperbole machine. Another emotional train wreck that so many somehow never grow tired of rubbernecking at.

Do you know who doesn’t stop to stare at train wrecks? People who’ve actually been in a train wreck.

As an adoptive parent, I avoided this story the same way I’d avoided the reality series The Baby Wait. This show (from the creators of Teen Mom, 16 & Pregnant, and Jersey Shore…yikes) followed adoptive parents during the revocation period — the time after a child is born when the birthmother can change her mind and terminate the adoption. Sure it shed some light on open adoptions (like ours is) and even featured several same-sex couples. Nonetheless, those pluses were overshadowed by the fact this was a show capitalizing on loss and rejection. Before JJ came into our lives, we had experienced such an ordeal. Why would we want to relive it in any form ever again?

So yeah, I wasn’t reading any story about adoptive parents abandoning their child. I had my own life and adopted child to worry about. And not abandon.

Then later I saw my friend had posted the article on Facebook, and realized that he had written it. With a mix of courtesy and curiosity, I gave in and read it. Here are the miserable highlights:

Cleveland and Lisa Cox adopted their son when he was three months old. Now he’s 9 years old, displaying some aggressive behavior, and is reported to have threatened other family members with a knife. The Cox’s took their son to their local Ohio children services, leaving the state to deal with him. A judge is considering charging the parents with reckless abandonment, for which they could face 6 months of jail time and a $1,000 fine. The parents apparently were frustrated that the boy would not agree to get help for his behavioral issues. The couple took their 2 other children and left the area for a couple of days, then turned themselves in on Friday. The Cox’s will appear in Juvenile Court November 27 to address their request to terminate parental rights.

I’m sure there are details the public isn’t privy to. And I’m not here to pile on more judgement and vitriol (although the temptation is very strong).

So why write about it? Because by all appearances, these two were not meant to be this boy’s parents, and are — by their own admission — unfit to be so. But more importantly, now there’s a 9 year-old boy with likely behavioral problems, stuck in the foster care system. Those are not the kinds of kids that get adopted (again) quickly. Or oftentimes, at all.

My hope is that the more this story gets out — sad, dramatic details and all — the more quickly this boy will find his true and permanent home. Whether it’s a new family with the patience and strength to love and support him unconditionally; or by some miracle, the Cox’s, repentant and willing to do everything it takes to get help for themselves and their son.

As with the vast majority of any honest parents, my child has made me want to yank out my (remaining) hair many times, but I’ve never even pondered “giving him back.” What does that even mean? I don’t sit around thinking about him being adopted, even when I’m angry and frustrated and at my wit’s end. I know JJ is right where he belongs. We’re far from a perfect family, yet he’s mine & Papa’s and we’re his — a forever family. My son has brought so much life to my life, and I could never imagine returning to a time without him.

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8 responses to “Retelling A Tragic Story: Couple Returns Adopted Son”

  1. Oh, yes, this. “Do you know who doesn’t stop to stare at train wrecks? People who’ve actually been in a train wreck.”

    By the time things get to this point, there are very few solutions available. How can we avoid getting to this point?

    • Brent Almond says:

      I poked around the internet looking at other articles written on this, to make sure I was getting as full a picture as possible. I know the story of the 9 years leading up to this is only known to those involved, but ugh, what a sad and horrible ending. I hope and pray he gets connected to his “forever family” — and quick.

  2. Juan Luque says:

    As you said, if you have a child since he is 3 months old, practically a new born, it should totally feel like your own, actually it is your own! How can you change your mind in one point and think you can just return a child like an used object that became defective? My judgement tells me, the parents never felt he belonged to them and he reciprocated with such aggressive behavior. I can’t understand such poor quality in any human been who is supposed to have the responsibility of been a parent. I feel disgusted.

    • Brent Almond says:


      Thanks for your comments. I feel much of what you are feeling, too. But it also seems to me that the entire family needed some counseling/therapy, not just the boy. I get how stressful and frustrating and painful it must be to have a child with physical or emotional disabilities or problems, but there are so many resources out there for all involved. It just seems like they gave up. 🙁


  3. […] An earlier version of this piece appeared on Brent Almond’s personal blog, Designer Daddy. […]

  4. Robyn C says:

    This isn’t actually an adoption issue. It’s a resources issue. Biological parents do abandon their children when they reach the end of their ropes trying to find help. A few years ago, a couple in PA was accused of child abandonment when they left their severely handicapped (biological) son at a hospital. If bio parents can’t afford residential treatment for children with severe behavioral issues, their only recourse may be to turn their child over to the state. Foster care was supposed to be made for children whose parents are unfit. These parents admit that they are unfit for their child. It is incredibly sad, but I don’t think that adoption has anything to do with it. It’s a red herring.

    • Brent Almond says:


      I agree that the fact this boy was adopted is not the main point — but I do think it has some significance, at least to me personally.

      I felt moved to re-share this story from my perspective as an adoptive parent, knowing that we go through a LOT to become parents — and aside from the physical aspect, more so than most biological parents.

      What concerned me most was the statement from the parents that they “tried to get him help, but he didn’t want it.” Based on all accounts, this family could afford some — if not all — the resources available to a child with behavioral issues. It didn’t come across to me that they were “unfit” as much as they were “unwilling.”


  5. Juan Luque says:

    Robyn made a point saying is not an adoption issue, I agree. But assuming foster care is for parents that are “unfit” sounds too good for the actual issue here. Poor parenting and a lack of responsibility. As adults we must take full responsibility for what we create, specially when is not an accident in the case of adoption or surrogacy. Sound way to light and shallow to think we are just unfit, lets somebody else take care of our child. This sound too cruel and inhuman to me. No wonder why the kids has so many issues, evidently not for his original conceivers since he was only 3 months old when got adopted, developing such extreme behaviors talks about the parents inability to nurture and provide for a child.

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