Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Kristi Koslow

'You're Not My Mom/Dad!'

Children of divorce often find themselves yelling this to their parent's new spouse. In the case of adopted children, the attachment is even more distant. They look for answers to the questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? And, most difficult, Why was I given up for adoption?

Children who have endured separation from their natural parents, either from divorce, death or foster placement, have a challenging time coping. As Lori Carangelo explains in Chosen Children, "They lose role models; they lose security. They also experience a sense of rejection and abandonment, of being unwanted and unloved, no matter how loving and supportive their substitute caretakers or adopters." 

Book cover: Chosen Children
Book cover: Chosen Children

In the case of a killer who is adopted, this lack of contact with natural parents leads to wondering and speculating what his or her birth parents would be like:  perhaps they would be the June Cleaver-esque mother who baked cookies and tucked him or her into bed at night, and the father with a steady job, providing for his family.

A common thread among killers who are adopted is that they are very unlikely to strike again. Most are satisfied after the person who is a "substitute" parent is out of the picture.

Nearly 70 percent of California's prison population is comprised of former foster children. This should surprise no one, says Carangelo. For many decades, this statistic told Americans to support adoption, taking kids from foster care to "real" homes. It may be the quick fix, but does not reach the underlying issue — the mental trauma these children have endured.

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