In a controversial case that has already received wide publicity, a Minnesota couple have been charged with multiple counts of neglect and malicious punishment relating to their adopted eight-year old son. 44-year old Russel and Mona Hauer of North Mankato have been accused of systematically starving their child (who can not be named since he is a minor) and subjecting him to frequent abuse including accusing him of stealing food, giving him only liquid to drink, and placing an alarm on his bedroom door to keep him from stealing food. Prosecutors have also accused them of beating the child with a broom handle and making him sleep in the basement because he wet his bed and that he had been treated as the "Antichrist" of the family.
Child protection agencies were first notified when Mona Hauer brought her son to Mayo Clinic Health Systems- Mankato last October because she thought he had been vomiting blood. While she told doctors that the child had been regurgitating food for the previous three months, she denied any abuse. When the child was examined, he was found to weigh as much as a child half his age with a height of only 1 meter (3.5 feet) with visibly protruding bones and a distended abdomen. After doctors ruled out any medical explanation for his condition, he was transferred to a hospital in Rochester where he was kept for a month and grew five centimeters (2 inches) during his hospital stay. He was also diagnosed with brain atrophy, anemia, and delayed bone growth due to malnutrition. During interviews with child protective services, he reported that he had not been allowed to eat with the rest of the family and had been so hungry that he had foraged for food in a nearby compost site.
Although the Hauers were registered foster parents with a "fantastic" reputation in dealing with the children in their care, child protective services launched an investigation based on the hospital report. The other three children in the Hauer home were removed and subsequently questioned over how their brother was treated. They said that the boy was "naughty" and stole food. Once he developed problems with bedwetting, he was moved to the basement and given a bucket for a toilet which he was responsible for cleaning himself. The other children would hose him off two or three times a week with a garden hose. In testimony given to child protective service workers, they stated that their brother was "a liar and a thief" and was frequently punished. He was often so hungry he ate bird food along with whatever he could find in the compost heap. The children showed no fear of their parents and placed much of the blame for their being removed from the home on their brother.
According to records, the boy was assessed at the time of his adoption and a doctor recommended psychotherapy due to serious trauma issues. The Hauers ignored this recommendation and relied on a chiropractor for medical advice for treating their children since they preferred "holistic medicine" for treating their children. According to Mona Hauer, the boy was on a liquid diet on the chiropractor's recommendation and she preferred to treat the children herself (all of the children are home-schooled as well).
While the Hauers are in a court challenge to regain custody of their remaining children, the boy who is at the centre of the controversy has already been placed in a foster home in another city. In his testimony to the ongoing court hearing over the Hauers parental fitness, Sueur County child abuse investigator Victor Atherton stated he had never seen another case of this nature in his 21-year career. "The children were told that [the boy] was the cause of all the problems in the house. They called him a liar. He was the Antichrist of the family. Everything was very methodical," he added. The Hauers' attorney is challenging prosecution evidence and calling in neighbours to testify that the Hauers are "loving and caring parents."
The case is continuing.