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Adam Herrman- homeschooled and gone missing for years, parents continued to receive subsidies

This is the first post in a series I have done around the Adam Herrman/Irvin Groeninger III case. I urge readers to see my Irvin Groeninger III tag for more recent posts in addition to the below. My most recent post will always appear first on the tag.


We’re back here again.

Yet another adopted kid who was home-schooled who simply disappears and no one bothers to notice, but naturally, the state issued checks kept rolling in.

I’ve been writing for some time now about adopted kids who have dropped out of public view, who no one checks up on, and how subsidies of various forms continue to be issued for these disappeared kids.

For an overview on some of the forms of financial support adopters and the states themselves can receive see my post, Implications of the abandonment laws, adoption financial incentives, and language tangles. As for the other similar cases themselves, (I’ll bring up two from the last year off the top of my head that I’ve blogged about,) go glance over my posts about:

Renee Bowman, (particularly my post Adoption subsidies for frozen corpses, more on the Maryland nightmare.)

This is a summary paragraph I wrote about the case in this blog post:

(Recently, I blogged about the Renee Bowman case in Maryland and the $800 per child per month subsidy Bowman had been receiving, even as two of her three adopted children were dead, frozen in a block of ice. The third was being abused. None were apparently ever enrolled in Maryland public schools and to date, there has been no evidence the kids received any education at all. None the less, the checks kept coming as they were apparently not tied to actually proving the adoptees they were intended for the support of were still even alive.)

Or Judith Leekin, (see my post The horror that is Judith Leekin & the NY child welfare adoption subsidies disaster)

And the NY investigation that began last July that came out of the Leekin mess, Officials Accused of Taking Agency Money in Fake Adoptions:

Two officials of New York City’s child-welfare agency and the fiscal director of a Brooklyn foster care agency have been charged with creating phantom adoptions in a scheme to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for the care of children with disabilities or special needs, federal authorities said on Wednesday.

adam.jpgNow we learn about Adam Herman,

The Kansas parents who failed to report their 11-year-old adopted son missing nearly a decade ago are “people of interest” as authorities search for him nationwide, a sheriff said Monday.

Investigators only recently learned Adam Herrman was missing and are focused on finding him, Butler County Sheriff Craig Murphy said. Adam was 11 when he disappeared in 1999 from a mobile home park in Towanda where he lived.

Authorities would not say whether they believed Adam, who would now be 21, is alive. “We are working it as if it is a death — but we are not leaning one way or the other,” Murphy said.

Like several other adopted kids who have simply disappeared from view, Adam was being home-schooled at the time:

Adam was homeschooled when he disappeared, Eisenbise said.

Down in this article, Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy, we learn he had once been in public school for a time. Once he left, no one appears to have followed up to see whether or not he was still being educated, let alone whether or not he was still alive:

Because Adam had problems at school, she homeschooled him after they had moved from Derby to Towanda, she said. He attended public school in Towanda for a short time, she said.

“He hated school” but was a “very smart kid,” she said.

“He liked being home with me, and he got a lot of one-on- one attention.”

She said his younger siblings attended public school in Towanda.


Jeff Tuttle/The Wichita Eagle

Once again, we see that the search for Adam was not sparked by any form of adoption related follow up, nor by any form of checking in on him as a condition of his adopters receiving subsidies for him. The investigation was not begun as a result of him clearly no longer receiving any form of education. Nope. The Wichita Eagle is reporting the investigation into Adam’s whereabouts may have been sparked by a tip from his sister, Sister says her tip led to investigation into Adam Herrman’s disappearance.

The adopter’s excuse for not reporting his “disappearance” is equally pathetic:

Valerie Herrman, Adam’s adoptive mother, said Adam ran away in 1999 and never returned.

She and her husband, Doug, say they didn’t report Adam missing because they feared it would lead to him and his younger siblings being taken from them.

See an article and video related to such here, Biological daughter of Adam Herrman’s adoptive parents contacts KSN. Note particularly,

Meanwhile, a former relative, who says she remains close to one of Valerie Herrman’s sisters, says the sister told her that Valerie recently commented, “They can dig up the whole state of Kansas, they’ll never find a body.”

In the midst of all this are claims by relatives that Adam had been abused by his adopters, none-the-less, no investigation was sparked before last November. (see Relatives say missing Butler County boy was abused, and Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy)

Adam Herrman’s adoptive mother Tuesday denied allegations by relatives who say they saw her abuse the boy over the years before he disappeared.

“They make it sound like I tortured him, but I loved him,” Valerie Herrman said in an interview with The Eagle.

She said Adam ran away from their Towanda home nearly 10 years ago when he was 11, after she spanked him with a belt. She was upset but can’t remember why, she said.

Clearly Valerie Herrman understood that hitting Adam with a belt was not ok, as they feared such “spankings” would lead to the removal of the kids:

Herrman said she and her husband, Doug, never reported Adam missing because they feared the spanking would lead authorities to take Adam and his two younger siblings away. They told relatives that Adam, whom the couple had adopted when he was a little over 2, had gone back to state custody.

But such unease clearly never once stood in their way of cashing the checks they were receiving for Adam’s support:

In court documents, they continued to list Adam as a son in 2003, more than four years after he disappeared. If they had not, it would have drawn scrutiny that also could have led to their children being taken away, Doug Herrman said in the interview.

For the same reason, they continued to accept state adoption subsidy payments for Adam until his 18th birthday, Valerie Herrman said. She said she sent back a check she received after his 18th birthday.

“I feel very guilty about stealing that money,” she said tearfully.

“It was $700 a month. I kept hoping he was going to come back, though.”

With special thanks to AdoptedJane for bringing this article to my attention, we learn of other instances where Adam was claimed by the Herrmans:

The adoptive parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman of Derby, could face charges, according to Murphy. He said The Eagle reported that the couple continued to claim the child years after he disappeared, first in bankruptcy proceedings filed in 2002, and later in a divorce case filed in 2003. The divorce case was later dropped.

And once again, AdoptedJane finds another gem of an article, Case Raises Questions About Adoption Procedures:

We learned adoptive parents go through an extensive background check. However, once an adoption is finalized, the state is out of the picture.

That all changes if money is involved. Many adoptive families in Kansas receive Medicaid to help them raise a special needs child. Those children with significant medical, emotional or developmental needs.

The state and parents come to an agreement prior to the adoption.

The assistance can be a one-time payment or reoccuring. If it’s the latter, Medicaid requires the parents submit an annual written report to verify the money is still needed.

Their word is Medicaid’s only source. They never go in person to check.

So how does this apply to Adam Herrman? According to family, his adoptive parents received state assistance, possibly thousands of dollars. Right now we don’t know why.

(Emphasis added)

(Back to this article, Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy) The Herrmans have admitted to keeping Adam locked in a bathroom, notably on the “advice of a psychiatrist”:

She denied allegations, from her sister and two biological children that she punched and kicked Adam over the years, beat him with a belt buckle and kept him chained to the bathtub faucet in the home.

She also denied that she withheld food from Adam. Sometimes, she said, he would overeat to the point of getting sick.

She said that at times she kept Adam locked in the bathroom at night under the advice of a psychiatrist after they found two knives under Adam’s pillow when he was about 8, when they lived in Derby.

“He said he was going to kill us,” she said.

They turned around the bathroom doorknob so it could be locked from the outside, she said.

“He slept in the bathtub,” she said, with a sleeping bag, sheet, pillow and blanket. He was locked in only at night, and it was for his and their protection, she said.

“There was no chains, no handcuffs.”

At another point, she said, “The ones who are saying he was mistreated, they weren’t there.”

Asked how long he was kept in the bathroom at night, she said it occurred possibly over a two- to three-month period, although she couldn’t remember exactly how long.

The psuedo-diagnosis comes out, as it does in so many disobedient adoptees cases to a hodgepodge of possibilities and the usual medically unrecognized catch all old standby, so called “attachment disorder”

Psychiatrists said Adam was either bipolar or schizophrenic or suffering from attachment disorder, they said.

See my earlier post, here, for one of the places I’ve written about such quackery:

Attachment theory/disorder” or “Attachment therapy” is not an official term used in the DSM IV. It is at best a piece of ambiguous language or “unvalidated diagnosis”. From the theory article (see footnote [128] for citation):

Attachment disorder is an ambiguous term. It may be used to refer to reactive attachment disorder, the only ‘official’ clinical diagnosis, or the more problematical attachment styles (although none of these are clinical disorders), or within the alternative medicine field, the pseudoscience of attachment therapy as a form of unvalidated diagnosis.

Also see this Wikipedia page for:

The definition of Attachment Therapy is disputed and there is no generally recognized definition. For example, it is not a term found in the American Medical Association’s Physician’s Current Procedural Manual, 2006. It is also not found in Bergin and Garfield’s Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change, fifth edition, edited by Michal J. Lambert, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.

Quack “therapies” based on the notion of “attachment disorder” have a body count. Be sure to see this brief wikipedia entry on Candace Newmaker and Colorado’s and North Carolina’s “Candace’s law” enacted in her memory.

Or more importantly, see A SEARCH FOR SURVIVORS which contains plenty of information and a first-hand account of what the “attachment therapy” craze can mean in practice to adopted minors. Eventually I’ll get around to writing the “attachment quackery” post, for now, just understand that I view “attachment” psuedoscience as being to Bastards what “ex-gay therapy” is to Queers, (which as Wayward Radish has pointed out in comment thread on the above post is no coincidence, as “attachment” gurus have been direct inspiration to at least one of those behind the “gay to straight” movement.)

The relatives however have a different take on the bathroom lock ins:

On Super Bowl Sunday in 1999, the year Adam Herrman went missing but no one reported it, one of his aunts says she saw the 11-year-old chained to a bathtub faucet at his Towanda mobile home.

It looked like he had handcuffs on, said his aunt, Kim Winslow. Winslow, now 48, said it was the last time she saw Adam.

Other close relatives of Adam’s adoptive mother, Valerie Herrman of Derby, say they saw her abuse him over the years and that he was forced to sleep in a bathtub. In at least one instance, a relative reported alleged abuse to authorities.

(Emphasis added)

This final sentence is key. If the abuse was reported, why was there no investigation at the time?

Then you have other missed opportunities for Adam to have gotten help, such as this (from the same article):

Justin Herrman, 29, who is the biological son of Valerie and Doug Herrman, said he never saw his father abuse Adam.

“He’s actually stopped it many times,” said Justin Herrman, who was about 7 years older than Adam.

Over the years, at different homes around the Wichita area, his mother “would start hitting him or beating him with a belt,” Justin said.

His father “would stop her and say, ‘That’s enough, Valerie,’ ” he said.

One time, Justin Herrman said, his mother threw Adam, then around 4 or 5, against a wall and pulled his hair, and Justin stepped in to stop it.

Justin Herrman said he called to report it and Derby police officers came to the home. But he said his mother persuaded him to tell the police that he lied. He said the officers lectured him about lying and left.

His mother started locking Adam in the bathroom, and the boy slept in the bathtub, Justin Herrman said.

“She would just tell us he was threatening us,” and that he had mental problems and couldn’t be trusted, Justin Herrman said of his mother.

and this:

In the Christmas Eve conversation, Valerie Herrman told her former sister-in-law “that she beat Adam once with a belt” and that Valerie had gone into her room and cried about it, remorseful.

Bush said Valerie Herrman told her that that after she used the belt, someone at Adam’s school saw bruises, and authorities were called to investigate.

So, what came of that “investigation”?

Oh silly me, he disappeared off into homeschooling and no one bothered to check up on him again.

Clearly there were warning signs and opportunities to get him out of that house, but time and again, the ball was apparently dropped.

Sure, it makes national headlines now, years later when it may well be far too late, but the real question remains why did no one deal with such at the time?

The Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy article contains a basic profile of Adam and his adopters, and makes mention of them having adopted two of his younger siblings. There is also this little detail:

At one point when Adam was younger, around 1990 or 1991, the Herrmans said they lost their foster care license after an investigation, which they declined to discuss in detail. They said authorities removed one of Adam’s younger sisters, then about 2, but said she was not removed because of child abuse.

Then we find more of the belt story, and yet another missed opportunity in the form of yet another entanglement with authorities, one that led to Adam being removed from the Herrmans… for all of TWO DAYS:

Around 1996, she said, she spanked Adam with a belt, and his psychological counselor saw bruises and called police. “That’s her job. I don’t hold that against anybody,” she said.

“I hated myself for it,” she said of the spanking. She said she had been spanked with a belt as a child and vowed she would not do that to her children.

Adam went to the Wichita Children’s Home for two days, then came home, she said.

Doug Herrman said: “I don’t think they felt he was in any danger. They just told us we couldn’t discipline him with a belt.”

Valerie Herrman said: “After that, I was too scared to spank him. He hardly ever got a spanking after that.

Despite her “hardly ever,” she admits to having hit him with a belt AGAIN the day he supposedly “ran away”:

During the first week of May 1999, possibly on the weekend, she said, she spanked Adam with a belt one afternoon.

“He got mad, and he said he’s going to run away,” Doug Herrman said. “He ran out the front door.”

Apparently such physical abuse never got in the way of the Herrman’s alleged spiritual concern for Adam:

“We never stopped praying for him.

But their supposed concern for him never extended far enough into the real world as to so much as report him missing.

Meanwhile, states fail to investigate, and continue to issue checks to adopters without ever so much as checking to see that the kids they money is supposedly for are even still processing oxygen much less present.


Video from an interview with Adam’s biological father can be found here.


Anyone with information about Adam Herrman is asked to call the Butler County Sheriff’s Office at 316-322-4398. Callers should select option 8 on the recording, then ask to speak with the investigator on duty.

See a full gallery of pictures on the Wichita Eagle site.



UPDATE, January 9th


Be sure to see my second post Irvin Groeninger III / Adam Herrman- in previous investigations, the State had cleared the Herrmans


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