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Irvin Groeninger III / Adam Herrman- in previous investigations, the State had cleared the Herrmans

This is the second post in a series I have done around the Adam Herrman/Irvin Groeninger III case. I urge readers to explore both my earlier work and later posts to gain familiarity with the case and my interpretation of it. See my Irvin Groeninger III tag for more. My most recent post will always appear first on the tag.

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Obviously, there have been a torrent of articles, media interviews etc about the “Adam Herrman” / Irvin Groeninger III case. I’ve been combing through such trying pull out some of what actually matters. This is my second post about the boy. New readers will want to first read through that initial posting, Adam Herrman- homeschooled and gone missing for years, parents continued to receive subsidies.

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KWCH has a useful set of profiles to help readers keep all the various personalities in the Adam Herrman story straight:

Adam Herrman’s Family

To that, readers can also add this article, Adam Herrman Missing: Biological Mother Speaks, in which Gerri George is identified as Adam’s mother. She recalls how her parental rights were terminated:

She said, “I didn’t exactly give him up. They kept — the county kept throwing my past of what my parents did to me. And they more or less said that I would repeat history again with my own children. And it seems like they’re the ones who are repeating the history of what my parents did to me. But they’re doing it with my own kids.

Both of his parents Gerri and Irvin were interviewed on Larry King Live, on Jan 7th. Separately, later on in the broadcast the Herrman’s lawyer was on as well.

The boy’s father brings up what should have been obvious:

GROENINGER: Right. Yes. I’ve got all kinds of questions about that, how a doctor whose seen him during his first 11 years didn’t — all of a sudden, you know, he ain’t showing up for doctor visits anymore. He ain’t showing up for dentist visits anymore. They said he was under psychiatric care. He’s not showing up for psychiatric care anymore. Somebody had to miss him.

Adam had originally been named Irvin Groeninger III. According to his mother, he apparently entered state custody around age 2.

“I had been a little bit not exactly a good parent,” she said, adding she had left a bruise on an older child.

Still, she said, she did her best to give her children a good home. She last saw her son when he was about 4.

Adam’s older biological sister, Tiffany Broadfoot, now 22 and living in Wichita, lived for a time with Adam’s adoptive family before being adopted by someone else.

Broadfoot remembers Adam having dark, almost curly hair and “this cute, really round face.” She last saw him at a birthday party when he was 5 or 6.

Over the years, she said, she called the adoptive mother to ask how he was doing.

At first, Broadfoot said, the adoptive mother said Adam was OK. But about three years ago, she said, the woman asked her not to call again because she didn’t want Adam and two younger siblings to know they were adopted.

Broadfoot tried again, without success, to contact Adam last year, she said.

Then last month, she said, her biological father called and said, “Are you sitting down? Because I need to talk to you.”

He said a detective told him that Adam had been missing since 1999.

“He (the detective) said he’s been missing nine years, and that just blew my mind,” Groeninger said.

(Emphasis added)

I detailed Tiffany’s brief stay with the Herrmans in my first post about Irvin/Adam. As I pointed out there, it appears to have been the Herrman’s biological daughter’s tip that kicked off the investigation, see Missing boy’s sister was one who called officials.

So according to Broadfoot, Valerie Herrman was at least saying she wanted to keep the fact of the kids’ adoptions from them, and utilized such as an excuse to try to make his sister stop attempting contact him. She was saying this three years ago, or approximately 6 years after his “disappearance.” Adoption secrecy makes a great excuse to never have to put the kid on the phone.

While his sister was being stonewalled later on, his adopted aunt, Kim Winslow saw him at least a few times over the years while the boy was still with the Herrmans. Her recounting of the final time she saw him, locked in chains in the bathroom, no one bringing him food or water over the course of hours really makes one wonder how the hell she never one contacted the authorities in light of what she and other family members were seeing.

I STRONGLY urge readers to watch the full video interview with Winslow on the video link here, Missing Boy’s Aunt Regrets Not Reporting Abuse.

There can be no excuse for not reporting, when you see a kid locked up like that you don’t sit back and watch the game and socialize. You don’t pretend everything ok, or that a child chained up like that could ever be any semblance of “normal”.

I don’t particularly care what quack pseudo-diagnosis (see For the Last Time, “Attachment Disorder” DOES NOT EXIST!) a kid has been labeled with,

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

Nor do I care that the Herrmans’ claim they kept him locked in the bathroom on the “advice of a psychiatrist.” There can simply be no excuse for pretending the kid locked away like that does not warrant at minimum a phone call to the local police.

But despite article after article now discussing “regrets” and discomfort, etc, that call that would have led to his rescue never came.

As to who precisely is to blame here, I don’t think we have a firm enough grasp on what happened to pinpoint responsibility just yet, but I do think someone should be looking at not only the relatives some of whom were aware of the boy’s plight and yet did nothing, but also whether or not “attachment” quackery played a role in his suffering, as it has in a number of adoptees’ deaths to date.

Herrman later explained Adam’s disappearance away as him having gone back into the child welfare system, and thus family members such as Winslow made the erroneous assumption that he was “safe.” While this was perhaps an excuse in line with the Herrman’s previous history with Irvin/Adam’s biological sister having been removed from the Herrman home, (see Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy.)

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.

It is still yet another of those adoption related excuses/lies that made it easier for friends and family to excuse the boy’s absence.

Herrman’s former sister in law, Linda Bush described the excuse thusly:

Bush said the Herrmans told other family members that they had turned Adam back to the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services. She said she had no reason to believe otherwise because the couple had other foster children who went back to state custody.

“They had turned other children back, whether voluntary or mandated,” Bush said. “Nobody had any reason to disbelieve. Who would think of something so heinous happening? Nobody did.”

Irvin/Adam’s adoption saga is very much in line with what many foster/adoption kids experience.

Born in born in Wichita in June 1987, he was removed from his parents’ custody after his mother bruised an older child, his parents were divorced. At about age 2, Irvin came to live with the Herrmans first as a foster child, then later her was adopted and renamed Adam.

His father, tried to regain custody, but despite being cleared of any wrongdoing, his parental rights were terminated (see this good AP story from 2 days ago, Boy’s 1999 disappearance raises questions, regrets.)

The boy’s biological father, Irvin Groeninger II, also expressed regret. The Indiana trucker was divorced when authorities took Adam and his siblings from their mother’s home after alleged abuse. He says he was cleared of any wrongdoing and tried to get custody of his children, but child welfare officials terminated his parental rights.

“Basically, I have lost him twice,” Groeninger said.

The boy — whom he knows only by his birth name of Irvin Groeninger III — was 18 months old when Groeninger last saw him. He had hoped his son would try to contact him when he was old enough to search for his biological family.

He says he wishes he could tell his son: “I love him and I wish I had fought harder back then to get him and keep him in my custody.”

While Adam and two younger siblings were adopted by the Herrmans, Adam’s older biological sister, Tiffany Broadfoot, was adopted by another Wichita family. Broadfoot has not seen her brother since a birthday party when he was 7 or 8 years old.

Broadfoot said the first time she called Adam’s adoptive mother she was told everything was fine and Adam was doing well. Other times she was told not to call again because Adam and his siblings did not know they were adopted.

In August or September, she called Valerie Herrman again. “The last time I talked to her she was very in my face and very adamant: `You have no business calling here. You have no right. That is not your family. Don’t call here. Don’t talk to us. Don’t do anything. That is not your concern. Back off,’” Broadfoot said.

Naturally, as the boy had been missing for the past 9 years, Broadfoot’s call last August or September apparently unleashed quite a reaction.

The same article contains yet another account, this time from Linda Bush, of how Valerie Herrman mistreated Irvin:

Linda Bush, a former sister-in-law of Valerie Herrman, remembered Adam as a timid little boy. She has not seen him since he was at least 6 years old.

“He wasn’t boisterous, running around making a lot of noise like other children. And he stared a lot. That was strange,” Bush said. “He gave me the creeps sometimes because he would stare. But it was nothing to hate him for.”

Bush said she remembered Valerie Herrman telling the boy he was stupid.

“It was the tone. It was constant. She constantly berated him and put him down, a hateful tone,” Bush said. “It was constant and we couldn’t figure out what that boy had ever done to make her hate him like that.”

The Herrmans did not treat Adam’s two younger siblings the same way, she said.

In my initial post, I brought up the repeated accounts of “missed opportunities.” While we have multiple perspectives/police statement from relatives admitting they failed to report what the boy was enduring:

Winslow, now living outside the Wichita area, and some of Herrman’s other close relatives said they saw Herrman abuse Adam other times over the years but for the most part didn’t report it and now feel terrible that he is missing.

There were also instances where clearly there was some interaction with external authorities, only one of which seems to have resulted in the Herrman’s losing the boy, and in that case, he was removed for a mere two days:

  • “In at least one instance, a relative reported alleged abuse to authorities.” from Relatives say missing Butler County boy was abused
  • “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.” also from Relatives say missing Butler County boy was abused
  • “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.” also from Relatives say missing Butler County boy was abused
  • “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.” from Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy
  • “Around 1996, she said, she spanked Adam with a belt, and his psychological counselor saw bruises and called police. … 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.” also from Adoptive mother denies she abused missing boy

Within the past 24 hours, articles such as these have come out, I’d advise readers go through all three:

The first article includes:

Since the news of Adam’s disappearance several weeks ago, Ponce says the agency is now involved in a full-scale review and investigation of both Adam’s and the Herrman’s history with SRS. Ponce says that includes a review of how the Herrman’s were able to continue receiving state subsidies for Adam’s adoption years after he vanished.

The third article, we also find details of the state subsidies:

The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services confirmed Thursday that the Herrmans continued to receive adoption subsidy payments for Adam after he was missing, but the agency could not immediately determine how much. The department said it was researching the case.

Such subsidies generally are given in situations where the children are difficult to place or in cases in which several siblings are adopted by the same family, she said.

The Herrmans adopted Adam and two of his younger siblings, family members have said.

Families receiving adoption subsidies are required to file a yearly report to verify ongoing legal and financial responsibility for the child, she said.

“If there were a situation in which an individual would knowingly supply false information to the state in order to receive benefits, that is a crime,” Ponce said.

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