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Bred in Abuse

Moses Kamin endured a horrific childhood and then murdered his well-meaning adoptive parents, but the Oakland couple may not have fully known about his troubled history.



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Masover told me that "Drew [Steckler] tried any number of times to get the case remanded to juvenile court" and that he "wanted the support of the [Kamin] family to have the case remanded. It didn't work out."

Steckler wanted Moses to be judged in the eyes of the law as a broken child rather than cold-blooded murderer.

Although it may be impossible to know what Poff and Kamin knew about Moses' troubled upbringing, it's clear that parents who adopt abused and neglected children are not well-supported and not always well-informed.

And neither are social workers. Jane Troglia, a former adoption social worker and CPS worker in Sacramento County, said social workers simply don't "always have all the information or have the whole picture" about a child's past.

The former CPS worker said that it can be difficult at times to substantiate allegations of abuse because of the lack of physical evidence, children changing their story, and social workers taking too long to reach foster children after an accusation has been made. "I had a kid who told me, 'my bruises faded by the time my social worker made it out to investigate,'" Troglia said.

And according to a recent University of South Carolina, Columbia, study, child abuse is far more common than reports would indicate. The study concluded that the official rates of substantiated child maltreatment and even the referral rates for alleged maltreatment "likely represent only the tip of the iceberg" of all abuse cases. Using local hospitalization and emergency department records of children brought in for injuries, the researchers found that the prevalence of child maltreatment was much greater than official statistics stated based on CPS records alone.

Jill Duerr Berrick, a professor in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley and a prominent scholar on child welfare policy in the United States, agrees with Hollinger that the US needs better post-adoption services, particularly for abused and neglected children. "There is not a systematic path in place to get those kids the services they need ... because there is zero federal funding assigned to post-adoption services and there are very few other dollars available to counties," she said.

After Moses' sentencing hearing, I asked Masover if he believes Moses is broken. He took a moment before responding. "One of the difficulties for me is, a person murdering another person in any other terms other than broken ... that's by definition broken, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Moses had written him from juvenile hall to say that he was "finally ready to tell [him] what happened that night." Masover, however, does not seem ready for that conversation just yet.

"I would like to see that he could grow into a person where one of the ways he can restore the damage he has caused to the world is by continuing the work of the people he took out of this world," Masover said.

He wondered if his wish is too unrealistic or all too poetic for such a tragic story. "The best closure that I can imagine for this situation," he said, "is that Moses can turn his life around and do good work for other people in prison ... whether or not he gets out. But that won't bring Susan and Bob back."

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