Child dies in bizarre therapy session

By on April 26, 2001

There are a lot of sick people in this world. Rapists, murders, the 43rd president (whoops how did that get in there?) and other people who seem bent on violating the norms of society. What is really scary is when these people are trusted professionals such as doctors or psychologists.
There was a recent story out of Colorado that illustrates this point. Candace Newmaker, a 10-year old girl was killed during a bizarre attempt to create a bond between her and her adoptive mother Jeane Newmaker.
She was forced by her therapists to participate in a “rebirthing” session in which she was wrapped in a flannel sheet and pushed on by four adults with pillows to try and recreate the birth canal.
The scene was videotaped and Candace could be heard crying and pleading for help. She yelled that she had gone to the bathroom all over herself. A few minutes later she said she had thrown up. Yet the therapists, Julie Ponder and Connell Watkins allowed the session to continue.
Candace had been silent for about 20 minutes when the pillows and sheet were removed. What the therapists found was a dead girl who had choked on her own vomit. The coroner ruled that Candace died of asphyxiation.
It is absolutely outrageous that in this time and place something like this was allowed to happen in America. The two therapists insisted this was a valid method to rid Candace of her problems. The little girl had been diagnosed as having reactive detachment disorder that left her unable to form loving relationships because of past traumas.
While the therapists argued this is not child abuse, it is hard to see how it can be classified as anything but. When a child is crying out for help and four adults are not only refusing to help her they are continuing to make the situation worse that is child abuse. Police make house calls to families that spank their children, yet it is ok to wrap a child in a blanket and push on her until she is dead?
Apparently not. A Colorado court convicted Plonder and Watkins of reckless child abuse. Watkins was also convicted of unlawfully practicing psychotherapy, criminal impersonation and obtaining a signature by deception.
Jeane Newmaker will face a trial in November. She is charged with criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death.
There is no word about what Candace’s past traumas were that rendered her unable to trust or love her adoptive mother. However, in time, maybe it was possible for her to come to love with a lot of care, attention and normal psychology.
Hopefully something good will come out of Candace’s death in that governments will outlaw this kind of radical treatment and prevent the deaths of other children who are in similar situations.
As off track as this may sounds, Keanu Reeves said it best in the film “Parenthood” when he said something to the effect of, “You need a license to have a dog or to catch a fish, but any idiot can be a parent.”


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