AT News
Archived Issue
Originally emailed 27 January 2006

35,000 College Fund Spares Parents Up to 30 Years in Prison
Utah Parents Accused of Starving Russian Adoptees “Attachment Therapy” Parenting in Picture

A Utah couple who used AT parenting techniques, and as a result were accused of “one of the worst” cases of child abuse ever seen by local authorities, was able to strike a bargain with prosecutors and avoid jail completely (Provo Herald).

Theresa and Reed Hansen had been accused of felony and misdemeanor charges for withholding food, sometimes for days at a time, from two of their three children adopted from Russia (
Hansen Siblings Victims Page), who were of pre-school age at the time. All three adoptees were removed from the home in 2002 and have thrived since in new adoptive homes.

The two adults were supposed to go to trial on January 10, delayed after almost four years of legal wrangling. In what had been described by local law enforcement as one of the worst examples of child abuse they’d ever seen, the Hansens faced up to 30 years in prison, if convicted. Instead, they reached a plea bargain with prosecutors. Mrs Hansen pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, and received a one-year suspended jail sentence. Mr Hansen pled no-contest to misdemeanors for attempted reckless endangerment and received a six-month suspended jail sentence. Both will be on probation for two years, required only to report their address to authorities every six months.

Teresa Hansen was on probation for early charges of beating one of her adoptees a year before. That probation will be extended to run concurrently with the new probation.

No fines were levied, but the Hansens agreed to pay $35,000 to college funds for the two children, now aged 8 and 9. The total amount must be paid before the Hansens’ probation can be terminated.

One of the new adoptive parents for the abused children correctly calls the penalties a “slap on the wrist.” Even prosecutor Sherry Ragan called the deal “a tradeoff to get back the money,” perhaps a reference to adoption subsidies possibly paid to the Hansens.

The only significant consequence of the guilty pleas is that the Hansens will never again be able to adopt. Unlike other parents found guilty of child endangerment, the Hansens are in no danger of having their biological children removed from their home. Authorities say the Hansens’ biological children were treated better than the adopted ones were, and are in no perceptible danger. No mention was made of the Hansens “forfeiting” their right to raise children because of almost killing two of them. An argument similar to that was made by Ragan in pressing for prison time for Jenette Killpack. (
AT News, 16 Jan 2006)

The plea bargain also doesn’t help deter other parents who are using, or contemplating using, AT parenting techniques. That effect had been made in giving jail time to Killpack.

Control over food is a common device used by parents involved with Attachment Therapy parenting techniques. AT “parenting specialists,” such as
Nancy Thomas, counsel that parents must pick their battles with their children and win them at all costs. Starvation, or near-starvation, is a clear risk with such parental strategies; it has been reported in several cases around the country, with Nancy Thomas AT parenting involved. (For instance, see Heiser Victim Page.) Some of Nancy Thomas’s books were reportedly found in the Hansen home. Business cards from the now-defunct Cascade Center for Family Growth were also found there.

Parents should avoid AT parenting techniques because of the relentless abuse they inflict and the high risk of injury and even death to the children subjected to them. The message sent in other high-profile cases, such Jenette Killpack’s, is that society does not tolerate such treatment of children, and parents use AT at the risk of their freedoms and dissolution of their families. Unfortunately, the message from the Hansen plea bargain is almost exactly the opposite.

Teresa Hansen tearfully entered her pleas before the judge, declaring, “For the sake of my children, guilty.” Under the circumstances, they might have been tears of joy and relief.

Caution: links may have aged since this AT News was first emailed.