Dead Wrong About Frank

Frank was an angry, violent 9-year-old on his way to becoming a sociopath. Jim Holland saw something else.

Frank doesn't remember the trailer park or the abuse he suffered there. His memories only go back to the Andersons, with whom he and Stephen lived for five years. "You don't want to know what my first memory is," he says, shaking his head. "You really don't." He sighs heavily, then adds: "I was 5 or 6 and was tying my shoe. When I couldn't do it, [Michael] pushed me over." There are other memories of happier times: riding his bike with his brother down the street; moments he felt a sense of being loved, fleeting as it was. "[Michael and Lisa] loved me in the beginning, but when I was bad, they stopped. [Michael] never told me he loved me, but [Lisa] used to tell me all the time," he says. "Once she even held me."

One day, Frank apparently didn't clean his room to Michael Anderson's satisfaction. "He came in and dumped over all my toys and started throwing Legos at my head," says Frank. The boy couldn't take it any more and ran out the back door. His small feet pounding the pavement furiously, he didn't know where he was going. He just started running, tears streaming down his face. "When I got to the corner," he says, "I decided it was really stupid because I didn't have anyplace to go."

In 1996 Frank's life was disrupted again. The Andersons decided to adopt Stephen but chose not to adopt Frank. The decision broke Frank's heart, and he started acting out even more. "My belief is that if they had adopted him, he really would have settled," Jim says. "He needed a permanent family, and to see his brother adopted when he wasn't, I think, almost did him in."

Of his experiences in lockdown, Frank says, "I wondered a lot if anyone was ever going to come get me out."
Jennifer Silverberg
Of his experiences in lockdown, Frank says, "I wondered a lot if anyone was ever going to come get me out."
Says Jim of Frank, "He was pretty walled off at first because he thought I would show up once, or call once, and not show up again."
Jennifer Silverberg
Says Jim of Frank, "He was pretty walled off at first because he thought I would show up once, or call once, and not show up again."

Frank's temper flared out of control. "Sometimes I would just get mad," he says. "I could feel my stomach get all tight. I would try not to think about it or try to get it to go away, but then I would just blow up." One day, Frank pushed one of the Andersons' daughters down the stairs. Another time, the Andersons reported that Frank had tried to stab his brother with a knife. "They told me I did that, but I don't remember it," Frank says. "I wouldn't try to hurt my brother. I just wouldn't do that."

The Andersons say they tried to work with Frank but that his past abuse and violent behavior were obstacles too great to overcome. "I know that when he was in my home, I gave him nothing but love, and I know that that wasn't enough," says Michael Anderson, "and I know it ripped our heart apart to send him away." He declined to comment further on any of the specific allegations. "We were very hurt," he says. "We don't want to say any more."

What happened at the Andersons may never be fully known, but it's clear that Frank, already a troubled kid when he arrived at the foster home, only got worse in the five years he lived there. In retrospect, Frank's therapists say, it is easy to see why. As the oldest, Frank suffered more abuse in his birth home. He had an "attachment disorder": The closer he felt and the bigger his need, the stronger the fear and the harder he would push. He also has been found to have "oppositional defiant disorder," bucking authority at every turn.

Although she cannot talk specifically about Frank's case, Sally Carpenter, a supervisor at DFS, says that matching a child's needs with appropriate parents isn't always an option, especially for children such as Frank who have a host of behavioral problems. "In the 1960s, when a child came into our care, I could pick from five families and match them with the child's needs," Carpenter says. "Today, I am lucky if I can find a bed."

When Frank's allegations of abuse in the Anderson home were brought to the attention of DFS in January 2001, the agency conducted an investigation but was unable to substantiate them because the incidents in question had allegedly taken place three years earlier. Nevertheless, the Andersons voluntarily relinquished their foster-parenting license a month later.

In any case, by May 1997 the Andersons were clearly afraid of Frank's explosive rage, and the decision was made to send him to Edgewood. His last night at the home he had known for five years and the home he would be leaving -- in addition to his brother -- was not easy on him. While the family -- Michael and Lisa Anderson, their two birth daughters and Frank's brother -- slept behind a locked bedroom door, Frank roamed the house. Jim later brought up that night in a therapy session, and Frank sobbed. "He asked me, 'Why did you tell me that? Why do you tell me things that make me sad?'" says Jim. Frank still cannot talk about that night. Asked about it, he grows quiet and rubs his eyes. "I have something in my eye," he explains. Moments later, he adds softly: "I would rather talk about something else."

And so the next morning, 9-year-old Frank found himself without a home and without his brothers, all alone at the doors of Edgewood Children's Center. For the next three years, he never stopped hoping that the Andersons would bring him home -- especially during those lonely hours in the isolation room. "The room was all concrete and only had this little window. Once I was in there for 12 days," Frank recalls. "I would hide in my shirt -- tuck my arms in like I didn't have any and cover my head. I would think again and again, 'Why am I here? I want to go home to [Michael and Lisa].' I wondered a lot if anyone was ever going to come get me out."

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