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Published: Friday, 7/13/2001

Teen chained in basement won't return to family yet


HILLSDALE - A troubled teenager who was chained by his parents in his basement bedroom so he wouldn't run away from home will not be reunited with his family - at least for the time being.

Roxanne and David Feldkamp told a Hillsdale County probate judge yesterday that they believe it is too soon to welcome their 16-year-old adopted son, Aaron, back home. Instead, the Feldkamps and the Family Independence Agency said family counseling is in order.

“We feel for [Aaron] to be plopped back into the family right now would be detrimental to him as well as us,” Mrs. Feldkamp said. “This has caused so much emotional damage to everyone and we have to get past that first.”

Sheriff's deputies found Aaron chained by his ankle to a pair of tractor weights May 11 in the family's farmhouse. Several heavy objects blocked the doors leading from the basement to the outside of the home.

The couple said they were trying to keep their son from running away while they found a drug treatment center for him.

The couple were charged in Hillsdale County District Court in May with second-degree child abuse, a felony. But they pleaded no contest June 22 to attempted child abuse, a lesser charge that carries a maximum six-month jail sentence.

The Feldkamps were not sentenced pending a decision by probate court.

Mrs. Feldkamp said she is angry about what happened and wants to work through that anger before she sees Aaron. The teen, who will turn 17 next week, has been in foster care since May. In addition, he has undergone substance abuse treatment.

Aaron has not seen his adoptive parents since May 11. His mother hopes he receives treatment while he's away to help him handle the demons in his past.

“These kids went through hell before we even got them and the scars are so much deeper than the surface,” she said. “I'm willing to help him, but I won't have welcoming arms until he gets proper counseling because it would go back to the way it was.”

Aaron and his two siblings, Bill, 14, and Jill, 21, were adopted by the Feldkamps six years ago. Bill was removed from his home in May but was returned to his adoptive parents June 12 on order from Probate Judge Albert Neukom.

This coincides with the goal of the Family Independence Agency, which is to permanently place the children, spokeswoman Karen Smith said.

“Whenever possible we like to place them back with their family, if they can be there and they can be safe,” she said. “But child safety is paramount.”

She did not discuss details of the case. But in general, she said the Family Independence Agency will offer support services when necessary to help the children make the transition back to their homes.

“Most of those issues can be addressed through support services of some kind, whether that be counseling for the family or anger management for the child,” she said.

Mrs. Feldkamp said she is still angry about the lack of support she believes she received from the Family Independence Agency.

Aaron and his siblings were adopted through the agency.

But what her family needs now is a chance to move forward and regroup, she said. “I need my own counseling,” she said. “I need to deal with the anger I feel.”

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