Victim of Attachment Therapy
Suicide, November 1990, at age 13
Note: This account has been gleaned from published news reports. See the webography that follows for sources.
Andrea Swenson was an Austrian orphan adopted by an Oklahoma couple. Her adoptive mother reported that she had disciplinary problems, was aggressive with her siblings, and so was eventually taken to the Attachment Center at Evergreen (ACE) in Colorado, where Connell Watkins was then clinical director.
After being put through the usual “two-week intensive” at ACE, Andrea’s mother was informed that the girl was so “damaged” that she should stay on for periodic treatments at ACE, and live with AT-trained therapeutic foster parents (TFPs), at a cost to the family’s insurance company of $3,500 a week.
Supposedly, Andrea made slow progress in the arrangement, until the insurance payments ran out. Whereupon, Watkins and the TFPs began pressuring the adoptive family to allow the TFPs to adopt her — and thereby get new insurance coverage. Meanwhile, Andrea endured abusive AT parenting techniques and made repeated complaints about the treatment, which were ignored. Instead, she was told about the potential change in adoption. Her adoptive parents were actually dubious of the arrangements, and were within days of effecting a rescue when Andrea took her own life at age thirteen.
One day in November 1990, Andrea returned to her foster home from school and reported to the TFPs that she had been sexually molested at school. They did not act on this information, though, apparently regarding her complaint as typical “Attachment Disorder” behavior — false, manipulative, and attention-getting.
The following day, Andrea asked ominously what would happen if she slit her wrists or took an overdose of drugs. The TFPs responded simply that she would die. That evening, she took an overdose of aspirin.
Andrea was in convulsions and delirious the next morning, so was kept home from school. But the TFPs did not attend her, and instead went bowling that afternoon. While they were gone, a relative visited the house and found Andrea dead in a hallway.
Reflecting on the proposed change in adoption for insurance purposes, the adoptive parents have deep regrets. “What upsets me most is that she died with the thought that another mom had just kicked her to the curb,” her adoptive mother told The Denver Post.
- “Alternative therapies not new in Evergreen,” by Karen Auge (with Kieran Nicholson), The Denver Post, 17 Jun 2000, p 1A.