A 'Rebirth' Brings Death: A Controversial Therapy for Children Diagnosed with Attachment Disorder Draws Intense Scrutiny

Article excerpt

In the four years since Jeane Newmaker adopted Candace, then 6, the little girl had never let her mother hold her. But while an initial reluctance to give her heart to a stranger might have been understandable, Candace's problems went further: she had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Desperate for help, mother and daughter traveled from their home in Durham, N.C., to Evergreen, Colo., last month so Candace, now 10, could undergo a two-week, $7,000 program to give her the ability to form emotional attachments. Unlike other attachment therapies, however, the one offered by Connell Watkins's center went to extremes: it featured a treatment called rebirthing. In the session, therapists wrapped Candace in a blue flannel blanket to mimic a womb. To simulate labor, they pushed on pillows surrounding the girl. Candace was supposed to fight her way out to be reborn as Jeane's daughter. According to an affidavit filed by the local sheriff, however, a videotape of the session captures Candace saying she is going to die. The therapists respond, "That's the way the baby feels...You want to die? OK, then die." Thirty minutes after Candace's last words the therapists unwrapped the blanket: she was blue and covered with vomit. Initially, police charged the four therapists, including Watkins, with child abuse resulting in the death. Last week they charged Candace's mother.

The logic of "rebirthing therapy" is simple, advocates argue: children form their first and most lasting attachment to their parents in the instants just after birth. …