Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard have spoken on reality TV about the desire to adopt. However, what they’ve been saying (and showing) on social media could present a barrier, if that continues to be a goal of theirs. Much of the controversy over the couple’s social media has been connected to Derick’s religious beliefs, and how he has spoken of LGBTQ+ rights. However, the other major controversy of the couple’s social media has been their parenting style — and this could pose problems.
Laws for adoption and foster care vary by state, and within states, rules for adopting can vary by agency. International adoption, of course, may be subject to even more variance in rules and legal lines. However, for at least some agencies, the parenting habits shown on social media could be a barrier for Jill and Derick Dillard to adopt, especially through a state agency.
Across numerous posts on Jill and Derick’s social media, fans and others have expressed horror at certain images — such as ones in which the Dillard children are bound in blankets or other materials to a degree apparently preventing them from moving their arms.
In 2015, on an episode of Counting On, Jill and Derick, along with other family members, including Jana Duggar and Jessa and Ben Seewald, visit an orphanage in Central America. Walking into the building, Jill says, “I’m going to carry some kids out with me!”
Throughout the video, Jill and Derick’s possible future adoption plans are presented: Jana Duggar says she can see the couple adopting, since they have a heart for babies, and Jill speaks further of wanting to take the kids home with her.
By the end of 2016, Jill and Derick instead announced a second pregnancy. However, that pregnancy ended in a second homebirth-to-hospital transfer for Jill, followed by such a degree of social media silence that viewers speculated something had gone badly wrong, and wondered if Jill would be able to have more kids.
Duggar fans wondered if the lack of photos and promotional materials, and the question of would Jill get a special birth episode of Counting On, was a sign of medical problems for Jill or baby Sam, but in November, TLC released a statement, saying they hadn’t been working with the Dillards for months.
— TLC Network (@TLC) November 11, 2017
Derick Dillard later declared that this was by his own choice, not termination by TLC. Either way, it’s a possible non-medical cause for the lack of photos.
The photos the couple did share left viewers worried and speculating. Social media users debated whether Jill was depressed, suffering serious physical problems after Sam’s birth, or was just recuperating in a totally normal fashion after a second C-section.
However, the greater concern was for Sam, and this hasn’t ceased, with the most recent outrage over the smallest Dillard wrapped in some sort of blanket or wrap, which appears so tight his arms are immobilized.
This reminded viewers of previous photos the Dillard family had shared of their son Israel. While some photos have been deleted, She Knows has archived copies here, showing Israel wrapped in a blanket and left immobilized in the center of another blanket, crying and in apparent distress.
Another photo that Derick Dillard’s mother shared recently is now appearing on blogs, message boards, and social media pages that discuss the Duggar family, to general disapproval. The Life Is Not All Pickles & Hairspray shared a copy, and viewers discussed what the photo means for Israel and Samuel Dillard.
In the image, Derick, his mom, Cathy, and his brother, Dan, pose together, with Cathy holding a hefty wooden spoon, and the two brothers holding up shirts reading, “wooden spoon survivor,” in reference to the disciplinary practice of hitting a child with such an implement as punishment.
While Dan seems serious in the photo, Derick grins and points to the shirt — which viewers are taking to mean he supports the sentiment and finds physical punishment appropriate, and may be passing it on to the next generation. The Duggar family, notably, has also been the center of controversy for certain physical discipline choices. These include their promotion of Michael and Debi Pearl’s book, which, among other things, instructs parents to “train” a child as young as 6-months-old by placing enticing objects within his reach, then hitting him when he touches them, and to spank a 3-year-old until he is “totally broken,” switching a 4-month-old child with a willow branch, and switching an infant for being unable to sleep, according to quotes archived on Why Not Train Up A Child.
There’s plenty of disagreement on physical punishment among parents, and spanking, within boundaries (that vary by state) remains largely legal. However, experts have released studies showing corporal punishment does harm, and adoption agencies and some government agencies are taking those studies seriously.
For instance, Arkansas’ Department of Child and Family Service is adamant about the practice in their guide for foster and adoptive families:
“Because of the trauma these children have endured, the agency does not allow corporal punishment.”
Further, even the conservative Focus on the Family organization, which is in line with the Duggar and Dillard families’ beliefs in many ways, warns against spanking adopted children, due to histories of trauma.
As for the tight wraps on the Dillard babies, if they are truly tight enough to prevent movement, they may fall under a category that the Arkansas Child Abuse Prevention site lists as specifically prohibited by state law.
“Tying a child to a fixed or heavy object or binding or tying a child’s limbs together.”
If Jill and Derick Dillard do start the adoption process, the preliminary investigations and home studies may include the discovery of these social media images. Since they’ve been in the spotlight as public figures, even the photos they’ve deleted appear in news stories, fan blogs, not-fan blogs, message boards, and others’ social media. If Jill and Derick seek adoption through a state agency or one of many private agencies, this might either be a deal-breaker or require them to make some promises about changing their disciplinary habits.
However, Jill (née Duggar) and Derick Dillard could use an agency that’s closely aligned with their own beliefs and parenting styles, or choose a private adoption, and this history might not even be brought up, much less become a factor.