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Adoptive Parents Of Severely Abused Boy Testify For ‘Aiden’s Law'

Austin Jenkins
Bill and Melissa Barnum with their adoptive son Aiden, age 6, who is unable to walk or talk because of severe abuse he suffered as an infant.


The case of an infant who nearly died from severe abuse has captured the attention of Washington lawmakers. The child’s adoptive parents testified Tuesday in favor a proposed law named in their son’s honor.

“Aiden’s Law” would require Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services to conduct a formal review in near-fatal child abuse and neglect cases.

The proposed law is named for 6-year-old Aiden Barnum, who was so severely abused as an infant by his biological father that he can’t walk or talk.

Melissa Barnum, Aiden’s adoptive mother, said she believes DSHS needs more accountability.

"Nobody did anything except promote the people who chose to send him back home and let this happen to him," Barnum said. "Other than that, they just went about their usual business, and it makes me very angry.”

The Barnums sued the state for failing to protect Aiden, but did not win damages. They are now appealing. DSHS says it has improved its practices since Aiden’s case in 2008.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.