A feral child may seem like something out of folklore, but there have been dozens of confirmed cases of “wild children” living in isolation and among animals. Often neglected by their caregivers, many of these feral children look to animals to survive. Unfortunately, many of these feral children have trouble adjusting when they are rescued. They have difficulty learning to speak, walking upright and eating the foods humans typically eat.
Genie: Isolated for Nearly 12 Years
- Born in 1957 in Arcadia, CA, “Genie” was kept in isolation from 20 months old until she was 13 1/2. “Genie” is not her real name, but a pseudonym given to the little girl to protect her identity. She is perhaps one of the most well-known cases of a “feral child” in the United States.
- Genie’s father disliked children and hated noise. He was physically and mentally abusive towards his wife and children. Genie’s mother was nearly blind and dependent on her husband, allowing him to carry on his abusive ways.
- Genie was malnourished as a baby, but had no known mental disabilities. However, her father was convinced something was wrong with her and when she reached age 20 months, he isolated her in a back bedroom. He was convinced she would be dead by the age of 12.
- For most of the day, Genie was tied to a chair with a makeshift toilet. No one was allowed to communicate with her. At night, her father tied her into a sleeping bag and put her in a crib. She was spoon fed, but never given enough food.
- If Genie made noises, her father would bark and growl at her or beat her. After her rescue, Genie had a deep fear of dogs and cats.
- It wasn’t until Genie was 13 years old that her parents had an argument and her mother left the house. Her mother took Genie with her and attempted to apply for disability benefits, but accidentally walked into a social services office. Police were contacted when they realized the girl was actually 13 years old and not 6 or 7.
- Genie was taken to the Children’s Hospital. She weighed only 59 pounds and was 4’6. She had two sets of teeth and had difficulty swallowing. Her ability to walk and move was hindered by the fact that her hips were deformed and she could not straighten her limbs entirely.
- Doctors attempted to determine her mental age and two tests showed she was mentally at the age of a 13 month old. She would not make facial expressions and showed no attachment to people, including her mother and brother. She would attack herself when upset, but never cried or vocalized her feelings.
- Genie made some progress during her hospital stay. However, problems arose when she was put in foster care. Researchers and her caregivers could not agree on how to look after Genie. When she turned 18, she was placed back into the care of her mother. However, this did not last and Genie spent most of her early adulthood moving from one foster home to another.
- Genie’s father committed suicide soon after her rescue.
- Currently, Genie is living in an undisclosed location in Los Angeles at a private facility for underdeveloped adults. She can say only a few words, but has been taught to use sign language to communicate.
- Her mother died of natural causes in 2003. Her only surviving brother died in 2011.