Remembering Leiland-James Corkill
Adoptee Remembrance Day
Today we remember adoptees who have died by suicide, those who were adopted by dangerous people and adoptees who have suffered poor mental and physical health outcomes. October 30th is also a day to honor the losses all of us have endured prior to and at separation from our biological mothers. Whether we are reformist, abolitionist, grateful or indecisive, we have all been impacted by early childhood trauma. How that trauma impacts each of us appears to be different, and often determined by the environments in which we land. The mission many of us have is to help provide adoptees with language so they can process their trauma and expand emotional awareness. Some of us also wish to educate future adoptive parents and to disrupt the narratives that our society has been plagued by since the inception of agencies and their goal to profit from mediating the buying and selling of children.
There are many things we can do to observe Adoptee Remembrance Day, and I personally have chosen (apart from blogging) to light a candle for UK adoptee Leiland-James Corkill.
Leiland-James Corkill was 13 months old when he was severely injured and killed by his adoptive-mother-in-progress, Laura Castle. He suffered from extensive trauma to his brain, neck and spine, which caused his early death on January 7th, 2022.
Leiland-James: What went wrong?
The system failed baby Leiland-James when the people assigned to his case decided not to thoroughly investigate the Castles during their eight-month assessment. It was discovered that Laura had shared her history of excessive drinking, anger issues, mental health problems and other concerning behaviors toward her own biological daughter with a therapist just before beginning the adoption process. Laura and her husband Scott had initially decided to adopt after facing infertility and depression; no reporting shows that the couple underwent counseling for these issues before taking Leiland-James into their home.
Laura Castle spoke to social workers about discontinuing the adoption process after expressing that she was not bonding with Leiland-James. According to BBC News, she did not go through with dissolving the pending-adoption because her extended family was already attached to the baby. Despite the happiness she was projecting in “family” photographs, Laura Castle referred to Leiland-James as the “Devil’s Spawn” and other vulgar names over text messages to her husband while he was at work. She went so far as to text him that she needed to “stop hitting him, because one day she wouldn’t stop”. This behavior was never reported by Scott Castle to authorities.
Mr. Castle was reportedly asleep using an eye-mask and earplugs the night that his wife violently injured the baby. Laura Castle attempted to convince investigators that he had slipped off of the couch, but it was later determined that Leiland-James Corkill died of “catastrophic head injuries”. To read more about these circumstances and LJC’s condition after death, click here.
The biological mother, Laura Corkill believes her son would be alive today if she had been allowed to keep him. She also said: "I was told he would be safe and would have a good life, I was fine with that. Now my world is broken. He was a precious baby, vulnerable and innocent, he had no voice, he could not defend himself."
Laura Castle was sentenced to 18 years in prison. For more details, click here.
What is going unrecognized about adoptee Leiland-James Corkill in the media?
According to BBC reporting, Leiland-James had been crying excessively and losing weight during his term in foster care (before placement with the Castles), which led to the diagnosis of pyloric stenosis. He underwent a successful surgery which helped to resolve his condition. After doing research of my own, I learned that weight loss from pyloric stenosis is caused by forceful vomiting and dehydration. Though babies who are treated for this condition usually have successful outcomes, stress has obviously wreaked havoc on their tiny bodies and damaged their nervous systems.
As an adoptee, I cannot imagine enduring separation trauma, multiple abandonments, pyloric stenosis and a major surgery in such a small window of time. These events happened for this baby during a critical phase of development. Leland should have been viewed as “special needs” (in my opinion).
Should it have been shocking to the Castles that baby Leiland-James struggled to connect? No.
Apart from more attentive social work and rigorous investigation of prospective adopters, people need to understand why some infants struggle with attachment. In an ideal world, agencies would also require infertile couples to complete therapy for trauma before applying to adopt. Moreover, society needs to understand that adopted babies are relinquished in a state of trauma and require care that differs from children who remain kept by their biological mothers.
I hope I am alive to see that day. Until then, I light my candle for Leiland-James Corkill.