7.1: Wilson Case Study – Part 1

Wilson Case Study

1. Elizabeth is a lawyer with a large firm in downtown Toronto in criminal law, and Ryan is a civil engineer. Elizabeth pursued law because her father was a police officer who was killed by a drunk driver on the side of the highway during a routine speeding stop.  She was eleven years old. Her mother became depressed and addicted to opioids. Her dark childhood made her determined never to end up poor or addicted like her mother, and she promised her dad in heaven or wherever he was, that she would never ever represent a drunk driver. Elizabeth met Ryan when she was at a charity gala event to raise funds for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. They hit it off right away and were married just over a year later.

2. Ryan grew up in a traditional family. His mother stayed home and raised the children, and his father worked in finance. He never wanted for anything, although his father wasn’t involved in his life due to the hours he invested in his career. His dad could be a bit of an ass, deciding how the money was spent and doling out money to his mother for allowance and telling her to cut back on groceries. She had to ask if she wanted a new dress. He did not discuss with her how he spent money and he made all the “big” decisions where money was concerned. He does have good memories of his dad during family vacations where they would rent a boat and fish. He died of a heart attack just before he graduated. This is a source of anger for him because his father drilled into him that he had to make something of himself and was not there to see him succeed.

Baby from Mindanao, Philippines
Photo by Zeke Tucker on Unsplash


3. Two years into Elizabeth and Ryan’s marriage, they decided to start a family. Without success, they spent five years with a fertility clinic and ended up adopting Maya from the Philippines. She was fourteen weeks old and had been living in an orphanage since her birth. It was Ryan’s idea despite Elizabeth’s preference to keep trying. They hired Gloria, a Filipino nanny, to support her heritage. She came well recommended by an agency they found after numerous hours of research. Elizabeth created a stunning nursery and bought beautiful clothes for Maya. She purchased three strollers for Maya. A jogging stroller so she could be with her while she was running her 5 kms every morning, one that was for the car so she could take her shopping and another one for walking around the neighbourhood to show off her beautiful baby. She put her baby’s name on the waiting list of the best preschool that money could buy and signed her up for mommy and me swim class, although she told Gloria to take her. She arranged a weekly schedule that included trips to the library, a weekly social playgroup at the Community Centre, outings to the parks, inside play, cognitive development based on her age and stage of development and baby tumbling at Gyminie Crickets. The Wilsons had an account with Town Car, and Gloria was expected to book her drives when needed and attend the scheduled events.

4. Elizabeth planned to take a two-month maternity leave to bond with Maya; however, Maya was not a happy or easy baby, and Elizabeth found the whole experience of trying to bond more of a media ploy than reality. She went back to work after three weeks.

5. Elizabeth decided that her goal was to attend the weekly social playgroup on Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. and be home to put Maya to bed every night around 8 p.m.

6. At the playgroup, Elizabeth would sit on a chair and talk with the other adults about how tapped out she was being a working mom. Gloria would do most of the supervision of Maya in the group. If Elizabeth went over to play with Maya, the baby would fuss and want Gloria instead of Elizabeth. This frustrated and embarrassed Elizabeth, reminding her of her own childhood when she was left to care for her siblings with little in the house. She never had a mother who cared for her as she does for Maya. She never had access to money or enough food in the fridge that Maya will never have to worry about. Elizabeth thinks Maya needs to learn to be grateful for her choosing to be her mother because her life would have been very different if she didn’t. She tells Gloria to get out of the room so she can play with Maya at the social play group and show the other mothers that she is a good mom.

7. Whenever Elizabeth sends Gloria out of the playroom, it causes Maya to cry. Elizabeth would ignore her. “Next time, you will remember who the mother is,” she was overheard saying once. When the leader of the program tried to soothe Maya, Elizabeth said, “she is always like this.” “She is probably one of the hardest kids to settle.” “Even at bedtime, I could rock that kid until there are holes in the carpet, and that kid won’t fall asleep. It’s like she is making me pay for working to put nice clothes on her back and a good roof over her head.” The playgroup leader said, “babies don’t try to make your life difficult; they are trying to get their needs met.” At which point Elizabeth said, “I think I know my child better than you do.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes and walks away, thinking the leader just didn’t get it. She leaves Maya in bed crying most nights. She doesn’t have time to rock her all night, and besides, if she did, that kid would be ruling the house. Elizabeth believes, Maya is learning who the boss is. She’s not hurting her, for god’s sake! When she was getting ready to leave, Elizabeth said to Gloria, “if you keep pitting my child against me, you won’t have a job in the future.”


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Child Maltreatment: An Introductory Guide With Case Studies Copyright © 2023 by Susan Loosley and Jen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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