Adopted Girls' Suffering Rooted in Mothers' Woes

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In the beginning, their stories were heartbreakingly similar.

At birth, life handed the three little girls legacies of addiction and abandonment. Adoption was supposed to be their chance to escape.

Instead, Minnet, who would be 11, and Jasmine, who would be 9, were discovered last month at the bottom of a freezer in the Calvert County basement of Renee Bowman's rented home. Their 7-year-old sister was found wandering the streets, bloody and beaten.

They had been the adopted daughters of Bowman, 43, who now sits in jail in Calvert County, where she is being held on charges of neglect and abuse of the youngest girl. No charges have been filed in Minnet's and Jasmine's deaths, which remain under investigation.

The lives of three sisters drew national headlines. But their births in desperate circumstances unfolded in quiet anonymity.

Minnet's biological mother spent years on the streets of the District, a Cardozo High School dropout who first got pregnant at 17. In her 20s, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Mental illness chased her, and she chased drugs, selling her body to men she met along the way, relatives said. In all, she would have six children, three boys and three girls.

Minnet, born in 1997, was her youngest.

The biological mother of Jasmine and her 7-year-old sister would disappear for days, leaving her girls, then a 2-year-old and an infant, with their grandmother, who was legally blind and used a wheelchair. It was the grandmother who called District family services twice in two months. The second time she called, the city came and took the children away.

D.C. Superior Court gave The Washington Post access to the confidential neglect files of Minnet, Jasmine and the surviving sister on the condition that the identities of the biological families and the surviving girl not be published.

The court records describe the girls' lives through their foster care experiences. The records covering the time after the girls were adopted by Bowman remain sealed.

From the foster care records and interviews with biological family members, what is clear is that the three girls' earliest days were like the stories of too many children in a city still battling the legacy of the crack cocaine epidemic.

Last of Six Children

When Minnet's mother delivered her baby girl in 1997, she already had five children.

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