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Recap / Law And Order S 4 E 20 Nurture

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Directed by Jace Alexander

Written by Paris Qualles & Ed Zuckerman

Ten-year-old Wendy Sylvester disappears. She has a chaotic, unstable home life with a neglectful foster mother. The detectives eventually discover that Arnette Fenady, a volunteer teacher at Wendy's school, is hiding Wendy in a secret room of her house. Fenady, whose own daughter died, believes God sent Wendy as a replacement; Fenady has previously attempted to kidnap another student as a new "daughter." Despite the DA's office petitioning for Fenady to be committed to hospital, she is found fit to stand trial. On the stand, Wendy changes her story and says she ran away to Fenady's house; previously, she had claimed that Fenady picked her up in a car. She is angry at what she sees as Stone trying to punish Fenady for helping her. The jury is very sympathetic to Fenady and acquits. She subsequently applies to adopt Wendy. Kincaid thinks Fenady will never get permission, but Stone is confident she will; he hopes that she'll be a good mother.

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This episode contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Peggy Sylvester.
  • Children Are Innocent: Zig-Zagged. Wendy is only ten, with all that implies, but she's very savvy and pretty much knows that no adult in this situation is actually looking out for her wishes. Subverted when she quite blatantly perjures herself with a straight face to make sure Fenady isn't sent to jail.
  • Department of Child Disservices: In spades. When confronted on the stand with evidence that Wendy was being beaten, underfed, and underclothed with multiple school officials reporting in, the CPS administrator all but shrugs and says that she still had it better than many of the kids in this system, so they put her on low priority.
  • The Kindnapper: Fenady.
  • Parental Neglect: Wendy, at the hands of first her birth mother and then Hines.
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  • Replacement Goldfish: Fenady has been trying to replace her missing daughter, first with a previous student and then Wendy.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: May be loosely based on the case of abducted child Katie Beers.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: How Fenady and her lawyer see the situation. It also factors into the previous student, who was also being neglected and abused. The charges had been dropped partly because the kid's abuse was blatant enough to send them straight to foster care. When Wendy's self-absorbed ass of a foster mother and the apathetically stupid CPS official open their mouth on the stand, it's hard not to disagree.
  • Secret Underground Passage: Fenady built one to hide Wendy in.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Fenady's lawyer, who uses the case to make a political point about child social services not being fit for purpose.
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