CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A little boy treated like a dog.
Rescued, and then bounced around dozens of foster homes.
He was considered a lost cause until a Charlotte couple stepped in, “Saving Jed.” It’s a story featured exclusively in this week’s People magazine and here on NBC Charlotte.
A yellowing photo shows a newborn boy swaddled in a white blanket, a hospital band wrapped around his tiny wrist. A full head of hair and alert brown eyes stare out into the world. It is one of the first photos taken of Jed Maddalon. It is one of only a few photos he has from his childhood.
“He was severely neglected to the point of dehydration and starvation, almost death. He was basically left to fend for himself, physically abused,” says Brooks Shelley, Jed’s dad. Shelley and his partner, Billy Maddalon, formally adopted Jed in 2010.
Jed was three, when lengthy foster care files show he was found chained to a bed, near death in rural Robeson County, North Carolina.
“He was locked in a room and fed from a dish on the floor in a pretty primitive way. I don’t know how else to describe it, except he was raised as a dog,” Billy says.
Jed's files tell a long and heartbreaking tale of a child who bounced from one foster home to another.
The files are his family album.
It is inconceivable when you first meet him. He is handsome and kind. At 6-foot-3, a gentle giant.
“Once you’ve been backstabbed so many times, it’s just hard for you to trust and love,” he says.
He often ran away.
“He would intentionally sabotage things in homes that he was placed in to see if these people would abandon him like everyone else in his life had. At last count I think he had 27 placements. Is that right? 29 different placements before he was 13,” Brooks says.
“I think we’re 30,” Billy corrects.
Billy Maddalon, Charlotte's newly appointed City Council member, and his partner Brooks first met Jed when they were volunteering at Charlotte’s Alexander Youth Network, where therapists desperately tried to help the troubled teen.
Brooks remembers the first time he saw him. “He was a gentle soul. He seemed lost and defeated.”
Because of the running, the state worried for his safety and ordered the then 13 year old in to a mental institution.
“That was a nightmare. Probably the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life,” Jed recalls.
“I’ve likened it to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest but you know you see that kind of stuff on TV and you don’t actually think it’s real. I’m here to tell you, it’s the juvenile version of it,” Billy says.
Billy, who Jed calls Pop, and Brooks, who Jed calls Cookie, decided to become foster parents and spent six months going through an intense process, fighting to be allowed to bring him home with them. They were specially trained in dealing with kids like Jed, who suffers from PTSD. When they were finally allowed to bring him home, they were shocked at how primitive he was.
Brooks says, “He didn’t use utensils. He ate with his hands. He liked to eat beneath the table. He would hoard food because he was convinced there wouldn’t be enough food.”
Even in a stable home though, he ran.
“That was sort of just me trying Cookie and Pop”s patience to see if they were going to get rid of me or not.”
“Why did you think that would happen?”
“Because all the other foster families had gotten rid of me from the first thing. Like I would do something wrong and they would kick me out immediately,” Jed says quietly.
Instead, his new parents were patient. Loving him. Protecting him. Healing him.
They got him tutors and therapists. Saving him.
“There is so much more that he is capable of and now that he realizes that he can do it, there’s no limit,” Billy says smiling.
Family photos document everything from his perfect score on a test to his first real birthday party, at age 15.
“It took me a while to say that I actually trust them and love them,” Jed admits. “Because I had never trusted anyone or loved anyone.”
Jed is 19 and a junior in high school. He plans to try out for the basketball team when school starts next week.
His family hopes this story will help shine a light on the need for foster parents. There are 400,000 kids nationwide in foster care waiting to be adopted.