Invisible Children

24 children of Paul and Paula Dunham

Content note: Case narratives include descriptions of severe violence inflicted on children, including abuse and neglect, sexual violence, torture, and murder, as well as mentions of suicide and domestic violence. They also include photos of victims and perpetrators of violence.

Paul Dane Dunham and Paula Lee Dunham had 9 biological children and adopted 15 others, including 8 from the Philippines who were obtained through disrupted adoptions. The other 7 children were obtained from private adoption agencies—the Dunhams were not licensed foster parents in Stearns County where they resided. In 2002, 9 of the children were homeschooled. The 15 children who were still minors in late 2008 were removed by social services due to rampant sexual abuse among the siblings.

In late 2005, two of the adopted children admitted to having consensual sex with each other. The Dunhams responded by segregating the boys from the girls and putting locks and alarms on the doors. Then in September 2007 the Dunhams adopted a teenage boy who had previously sexually abused his sister and was prohibited from having contact with younger girls. More abuse came to light in December 2008 when one of the Dunhams’ children reported sexual abuse to a neighbor.

Two of the Dunhams’ biological children—Eric Lamar Dunham, 20, left, and another son who was a minor tried as an adult—were found guilty of first degree criminal sexual conduct, and one of their adult adopted sons—Romnick Charael Dunham, 20, right—was found not guilty of the same crime after the victim refused to testify. No charges were filed against the Dunhams, who moved to Florida.

Date: December 2008
Sartell, Minnesota and Holdingford, Minnesota


Documents: Date:
Sartell parents launch magazine for large families 2001-05-02
The Family Mobile 2001-08-19
Life with a supersized family 2001-09-19
Mega-families bring ‘it takes a village’ to life 2002-07-29
Family of 19 Relies on Chore Lists, Laughter 2002-08-16
The Large Family Phenomenon 2002-11-14
Postadoption services help families cope with issues that arise after the adoption papers are signed. 2006-11-01
Quiver-full Convicted 2009-01-00
Big family’s issues escape scrutiny 2012-02-10
Gaps exposed in system meant to shield foster, adoptive children 2012-02-10
Investigating the story: How we did it 2012-02-12