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August 21, 2013 at 6:27 AM

Ethiopian girl died from abuse, not child-rearing gone wrong

Larry Williams is on trial for homicide by abuse and other charges. Jordan Stead/Skagit Valley Herald

Larry Williams is on trial for homicide by abuse and other charges.
Jordan Stead/Skagit Valley Herald

A Seattle Times story updates the public about Larry and Carri Williams, the couple on trial

Carri Williams on trial for homicide by abuse and other charges. Jordan Stead / Skagit Valley Herald

Carri Williams on trial for homicide by abuse and other charges.
Jordan Stead / Skagit Valley Herald

in Skagit County Superior Court, charged with homicide by abuse, manslaughter and child assault in the death of their adopted daughter.

The girl was Ethiopian and the trial is being closely watched by Ethiopians in America and Seattle. Ethiopia is the second largest source of adoptions by U.S. parents after China, according to the article. For context, the number of international adoptions by American parents has fallen by almost 60 percent, according to National Public Radio.

This was a horrific case. Hana , believed to be about 13, was found dead of hypothermia in her adopted family’s Sedro-Woolley backyard. Her malnourished body was covered in scratches and bruises.

Further justice may be found in a 2012 report to the state Legislature that highlighted Washington state’s lack of safeguards to protect adopted children from potentially abusive homes. The Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee’s recommendations included closer tracking of adoption agencies and adoptions, including those done privately. But there may be another factor in the girl’s death.

This New York Times piece links the couple’s actions, including forcing Hana to go without food and to spend long periods in a dark closet or outside, to the harsh disciplinary techniques proposed by Christian author Michael Pearl in “To Train Up a Child.”  Pearl quotes the Biblical maxim, “spare the rod and spoil the child” but says that does not give parents license to severely beat or starve their kids to death. Nonetheless authorities have linked the book with the deaths of several children. I am disturbed by Pearl’s advice, including forcing kids to fast as a disciplinary measure and spanking children as young as six months old.

UNICEF estimates 153 million children worldwide, ranging from infants to teenagers, have lost one or both parents. HIV/AIDS has made orphans out of 17.9 million children, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. It is not easy to call for a halt or slowdown of international adoptions when more than 1 billion children suffers from at least one form of severe deprivation of a basic need such as water, food, and sanitation. I wish that they all find good, loving homes.

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