The trial of Larry and Carri Williams, accused of homicide by abuse, manslaughter, and first degree assault of a child, is in the second week of what could be a total of 4 to 6 weeks. Gina Cole, a reporter for the Skagit County Herald, has been covering the trial from the start; here is today’s article. She also tweets (@Gina_SVH) at #Williamstrial; here are some of her tweets from yesterday.
Adoption Advocates International, the adoption agency that approved Larry and Carri Williams for adoption and placed 2 older Ethiopian children with them, is not on trial. Many questions, however, have arisen about the placement process and (any) follow-up provided by the agency.
The benefits of hindsight are in operation here, I realize. Nonetheless, the way that the adoption of Hana and Immanuel was handled presents an excellent opportunity for an adoption-related Case Study. We need to make changes in adoption policy, in a conversation that includes adoptive parents, adopted persons, and first parents. I challenge adoption agencies and licensing authorities in particular to step up.
Background (Verifiable Facts): Adoption Advocates International (AAI) has been a US and international child-placing agency since 1983, licensed in the state of Washington. Additionally, AAI is a member of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation.
(Note from Maureen: It doesn’t take any insider knowledge to recognize that licensing and accrediting bodies must be watching this trial very closely. JCICS does not license or accredit. It does have Standards of Practice for all member agencies, and those standards include some enforcement mechanisms.
In addition to these organizations watching the trial, I believe that other entities/people are watching closely: the government of Ethiopia, international adoption agencies, the Department of State–Office of Children’s Issues, adult Ethiopian adoptees, other international adoptees, other state licensing authorities, domestic violence survivors, the Ethiopian community in the US, and more.)
Based on the testimony of Gay Knutson, currently AAI’s Director of Social Services, AAI did the home study, placement, and post-adoption work (as required by the state of Washington for licensing and in conjunction with the COA accreditation requirements) for the Williams’ family. Ms. Knutson testified that AAI has, in the so-called “family file,” the following documents for the Williamses: the home study, the child placement file, the personal data sheet for Larry and Carri Williams, the Welcome Home packet, the Post-placement Information, and the Post-Placement reports submitted by the family.
(The family got copies of all the documents, and they signed all information about the children. At the agency, these records are kept in locked file cabinets, in accordance with state licensing requirements.)
According to Ms. Knutson, the home study is done at the beginning of the adoption process. It is a 10-20 page document to ascertain whether the child will be cared for properly in the home.
The post-placement reports, according to Ms. Knutson, let the adoption agency and the country of origin know that the children are well, inform them about the children’s overall well-being (via photos, health updates, school information, hobbies, interests, etc.), and indicate that any needed services are being sought.
(I believe all these documents were placed into evidence for the trial. Ms. Knutson was not involved with the Williamses’ adoption directly. It is not clear to me that anyone from AAI who was involved will be testifying at the trial. Again, the agency is not on trial here. But many people are watching.)
So those are some of the facts.
In Part 2, I ask Case Study Questions, and welcome discussion.