Yesterday the Seattle Times published “Adoptive parents on trial in Ethiopian girl’s death,” about the ongoing trial of Larry and Carri Williams for homicide and manslaughter of their adopted Ethiopian daughter Hana Alemu, and for first degree assault of their surviving adopted Ethiopian son Immanuel. Click here to read the article. I’m quoted, along with several others. I spoke with the reporter for nearly an hour. I appreciate that she wrote a strong article outlining main points, and that the Seattle Times put the article on the front page, above the fold.
While there has been solid local reporting by Skagit Valley Herald’s Gina Cole, and film and stories by KIRO-TV’s Lee Stoll, this is the first large newspaper coverage of the trial. It could be a sign that the trial will begin to receive more attention from bigger media outlets, though perhaps that won’t happen until the verdict is announced. That announcement is probably weeks away.
A quote from the article:
The case has highlighted the gaps in oversight of adoptions in Washington and drawn attention to the challenges that some Ethiopian adoptees and their new parents may face. Parents and leaders in Washington’s adoption system are closely following the trial, as are Seattle-area Ethiopians, who have attended proceedings every day, almost as a vigil.
The article comments on the role of Washington State laws and policies regarding oversight of adoptions, and the concerns of many in the adoption community about how to prevent a tragedy like this from ever occurring again. I’ve written here about how the adoption community failed Hana. I’ve written here regarding questions for adoption agency practices.
Per my quote in the Seattle Times article, I believe preparation for adoptive parents needs to improve, so that they can best meet the needs of the children, who may have minimal or highly significant challenges. (At the least, adopted children have experienced the basic loss of their first family; some experience many more losses.) We need to make sure that anyone considering adoption is extremely well-screened, especially in terms of why they are adopting, and in terms of disciplinary techniques. I also believe we need to advocate for meaningful post-adoption services, and to affirm (not stigmatize) parents who seek out these services for their children. We also need to listen better to the insights of adult adoptees, whose perspectives are invaluable in adoption policy.
When this trial ends, whatever the outcome, that’s not the end at all for the legacy we can create for Hana. The small one is a decent grave marker for Hana at the Sedro-Woolley cemetery. The bigger ones are advocacy for changes in adoption practice that are truly child-centric and adoptee-focused: changes that ensure that children are safe and families receive help and support when they are struggling. Further, I hope that awareness is raised for the plight of Ethiopian adoptees who have had some similar (though not so tragic) experiences as Hana and Immanuel, who are now young adults, and who deserve care and support as well.
Immanuel, by the way, is done testifying. He described what he went through (beatings, isolation, missing meals, witnessing Hana’s treatment and death) and endured the defense attorneys’ cross-examination and their attempts to discredit him. Larry and Carri Williams are accused of first degree assault of Immanuel, so the defense attorneys’ job was to create reasonable doubt regarding the accusations. As a result, Immanuel was treated harshly on the stand by the defense attorneys.
I give Immanuel great credit for resiliency and strength in testifying, in facing those who harmed him, in re-visiting what were extremely painful life events, and in standing his ground for his truth. He has the great support of so many people he will probably never meet, but who will keep him in their hearts always. Justice for Hana, justice for Immanuel.