Hana Alemu Befekadu arrived in the US from Ethiopia In August 2008. About 2 and a half years later, she died, in May 2011. Her adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams were charged in her murder, and for the assault of Immanuel, the other Ethiopian child adopted by the Williamses, in October 2011. Now, almost 2 years later, we are awaiting a decision by the jury as to the Williamses’ guilt or innocence.
There has been great interest in the trial, certainly by people in the international adoption community (adoptive parents, adoptees, and first/birth families around the world), the deaf community, and the Ethiopian community (here in Washington state, as well as across the US and of course in Ethiopia). I’ve met many survivors of child abuse and domestic violence (some related to religious teachings, some not at all) while covering this trial: their hearts are surely with Hana and Immanuel as well. Many people have no particular connection to the details of the case, but they are horrified and saddened by what happened to Hana and Immanuel.
All this connection is wonderful, and serves to honor the memory of Hana. Once the verdict is reached (and I so hope genuine justice is achieved for Hana and Immanuel), what then? The press coverage will stop, and people will move on to other events and news. That’s simply life.
That said, I feel there are other, potentially lasting and valuable changes that will occur as a result of the way Hana and Immanuel have affected people.
The Ethiopian Community Center in Seattle will continue its great work on Hana’s Fund. There is talk of installing a headstone on Hana’s grave in Sedro-Woolley (there are a number of legal issues around doing that which must first be sorted out.) There are Facebook groups dedicated to Hana, and also to bringing about changes in the adoption process. The state of Washington wrote the Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee Report, which discusses not only Hana but other children who have suffered horrific abuse at the hands of their adoptive parents. I hope that work will continue on implementing this report’s solid, thoughtful, appropriate recommendations that could definitely improve the adoption process.
There will likely be many articles and books written about the trial, Hana, Immanuel, Larry and Carri Williams. I have written a lot about this trial, thousands and thousands of words. I very much appreciate all of those of you who have read my posts, who have commented thoughtfully, and who have thanked me for writing. My blog has had over 55,000 views since the trial began. That’s pretty amazing. Hana has reached the hearts of so many people.
I’ve decided to write a book, not so much about the trial or about Ethiopian adoption as about why pre-adoption preparation and post-adoption resources are so important. I have a featured article in this month’s issue of Gazillion Voices, an adoptee-led, on-line, provocative, compelling magazine. My article is called “Standards of Practice for Adoptive Parents: An International Manifesto.” I had written here in my blog about these unenforceable and necessary standards.
In my book, I will weave the need for better preparation and more post-adopt resources with stories of adoptive parents and, more importantly, with the stories of adoptees and of first/birth parents. My dream is to create a book that honors the experiences of adoptees, including Hana and Immanuel, as well as those adoptees who have had joy and love in their lives, though that may well have been accompanied by loss and grief. I can write only from the perspective of an adoptive parent, one who loves her children beyond words, and one who has (literally) embraced her daughter’s Ethiopian family members, on Ethiopian and American soil.
Wednesday, September 11, is the Ethiopian New Year. Happy 2006! (The Ethiopian calendar is different from our western one.) Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was just celebrated. Happy 5774! I’m neither Ethiopian nor Jewish, but I revel in the idea of thoughtfully reflecting on past events (recalling joys, not forgetting tragedies), and of moving toward new possibilities and renewed hope. And that, I believe, is also part of Hana’s legacy.