On April 30, just three days ago, Kaleab Schmidt ended his life. He was 13. He was an Ethiopian adoptee. May he rest in peace and in power. May his family, his adoptive parents and his sisters, also adopted from Ethiopia, find healing and consolation.
Before I go on, I need to say that most adoptees do well. I do not want to pathologize adoptees in any way. I share this news with, I hope, respect for the family, for Kaleab, and for all those who struggle. We have to be able to acknowledge suicide, even as we long to prevent it.
Kaleab lived in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, in the city of Regina. According to his obituary, he loved his family, played lots of sports, was on the honor roll at school, was great with pets. He looks, from his photo, like a beautiful young man who should have had a long and wonderful life.
My understanding from folks who know is that there may have been bullying involved. It was probably bullying based on race.
My heart aches so.
What can we in the adoption community do?
We can contribute to the GoFundMe for the funeral and other expenses.
We can offer prayers for the family, if that’s our faith tradition.
We can acknowledge the reality and extent of bullying.
We can learn about and believe the realities of race-based bullying.
We can acknowledge the need for racial mirrors and mentors for adoptees.
We can hold our children close, and try to give them both room to talk as well as tools for dealing with their struggles.
We white adoptive parents can recognize and endorse the importance of race and the reality of systemic racism in our global society. We can support other families and adoptees, offering help and resources.
This is the third time I’ve written about an Ethiopian adoptee who died by suicide. Each was deeply loved by their families. Each left behind parents and siblings and others who had to recover from the loss. I am so terribly sorry for each young person and their families.
Again, I acknowledge that there are thousands of adoptees who do not die by suicide. There may well be some additional risk for adoptees nonetheless, and we would be naïve not to consider that. More research is needed.
I’m so damn sad.
May Kaleab be remembered for his life. May his family, in Ethiopia and Canada, find peace.