Thinking of Hana Williams, Seven Years After Her Death

Had she not been murdered by her adoptive parents seven year ago today, Hana Williams would now be 20 years old. We will never know what might have been, what kind of light she may have shone in the world. We have not forgotten you, Hana. You are firmly in our hearts.

Hana Alemu (Williams), in Ethiopia

Since the anniversary of her death last year, adoptions have closed in Ethiopia, in no small part because of the reaction there to the abuse and murder of Hana in 2011, as well as the abuse of her adopted brother Immanuel. There have been other reasons given for the ban, among them the failure of adoptive parents to send in post-placement reports, failure of adoptive families to maintain the children’s Ethiopian culture, fraud and corruption, policies to promote in-country adoption, and more. I think, though, we’d be hard pressed to think that Hana’s death was not a major reason.

That she died as a result of her adoptive parents’ treatment is horrifying enough, but when those of us who attended the 8 weeks’ long trial in 2013 heard about the abuse she endured during the three years she lived in America—well, it’s almost unbelievable. Suffice to say she weighed less at the time she died (78 pounds) than she had when she arrived from Ethiopia in 2008.

Her adoptive parents will remain in jail for many more years. I often wonder how the seven Williams’ siblings are doing. The judge, at the sentencing, said it was largely their testimony that convinced the jury of the heinousness of the crimes.The Williams’ siblings witnessed the abuse of Immanuel and Hana, and then Hana’s death from hypothermia in the family’s backyard. I continue to hope they have found healing.

I don’t have any update on Immanuel. He may have been adopted by another family who could provide resources to heal the trauma, who could help him navigate well as a deaf person, and who could deal with his PTSD.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States. Hana died three days after Mother’s Day in 2011. I’ve often wondered what her Ethiopian mother would have thought of this tragedy, and I grieve for all of Hana’s Ethiopian family.

If you are so inclined, do something for the vulnerable children of Ethiopia, or vulnerable children anywhere. May Hana’s memory bring some good to the world. May she rest in peace.

7 thoughts on “Thinking of Hana Williams, Seven Years After Her Death

  1. I’m wondering – could the article title be “seven years after her murder”? Just curious. No need to sugarcoat the situation, no? Thanks for your writing and outrage.

    • It certainly could. It was a slow murder, over time, with much abuse. A torture expert testified at the trial about what was done to both Hana and Immanuel. The jury determined it was homicide. The judge set the longest possible amount of jail time for both parents. A child died from hypothermia and malnutrition; her parents murdered her through treatment (Carri) and through refusal to intervene (Larry). Thank you for reading, and for your outrage as well.

  2. After we saw her death all boycotted to stop adoption from Ethiopia and we succeeded. You people couldn’t be our family. Government encourages Ethiopians to adopt thier own fellow Ethiopians. All we saw from you people is cruelty. Even African Americans prefer to give thier children to Canada and other European countries to adopt.i am glad Ethiopia banned adoption for you cruel savages.

    • I can understand your outrage. I share your anger and grief. I also have to say that thousands of adoptees have positive experiences and outcomes. They are not at all abused or treated cruelly. Many reconnect with their Ethiopian families. I join you in hoping that in-country adoption becomes part of the culture, and that all children have safe, loving families.

  3. I Attended Every Day. Will Never Forget Hana, Emanuel Or The Beautiful Ethiopian Community From Seattle That Drove Up To Skagit County Every Day. Thank You Maureen For Keeping Us Informed & Writing About The Adoptive Communities Challenges>Your Family Is An Example Of What The BEST Outcomes Can Accomplish.

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