Remembering Hanna Williams, on the Eleventh Anniversary of Her Death

It’s a chilly, drizzly day here in Seattle, close to 50 degrees F (10 C). That’s what the weather was like 11 years ago today, when Ethiopian adoptee Hanna Williams died outdoors, in her adoptive family’s backyard. The cause of her death was hypothermia and malnutrition, the tragic culmination of the abuse she endured before she died in 2011 at the age of 13.

Her adoptive parents, Larry and Carri Williams, remain in jail after being found guilty, in 2013, for Hanna”s death. I’ve often wondered how Hanna’s siblings are doing, having witnessed the abuse and death of Hanna at the hands of their parents. I wish them well, along with the other Ethiopian adoptee, Immanuel. What scars they all carry.

Hanna would be 24 years old now, had she not died.

We are dedicating our upcoming book, Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees, to Hanna, and to Ethiopian adoptees who have died by suicide. We will use the proceeds from the sale of the book to support adoptees, perhaps to offer DNA testing, or to supplement airfare to Ethiopia, or some other ways to center their needs.

A photo of Ethiopian adoptee Hanna Williams at the orphanage. Hanna is wearing a blue and white striped shirt and has a slight, shy smile.
Hana in Ethiopia, prior to adoption. May she Rest in Peace and in power.

You’re in our hearts, Hanna. We won’t forget you.

Update on “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees”

We are getting closer to announcing pre-order and publication dates of our book Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees.

Today I did a big final editing run-through with our formatter, checking our commas, and em dashes, and ellipses, and more.

Here’s pic from the first page of the Table of Contents:

The book is in rough chronological order by author age, so these selections are from our younger writers (or were written when the author was a child).

Here’s the last page in the Table of Contents:

These essays and poems listed on the last Table of Contents page are from our “older” writers, those in their 30’s through 50’s. One of the best parts of the anthology is how the writers’ own voices and lived experiences reveal the range of insights from childhood through adulthood.

I am in awe of every single writer, for their willingness to share their stories. Each one is an amazing person. Deep gratitude to you.

More details coming soon!

Please visit and “like” our Facebook page, Lions Roaring Far from Home Anthology. Thanks!

Some Possibly Positive News About Suicide Prevention (Part 2 of 2)

Background

I write and talk about adoption and suicide because many folks don’t see any connection. Bear in mind: it’s not a statistically large connection, and I do not want to pathologize adoptees.

Here’s the thing though. The popular narrative around adoption is that it is win-win-win, and that adoptees should be happy and grateful. That is not always the case. Adoptees can love their adoptive family, have a positive family life, and still struggle with depression and suicidal ideation. And of course, they can also experience abuse and neglect, and thus struggle with depression and ideation.

As part of sharing information about suicide prevention, I wrote in April about the new 988 number that takes effect in mid-July here in the U.S. for folks experiencing a mental health crisis, including attempting suicide. When you call 988, you will not be connected to the police, but to mental health counselors at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The police could still be called if a person in a mental health crisis was dangerous or committing a crime, but they would not be the first responders.

That’s important because people in a mental health crisis can be harmed or worse by police intervention; that may be especially true for Black and brown folks. They could be arrested, thrown in jail, tased, or otherwise traumatized while dealing with mental illness or a related crisis, including attempting suicide.

So the new 988 is a potentially good development for anyone, including adoptees, who are looking for help in crisis.

Resources/Information

Crisis management is important, as is being proactive with resources around suicide prevention and adoption.

There is some correlation between substance abuse/addictions and suicide. There is also some correlation between adoption and substance abuse/addictions. So it’s important to be aware of the intersection of adoption, addictions, and suicide. There is lots of information available. There are also resources for adoptees.

AdopteesOn podcasts are always incredibly thoughtful and insightful. Here’s a link to the conversation with adoptee Miguel Caballero. From the AdopteesOn site: “Miguel shares some of his story with us including how he got sober eight years ago. There are so many adopted people who struggle with addiction, and Miguel describes feeling that he had a birth-mother-shaped hole to fill. He’s gone on to fill a great need in our community by starting the peer-led support group Adoptees and Addiction.”

Every Sunday, adopted people can attend this peer-led support group via Zoom: check out Miguel’s site, Adoptees and Addictions. From the site: “Most members would say that the power of the group comes from being in a meeting where you don’t have to explain anything about being an adoptee, where you can talk about adoptee issues or addiction issues without fear of judgment or misunderstanding and with lots of heads actually nodding in recognition along with what you’re saying.”

Zara Phillips, an adopted person, is an “Adoption/Addiction Recovery Coach.” She offers individual sessions, and she works “alongside therapists and a team of people to help you move forward.”

Zara is a speaker along with Gabor Maté on this video, “The Trauma of Relinquishment – Adoption, Addiction, and Beyond.”

The National Association of Adoptees and Parents hosts “Adoptee Paths to Recovery” meetings on line. The next one is May 17. Here’s the link: https://naapunited.org/adoptee-paths-to-recovery

Paul Sunderland gave a valuable lecture on “Adoption and Addiction.” Many folks consider it to be one of the best talks ever on the issue.

Advocacy

Join me in becoming an advocate for information, and for increased awareness of suicide prevention within the adoption community. A good resource, though not adoption-specific, is the recent podcast “What Do Parents Need to Know About Suicide?” from “Ask Lisa: the psychology of parenting.” The guest is Dr. Jonathan Singer, co-author of Suicide in Schools: A Practitioner’s Guide to Multi-Level Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention. The podcast is less than a half hour long, and includes several useful points: Most suicides occur in the springtime and fall, not around holidays. Cutting can be a step toward suicide, but not always by any means. Sleep is one of the most important needs of teenagers.

Dr. Singer noted that suicides are increasing among Native American/Indigenous, Black, and Latino individuals. That said, white middle aged men have the highest rate of suicide. (There may be no correlation whatsoever here, but it may be interesting to consider that many transracial adoptees have white, middle aged adoptive fathers.)

I invite you to join me in this bit of advocacy: every time you see a tweet or a post about a suicide-related podcast or report, ask the speakers/writers to consider and promote research about the intersection of depression/suicide with adoption. You can cite the 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics report that found adoptees were four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees. The adoption community needs much more and current information. Urge researchers, podcast hosts, writers, scholars, therapists, and doctors to speak out about this need.

Here’s what I tweeted to the Ask Lisa (@LDamour) podcast: “A strong podcast for parents of teens. Valuable info. That said: We need much more current research in the #adoption community re the intersection btwn adoption & #depression/#suicide

I also invite you to advocate for suicide prevention training in schools. Elementary and high schools can be strong partners in suicide prevention. If your child attends school, ask the administration to provide a suicide prevention training for students, or a PTA program about suicide prevention. Information about trainings for schools is available from the Suicide Prevention Research Center, as well as “K-12 School Suicide Prevention” from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Also, if you are an adoptive parent, as I am, use your place in the adoption community to wholeheartedly uplift adoptee voices and lived experiences. Promote the wisdom of adoptees. Share their websites and research, their Twitter handles, and their publications and posts. Read #adopteetwitter and #adopteevoices. You can learn a great deal from a variety of adopted adults. Don’t feel compelled to comment—read and learn.

There is no magic wand around suicide prevention. There are, though, increasing numbers of resources, and reasons to be hopeful.

Orphan Definition, Deportation, and Governments’ Responsibilities to Ensure Citizenship: The Amicus Brief from the Case of Adam Crapser/Shin Song-hyuk v. the Republic of Korea and Holt International


A Korean adoptee’s case against the Korean government and against Holt International adoption agency is slowly making its way through the Korean legal system. It could have significant ramifications for international adoption.

From the Korea Time’s article March 22, 2022, “Adam Crapser v. Republic of Korea:”

“On Jan. 24, 2019, Shin Song-hyuk (better known as Adam Crapser), internationally adopted from Korea to the United States, filed a petition with the Seoul Central District Court against the Korean government and Holt Children’s Services Inc. for violating his rights during his adoption process. Although the plaintiff’s story garnered worldwide media attention, his lawsuit represents a historic legal first. Referred to as case number 2019 GA-HAP 502520 (because Korea does not include the parties involved in the names of legal cases), this petition is the first and only attempt by an inter-country adoptee to hold the Korean government accountable for failing to uphold its duty in such an adoption.”

According to the article, Adam Crapser/Shin Song-hyuk filed allegations against both the government of South Korea and against the Holt adoption agency:

Alleged illegal acts of Republic of Korea:

Negligence of its duty to protect its national in the process of inter-country adoption.

Unconstitutional use of proxy adoptions, a practice stipulated in the Adoption Special Procedure Act.

Negligence of its duty to monitor and audit the practices of adoption agencies.

Violation of its obligation to perform due diligence in the process of allowing children to leave the country to be adopted transnationally. The government had a duty to execute this crucial step by ensuring that a relevant authority would verify the legitimacy of the adoption agencies’ procedures. However, it failed to do so, thereby being in severe dereliction of duty. 

Failure to monitor and verify the citizenship acquisition of inter-country adoptees, as prescribed by law.

Negligence of its obligation to fulfill post-adoption monitoring of the plaintiff’s adoption.

Failure to uphold the international norms that seek to prevent financial gain by allowing the inclusion of such unethical practices in the implementation ordinance of the Special Adoption Procedure Act. 

Alleged illegal acts of Holt Children’s Services Inc.:

Holt is among the original four accredited adoption agencies authorized by the government to engage exclusively in inter-country adoptions from Korea for foreign adoptive parents. The original intent of granting such exclusive power should have been to secure the protection and welfare of children adopted abroad. However, rather than fulfilling this aim, it abused its power and engaged in gross child rights violations to reap financial benefits from its adoption business. 

In the case of the plaintiff, despite knowing about the existence of the mother and father, Holt proceeded to provide fraudulent information to the registry office to register the plaintiff as an abandoned orphan.

The allegations are: negligence in the conduct of its duty to serve as a guardian and protect the children under its care; illegally relinquishing and transferring guardianship to the agencies of the receiving countries; failure to execute its obligations to provide support in the acquisition of citizenship for adoptees and to verify the acquisition in accordance with the relevant laws of the receiving countries.”

The petition, filed over three years ago, is still being considered in the Korean court system. I am not a lawyer and have no expertise about the Korean legal process, but I’d guess one reason this is taking so long is because of the potentially enormous ramifications of the court’s decision not only for Adam Crapser, but for all Korean adoptees and for international adoption generally.

A Korean human rights lawyer, Lee Kyung-eun (Ph.D. in law), has recently published three articles in the Korea Times. The articles include excerpts from a 70-page amicus brief designed “to assist the judges in understanding the historic meaning of this case.”

Lee Kyung-eun is the director of Human Rights Beyond Borders and author of the Korean-language book, “The Children-selling Country,” and the English book, “The Global Orphan Adoption System; South Korea’s Impact on Its Origin and Development.”

Here are the links to the amicus brief excerpts, as published in English in the Korea Times:

Submission to court about Korea’s inter-country adoption process (part 1) April 2, 2022

Highlights: This article discusses the history of international adoption laws following the Korean War. The laws expanded and systematized what we now know as intercountry adoption processes. Among the significant points here is the creation of the legal definition of orphan. The 1961 U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act and Korea’s 1961 Special Orphan Adoption Act created policies that meant an orphan was not necessarily a child with two deceased parents. An orphan could also be a child abandoned by both parents, or a child whose one remaining parent gave up the care of the child. Thus, children could be “economic orphans” or “social orphans.”

Court Submission on the “orphan-making” process (part 2) April 9, 2022

Highlights: This article continues the discussion of the creation/relaxation of the definition of “orphan,” plus an explanation of three Korean documents designed to “obtain the final decisions of the adoption proceedings in the U.S. state courts and qualifications for (the child’s) entry to the U.S.” The documents were apparently mass-produced. “The implications…suggest that it is necessary to investigate thoroughly whether inter-country adoption was a system to find a home for orphans or to produce orphans for the sake of adoption.”

Court Submission on responsibility to verify acquisition of citizenship of inter-country adoptees (part 3) April 16, 2022

Highlights; This article discusses the obligations of Korea and of the U.S. (since this case concerns an adoptee to the U.S.) to confirm that adoptees have received citizenship in their adoptive country. There is a reference to Holt’s court documents (which as far as I know have not been published), saying Holt was unaware of such a responsibility. According to the amicus brief, “The obligation to confirm the acquisition of citizenship by an inter-country adoptee belongs to both sending and receiving countries. It is obvious not only under international norms but also under then Korean law. The failure of the Korean government and adoption agencies to fulfill such an obligation is a clear and significant human rights infringement and a violation of Korean law.”

I urge anyone interested in international adoption to read the three articles above which summarize the amicus brief. (There may be more articles to come.) Keep an eye on this case, in regard to citizenship issues for international adoptees, the deportation of adoptees rom the United States, and the definition of “orphan” for purposes of intercountry adoption. The ramifications are global.

Some Possibly Positive News on Suicide Prevention (Part 1 of 2)

One of my most heartfelt and pressing concerns in the realm of suicide prevention is the intersection of the police with Black and Brown adoptees dealing with suicidal ideation or attempts. Many Black people do not trust police. Many police are not trained to deal with mental illness, though mental illness could be a factor in up to half of all police shootings.

So when a Black or Brown adoptee is experiencing a suicidal crisis, calling 911 might not be at all the best option.

There could be some hope on the horizon.

The 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or texts to 741741 are solid resources. Use them, share them.

Currently, when a person is in crisis, many folks dial 911, regardless of whether any crime is being committed. The police may be called to an emotionally fraught situation with someone who is considering suicide, and police may or may not be the appropriate source of help, for many reasons.

Christian Hall, an adoptee from China, on December 30, 2020, was killed by Pennsylvania state troopers who had been called when he was reportedly suicidal and had what appeared to be a firearm. His adoptive parents have sued the police, looking for accountability, transparency, and more mental health services. From the article “A year after police killed Christian Hall, his parents continue calls for accountability”: 

“The challenge of finding mental health care is a common one for Asian American adoptees, particularly those living outside urban centers, said Kimberly Langrehr, a Chicago-based psychologist and Asian American adoptee herself. 

“They are living in a world that really knows little about adoption, is heavily misinformed about race and unfortunately also has a stunted understanding of mental health,” she said. 

Hall’s parents hope his story brings awareness to gaps in culturally competent mental health resources for Asian American adoptees, as well as the importance of mental health training for law enforcement officers.”

One new resource here in the U.S. will be available in mid-July: a 988 line, as opposed to 911. The idea is to send mobile crisis response teams, including trained mental health professionals, to folks in crisis, with the goal of not involving armed police.

The calls will still go via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The 988 number, though, is easier to remember, and will avoid a (perhaps unnecessary) call to 911/police. That could make Black and Brown folks feel less worried about police involvement in time of a mental health crisis.

However, the effectiveness of 988 depends on the individual state. Here in Washington state, where I live, the implementation of the 988 program is going well. In other states, that may not be at all the case. A Reuters article says this:

“Few states have resources such as mobile crisis teams in place to respond to calls for help. Statewide crisis services are available or are being ramped up in Virginia, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Colorado, according to the National Association of Mental Health.

“In some places, you’re probably in good shape,” said Hannah Wesolowski, a spokesperson for NAMI, the national mental health advocacy nonprofit. “You could call 988 and there are going to be mobile crisis teams and a pretty robust crisis infrastructure. But in other places, good luck.”

And that, to me, is a tragedy. Access for some folks (such as adoptees, and especially in rural areas) to mental health services may continue to be limited, including suicide crisis intervention.

Talking about suicide is difficult, and connecting it with trauma and adoption is complicated. In my next post (Part 2 of 2), I will share some steps for advocacy on suicide prevention, especially in our adoption community.

Meanwhile, here are a few resources:

The Newport Institute has several articles about young people and mental health: “The Effect of Stress on College Students.” “Looking for ‘Likes’: Teens and Social Media Addiction,” “The Effects of Suicidal Attempts on Family Dynamics,” and more.

National Institute for Mental Health Research-UK: “Adopted children can experience lasting mental health problems.”

Befrienders Worldwide operates in 32 countries to provide emotional support in times of crisis, including around suicide.

Having a Conversation with Someone You’re Worried About

“The Last Person on Earth A mother considers her son’s final thoughts and a type of suicide we don’t fully understand,” from 2018, by Melissa Fay Greene, an adoptive parent.

Adam Crapser vs. Republic of Korea and Holt International: “Obvious international human rights violations”

A Korean human rights advocate has published an article claiming multiple ways that both the Korean government and Holt International allegedly violated the human rights of a Korean adoptee, including “flagrant infringements,” “unlawful acts” of negligence, and more.

Lee Kyeung-eun, the director of Human Rights Beyond Borders), has written an article published today in The Korea Times about Korean adoptee Adam Crapser’s January 2019 petition against the Korean government and Holt Children’s Services Inc. for allegedly violating his rights during his adoption process. “Although the plaintiff’s story garnered worldwide media attention, his lawsuit represents a historic legal first..this petition is the first and only attempt by an inter-country adoptee to hold the Korean government accountable for failing to uphold its duty in such an adoption.” 

The article calls on more Koreans and more adoptees to be aware of the case: “the claims of this case are not isolated to the plaintiff (Adam Crapser). On the contrary, they represent wider harms perpetrated against most Korean adoptees. Hence, more people ― especially adoptees ― should know more about this case.”

Beyond that, the article then examines the claims against the Korean government and Holt Children’s Services Inc., and their lack of accountability,”  and does so in strong, provocative terms.

This petition filed by Shin Song-hyuk (better known as Adam Crapser) is the first and only attempt by an inter-country adoptee to hold the Korean government accountable for failing to uphold its duty in such an adoption. Courtesy of Lee Kyung-eun
This petition filed by Shin Song-hyuk (better known as Adam Crapser) is the first and only attempt by an inter-country adoptee to hold the Korean government accountable for failing to uphold its duty in such an adoption. Courtesy of Lee Kyung-eun

“The plaintiff has suffered the following rights violations: the right to know and preserve his true identity due to the fraudulent falsification of his orphan registration (a birth registration reserved for children without their parents’ information); damages from physical, mental and emotional abuse inflicted in the course of the adoption, the dissolution of the adoption and the consequential multiple moves to other homes and the effects of those events; violation of the right to acquire and have the nationality of his adoptive country; violation of personality rights and the right to pursue happiness due to deportation.

The plaintiff’s rights have been violated by a number of unlawful acts committed through the cooperative efforts of the government of the Republic of Korea and Holt Children’s Services Inc. The charges against the defendants are as follows:

Alleged illegal acts of Republic of Korea:

Negligence of its duty to protect its national in the process of inter-country adoption.

Unconstitutional use of proxy adoptions, a practice stipulated in the Adoption Special Procedure Act.

Negligence of its duty to monitor and audit the practices of adoption agencies.

Violation of its obligation to perform due diligence in the process of allowing children to leave the country to be adopted transnationally. The government had a duty to execute this crucial step by ensuring that a relevant authority would verify the legitimacy of the adoption agencies’ procedures. However, it failed to do so, thereby being in severe dereliction of duty. 

Failure to monitor and verify the citizenship acquisition of inter-country adoptees, as prescribed by law.

Negligence of its obligation to fulfill post-adoption monitoring of the plaintiff’s adoption.

Failure to uphold the international norms that seek to prevent financial gain by allowing the inclusion of such unethical practices in the implementation ordinance of the Special Adoption Procedure Act. 

Alleged illegal acts of Holt Children’s Services Inc.:

Holt is among the original four accredited adoption agencies authorized by the government to engage exclusively in inter-country adoptions from Korea for foreign adoptive parents. The original intent of granting such exclusive power should have been to secure the protection and welfare of children adopted abroad. However, rather than fulfilling this aim, it abused its power and engaged in gross child rights violations to reap financial benefits from its adoption business. 

In the case of the plaintiff, despite knowing about the existence of the mother and father, Holt proceeded to provide fraudulent information to the registry office to register the plaintiff as an abandoned orphan.

The allegations are: negligence in the conduct of its duty to serve as a guardian and protect the children under its care; illegally relinquishing and transferring guardianship to the agencies of the receiving countries; failure to execute its obligations to provide support in the acquisition of citizenship for adoptees and to verify the acquisition in accordance with the relevant laws of the receiving countries.

These claims are obvious international human rights violations that expose the shortcomings of the Korean government to uphold international standards and safeguards to protect the rights of children in adoption. However, as the lawsuit was filed with the Korean Civil Court, the petition remains limited to the national legal protections available at the time of the wrongdoing. Even under these circumstances, the defendants’ flagrant infringements of the plaintiff’s rights constitute serious transgressions.”

Read the entire article here. This is apparently the first in a series of articles about the amicus brief submitted to the court as expert testimony. The case is still pending in court.

As this article suggests, the case has enormous potential ramifications for adoptees around the globe.

Facebook Page of Our “Lions Roaring” Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees

I am happy to invite you to “Like” and follow the new Facebook page for our soon-to-be published anthology, “Lions Roaring Far From Home.” The link is here. Thank you!

The anthology, the first of its kind, has essays and poems from 32 Ethiopian adoptees who are of different ages and who were raised in different countries. The cover art (shared below; reveal here) is by Ethiopian artist Nahosenay Negussie.

On the Facebook page, we will provide info about pre-order and publication as soon as it is available. We will also be posting excerpts from the book, pre-publication reviews by some amazing folks, and info about upcoming “Meet the Writers” Zooms and other events.

Thanks so much for visiting and Liking the Facebook page! Please share with others. We really appreciate the support.

When Adoptees’ Birth Countries Are Torn By War

When an international adoptee’s country of origin (birth country, homeland, Motherland) is torn by war or other horrific tragedies, the impact on the adoptee is, I’d think, powerful and complicated.

Here is a thoughtful, poignant essay by Katya Reach, a Russian-Ukrainian adoptee. The essay is called “Caught in the Middle.”

An excerpt:

“I look to my left and mourn the suffering of the displaced Ukrainian people who I hav personal connections with…I look to my right and see my very own birth family also suffering and hiding for dear life in bomb shelters and basements…”

Katy’s essay was posted on Facebook on Inter Country Adoption News, a valuable resource for anyone interested in international adoption news, especially from the perspective of adoptees.

I am grateful that Katya decided to write and publish her essay, because it is so critical to hear from adoptees on such an important subject.

The National Council for Adoption on March 16 held a free webinar “Supporting people in the adoption community with roots in Russia and Ukraine.” Their website notes that “As the crisis has unfolded in Ukraine, NCFA is aware that adopted individuals with roots in Ukraine and Russia are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” They also posted a list of resources for the adoptees and their families; this link will direct you to the resources and to the taped webinar.

All of that is beneficial. My heart is with these adoptees and their families, here and in Ukraine and Russia.

Why, though, has NCFA done nothing like this for Ethiopian adoptees, whose country has been engaged in a devastating civil war since November 2020?

No webinar. No list of resources. No panel of experts “to provide guidance and clinical expertise for navigating this challenging time.”

Why is that?

I wrote about this puzzling discrepancy here. I have also heard that the Washington Post is writing an article about how the war has affected Russian and Ukrainian adoptees, and again I say: that is great, valuable, and needed.

I wish that Ethiopian adoptees, and their families in Ethiopia and around the world, also were considered worthy of coverage.

And of course I wish, first and foremost, that there will be peace.

An Ethiopian Adoptee Death: Heartache

Because his adoptive parents spoke publicly about his death, I am sharing the news of the March 6 passing of Mekbul Timmer, an Ethiopian adoptee. I cannot imagine the heartbreak the family is enduring, and I send the deepest of condolences.

He was adopted by Jeff and Mattie Timmer of Michigan. Jeff Timmer is a political and media consultant who works with the Lincoln Project; both Jeff and Mattie have a substantial social media presence. Jeff posted on his Twitter feed various photos and information about Mekbul, including this obituary.

The family makes no mention of suicide as a cause of death—but neither do they give any other cause. Mekbul was 18 years old, adopted from Ethiopia (per the obituary posted by Jeff Timmer) when he was 11, as best I can tell from the obituary.

Mekbul Timmer

Because the family has been so public, we will include Mekbul Timmer’s name in the Dedication of our upcoming anthology of essays by Ethiopian adoptees, “Lions Roaring Far From Home.” We are dedicating the book to all Ethiopian adoptees who have died too soon, whether by suicide or other causes. We grieve as a community.

We know also how painful and searing a death by suicide of a young person can be not only to immediate family, but also to friends. Yes, the death is painful for those left behind at any age, but teens and young adults can often struggle a great deal with confusion, grief, and even suicidal ideation themselves.

I’ve written several times about adoption and suicide. I know it is a difficult topic at best. As a society, we are not good at talking about it. The popular narrative of adoption does not allow much room for adoptees who love their adoptive families and still struggle with depression or trauma. It doesn’t allow much room for adoptees who were failed or abused by their adoptive families either, and who deal with suicidal ideation.

Last October, I facilitated a webinar via United Suicide Survivors International called “Adoption and Suicide Prevention: Adult Adoptees Speak Out.” The powerful speakers were Jessenia Parmer, Amanda Transue-Woolston, Kevin Barhydt, and Lynelle Long. You can find the video of the webinar here.

United Suicide Survivors International has many excellent webinars and resources. Another resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, available 24/7. The K-12 School Suicide Prevention info from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention may be useful also. Check out “How to Talk About Suicide” from Indian Health Services, There are “Resources for Youth and Suicide Prevention” on the page as well.

Jeff Timmer posted a thank you to the thousands of people across social media who expressed condolences. He included, “Please just love your kids and those close to you.” Absolutely.

I will add this, and I know it’s painful to even think about: Please learn and talk about suicide prevention with those you love.

May Mekbul rest in power and in peace. May his memory be a blessing.

NCFA on Wars and Webinars: Ethiopian, Russian, and Ukrainian Adoptees

Why is the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) holding a webinar for families with Russian and Ukrainian adoptions, yet has not held anything for families with Ethiopian adoptions?

The NCFA Facebook page says: “As the crisis has unfolded in Ukraine, NCFA is aware that adopted individuals with roots in Ukraine and Russia, and their families, are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” NCFA is hosting a free webinar next week, “Supporting People in the Adoption Community with Roots in Ukraine and Russia,” with a panel of adoption agency professionals to provide guidance and expertise. This could be valuable and important for these families; I respect, applaud, and support that.

I am curious though.

Ethiopia has been experiencing a horrific civil war since November 2020. NCFA has held no webinars offering guidance and resources for Ethiopian adoptive families. Why is that?

From the BBC:

“In Ethiopia, the last 16 months have been hell.

In the north of the country, as a result of a conflict in Tigray, more than two million people have been forced from their homes.

In addition hundreds of thousands face starvation, and the government has been accused of blocking deliveries of aid and essential medicines – something it denies.

There is mounting evidence that war crimes may have been committed by both sides, include mass killings and widespread use of rape as a weapon of war.

On the scale of human suffering it is surely on a par with anything else that is grabbing the world’s attention.”

Why has NCFA, by their own description the “leading expert on adoption issues, providing resources and education for all people and organizations in the adoption world,” been totally silent on Ethiopia? There are some 15,000 Ethiopian adoptees in the United States, and thousands more around the globe.

Yet NCFA has offered nothing for them or their families.

Many Ethiopian adoptees are deeply worried about their Ethiopian families. Many have family members who have been killed, maimed, and starved. Many adoptive parents struggle to explain the complexity and devastation of the war to their adopted children. Ethiopian adopted individuals and their families, like the families with children from Russia and Ukraine, “are grieving and grappling with how to process these events.” NCFA’s webinar will host adoption agency representatives (not, as best I can tell, adopted adults from or citizens of those countries) to provide the insights and leadership.

Adoptions from Ethiopia ended in 2018. Adoptions from Russia ended in 2013. Adoptions from Ukraine are still happening, though the numbers have been increasingly low and obviously the situation is very complicated now.

NCFA will, in this upcoming webinar, “provide guidance and clinical expertise for navigating this challenging time” for the Russian and Ukrainian families.

But not, apparently, for families with Ethiopian adoptions.

Why is that?

You can ask NCFA directly here:

Phone: (703) 299-6633
Media Line: (703) 718-5375
Emailncfa@adoptioncouncil.org