The recent Dan Rather AXS TV show, “Unwanted in America: The Shameful Side of International Adoption” has evoked two main impulses. One is to help the adoptees featured, who have been re-homed and/or thrown out of their adoptive homes. The other is to reform laws so that these tragic situations don’t happen to more children. This post provides an update about the Seattle-area adoptees on the show. My next post will discuss the possibilities for reforming adoption laws.
You can watch the Dan Rather show, using the password danrather, here.
Efforts to Help the Seattle Area Adoptees
The Seattle-area adoptees were adopted by Julie Hehn and her husband, who apparently adopted over 20 children from Ethiopia. I have been told Rich Hehn is dealing with a serious medical issue now. The Hehns declined to comment for Kathryn Joyce’s Slate article “Hana’s Story: An Adoptee’s Tragic Fate and How It Could Happen Again,” which has a great deal of information about the adoptees, as well as for the Dan Rather show.
I’ve seen different numbers in different reports as to how many children the Hehns adopted, and how many are currently in their home. There are two YouTube videos from 2009 that feature Julie: one is called “Julie Hehn Super Mom” available here and one is “Mother of 22” here. Julie was actively involved with Adoption Advocates International (AAI), the adoption agency that placed the Ethiopian adoptees with the Hehns, and she frequently traveled to Ethiopia. AAI has been in the news for being the agency that arranged Hana Williams’ adoption, as well as the agency used by the family featured in the documentary “Girl, Adopted.” AAI closed in March of this year.
In response to concerns about the children adopted by the Hehns and featured on the Dan Rather show, the Ethiopian Community Center of Seattle held a meeting this past Saturday afternoon. About 150 people attended. Most were members of the Ethiopian community; a few were, like me, adoptive parents of Ethiopian children. Everyone shared a deep concern about the status of the Seattle-area Ethiopian adoptees featured on the show.
Several people spoke out against adoption. Some specifically discussed their concerns for the young adoptees. Many ways to help were offered, including resources for emergency shelter, fundraising efforts, and legal assistance. An Ethiopian aide to Seattle’s mayor was there, as were Ethiopian attorneys and other concerned professionals.
Among those attending was Pastor Berhanu Seyoum of the Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church in Seattle. Pastor Berhanu has been working with the adoptees for quite a while. He was featured in the Dan Rather show, as well as in Kathryn Joyce’s Slate article (cited above). Like the majority of speakers, Pastor Berhanu spoke in Amharic to the group. I do not speak or understand Amharic, and I appreciate those who translated for me and otherwise helped me to understand.
Pastor Berhanu has set up a Facebook page, “Unwanted in America,” which has links to 3 Gofundme pages that are apparently all involved in helping the adoptees. My understanding is that the Pastor will be handling the funds. The Facebook page also has a great summary, in English, of Saturday’s meeting, as well as details about what kind of help is needed.
Many complicated issues remain to sort out, but the priority seems to be getting stable housing for the homeless adoptees, arranging medical assistance, and ensuring that all legal matters are clarified. Many people have indicated their wish to help, and while that is wonderful, it also takes time to make sure everyone connects. Still: there is progress.