Children and Youth Affairs, Features, International

by Jamison Maeda

As political and religious leaders continue to flood the airwaves with decades old rhetoric about family values and the American way of life, ordinary people mourn the death of a another child murdered by the very people who adopted her.

Hana Alemu was born in Ethiopia, and adopted by an America couple from Washington State. Carri and Larry Williams, the adoptive parents, beat, starved and tortured Hana. They kept her locked in a closet or outside where she used an outdoor toilet and was hosed down with cold water.

On May 11, 2011, after three years of torture by the Williams family, Hana was found outside in the rain, dead, naked, and face down in the mud. Her head had been shaved days earlier as punishment for something.  Carri Williams, the adoptive mother called emergency services and told them “I think my daughter just killed herself. She’s very rebellious.”

In fact, Hana had actually died of hypothermia compounded by malnutrition.  She was 13 years old.
This was one of dozens of foreign-born children killed by adoptive American parents.

Russia and Vietnam have banned Americans from adopting, and countries like China and Guatemala have significantly increased regulations. But international adoption is a booming business with adoptive parents paying up to $30,000 in “fees” for a child.

Selling children has created a corrupt black market industry for kidnapping children in countries like China, Ethiopia and India. “This is an industry to export children” says Sarah Crowe, UNICEF’s Media Director for South Asia.

“When I was 13 years old, I was sold” says Tarikuwa Lemma. She and her two sisters lived comfortably with their father in Ethiopia until a corrupt adoption agency, under the pretext of sending them to an educational program, sent them to the United States as orphans to be adopted. This was not the end of the horror Tarikuwa would endure. After only 8 months, the adoptive parents decided to “re-home” Tarikuwa, which is the term for discarding an unwanted adopted child.

Thousands of adoptive parents unprepared to raise their adopted child have turned to interet message boards in hopes of finding someone to take the child from them. Thousands of posts go unmonitored by the US government in what is essentially an unregulated child-swap.

Sixteen year old Quita was born in Liberia. She lived with American adoptive parents who chose to re-home her to strangers, Nicole and Calvin Eason. The Eason’s have both been accused of sexually abusing a child, Nicole’s biological children had been taken away by child welfare authorities, and a deputy sheriff reported that the Easons have “severe psychiatric problems as well as violent tendencies.” But Quita’s adoptive parents did not know any of this as there was no background check done and there are no government agencies monitoring internet, child re-homing. Quita was simply dropped off at the Eason’ mobile home.

One estimate states over 24,000 foreign-born children are no longer with the parents who brought them to the US. No government agency tracks where they are or what happened to them.

Frequently, inexperienced and unprepared adoptive parents find themselves unable to properly care for a child who may suffer for health issues, or emotional issues such as Reactive Attatchment Disorder. Due to a lack of post-adoption services and support, some turn to internet re-homing.

“I am totally ashamed to say it but we do truly hate this boy!” read one online post regarding an eleven year old boy adopted from Guatemala.

“We adopted an 8 year old girl from China. Unfortunately we are now struggling – have been home for five days” read another post.

Another post claimed they wanted to re-home a boy adopted from China because his feet were too big and his ears stuck out.

In 2010, six months after adopting a 7 year old boy from Russia, the American adoptive mother put him on a flight to Moscow with a note that read “I no longer want to take care of this child.”

Obviously, the majority of adoptions are successful. In no way are Americans less skilled at parenting than other groups.  But the complete lack of regulation of international adoptions and government oversight has proven fatal in some cases and it is making children vulnerable to sex trafficking and severe abuse. In addition to this, the lack of post-adoption support services is putting adoptive families in crisis. And to further exacerbate the issue, there’s currently an Evangelical Christian movement in the US to adopt as many children as possible from foreign countries as a form of missionary work and to increase the Christian population. This is not an appropriate reason to adopt a child.

Child-swapping websites need to be identified and shut down. Potential adoptive parents need to receive education and support both before and after an adoption. Someone needs to track foreign-born, adopted children in America and awareness must be raised to prevent Hana Alemu’s horrible tragedy from happening again.