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Hana Williams' Story: How a rescue adoption lead to a preventable death
November 15, 2013 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Foreign adoptions by large, evangelical families may begin happily, but patterns of neglect and dysfunction have Seattle area communities questioning their benefits. (SLSlate)

Previously mefi threads on this issue (1, 2)
posted by warm_planet (86 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
What I find boggling is this sequence:

"Hana was pronounced dead at the hospital, the cause hypothermia compounded by malnutrition and gastritis. The following day, when Child Protective Services tried to check on the other children, Larry Williams refused to let them in... Two months later, in mid-July, CPS received an anonymous tip from someone claiming that Carri didn’t like her adopted children and that Immanuel was starting to be treated like Hana had been. CPS launched a formal investigation, and all eight remaining children went into state care."

Their daughter froze to death in the back yard while being starved, and the rest of the children weren't immediately taken into care? It wasn't until someone's "tip" that CPS bothered to open a formal investigation? What the fuck?
posted by tavella at 9:04 AM on November 15, 2013 [39 favorites]


As soon as I saw the sub-headline I knew the Pearls and their horrid little book would be involved. Absolutely heartbreaking.
posted by TedW at 9:10 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


What am I supposed to do with all the hate I'm feeling now?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:13 AM on November 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


As investigators searched the house—so orderly it didn’t look like eight children lived there, wrote Detective Theresa Luvera in her warrant affidavit—they found a fundamentalist Christian child-rearing book called To Train Up A Child, written by Michael and Debi Pearl, which advises raising children to obey without question by starting to spank them when they're just a few months old. The book has been implicated in the beating deaths of two other adoptees—an American boy in North Carolina and a Liberian girl in California; the prosecuting attorney in the latter case, Michael Ramsey, called it “truly an evil book.”

The fucking Pearls again. How the hell has a book which advocates outright child abuse and torture of babies become the parenting touchstone for some "devout fundamentalist" Christians? Have these parents no sense? Have they no empathy for the children they are trying to raise? Have they no fucking sense of decency towards other human beings and especially towards children, who rely on them utterly for protection, care and love?

Ugh.
posted by zarq at 9:13 AM on November 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


Oh, Fundamentalist Christians, is there nothing you can't won't do?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


So Pat Robertson was right!
"A man doesn't want to take on the United Nations, and a woman has all these various children, blended family, what is it – you don't know what problems there are. I'm serious. I've got a dear friend, an adopted son, a little kid from an orphanage down in Columbia. Child had brain damage, grew up weird. And you just never know what's been done to a child before you get that child. What kind of sexual abuse has been, what kind of cruelty, what kind of food deprivation, etc. etc."
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2013


There is a petition making the rounds to get Amazon to remove To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl from their catalog.
posted by fancyoats at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Fundamentalist Christians are huge in the fostercare game because they are out there establishing group homes, fostering, and adopting kids en masse.

If this article makes you upset, don't say how angry you are. Get out there and do better.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:19 AM on November 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


The fucking Pearls again. How the hell has a book which advocates outright child abuse and torture of babies become the parenting touchstone for some "devout fundamentalist" Christians? Have these parents no sense? Have they no empathy for the children they are trying to raise? Have they no fucking sense of decency towards other human beings and especially towards children, who rely on them utterly for protection, care and love?

See, I always wonder how much that book is itself to blame and how much it's a prop for people who enjoy feelings of self-righteousness and the suffering of others. It's an awful book, of course, but I have often suspected that people who use that kind of thing to justify hurting others actually actively enjoy the hurting part, but they don't want to admit that consciously. I think a lot of people get a kick out of hurting the vulnerable, and that it can take a lot of serious emotional work to overcome that cruelty/bullying tendency.
posted by Frowner at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


It also just seems weird to me - most of the really hard-core evangelical white people I've encountered have also been really racist. So I am sketched out when I hear of lots of white evangelicals adopting kids from Africa. I don't mean that everyone is racist, or that everyone is sketchy, but it's enough of a pattern that it seems odd to me.
posted by Frowner at 9:25 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fundamentalist Christians are huge in the fostercare game because they are out there establishing group homes, fostering, and adopting kids en masse.

If this article makes you upset, don't say how angry you are. Get out there and do better.


what

We aren't allowed to be angry that these folks murdered a kid because at least they adopted her first?
posted by OmieWise at 9:27 AM on November 15, 2013 [30 favorites]


It also just seems weird to me - most of the really hard-core evangelical white people I've encountered have also been really racist. So I am sketched out when I hear of lots of white evangelicals adopting kids from Africa. I don't mean that everyone is racist, or that everyone is sketchy, but it's enough of a pattern that it seems odd to me.

Are you implying that you cannot be racist and the adoptive parent of an African child? Because that's simply not true. There are reports and blogs all the time of Evangelical parents calling their adoptive children "savages" and similarly horrible things.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:27 AM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


See, I always wonder how much that book is itself to blame and how much it's a prop for people who enjoy feelings of self-righteousness and the suffering of others.

In my experience, evangelicals and fundies are voracious consumers of books like that. Anything that purports to explain how to do something according to "god's laws." If you can wrap your wackjob ideas in scripture, they'll buy it by the trainload. And put it to use.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:28 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this article makes you upset, don't say how angry you are. Get out there and do better.

I recall that there are a lot of adoptive parents here in MeFi. Are they allowed to say they're angry?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:29 AM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Have they no empathy for the children they are trying to raise?

"Adoptive parents coming from this point of view are looking at the child almost as an enemy to conquer.
If you can win the battle, you save the child’s soul."

The above quote was most illuminating for me in terms of the parents' POV. Totally horrifying, but illuminating.
Because if righteousness and duty and honor come before empathy, and the result will be someone's salvation, then extreme measures are a justified means to an end.

UGH.
posted by warm_planet at 9:31 AM on November 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


It's almost like relying on random self-selected volunteers is not the best solution to massive systemic problems.
posted by enn at 9:33 AM on November 15, 2013 [66 favorites]


This is heartbreaking.

Carri, who’d married at 19, went from wearing pants to just skirts or dresses,

I’m not sure that this was her biggest problem, but thanks for pointing it out as a clue.
posted by bongo_x at 9:36 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]



Are you implying that you cannot be racist and the adoptive parent of an African child? Because that's simply not true. There are reports and blogs all the time of Evangelical parents calling their adoptive children "savages" and similarly horrible things.


No, quite the opposite. I'm implying that I am 100% sketched out by racist people who adopt African children and am surprised that this is not remarked on prior to the adoption, or remarked on in the media in a really direct "lots of white evangelicals directly espouse racist views; why are they adopting African kids if not for sketchy reasons" way.
posted by Frowner at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Ie, I think people who are racist may be adopting kids precisely so that they can exert racist control and violence over them (even if this is not at the conscious level) and I find it incredibly colonialist, systemic and not coincidental.
posted by Frowner at 9:39 AM on November 15, 2013 [29 favorites]


How the hell has a book which advocates outright child abuse and torture of babies become the parenting touchstone for some "devout fundamentalist" Christians?

Liberals are worldly, sinful, and wrong.

Liberals say "Spanking is always wrong."

Therefore spanking is always right.

(This is a handy shortcut for solving all kinds of vexing problems for fundamentalists.)
posted by General Tonic at 9:40 AM on November 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


"It also just seems weird to me - most of the really hard-core evangelical white people I've encountered have also been really racist. So I am sketched out when I hear of lots of white evangelicals adopting kids from Africa. I don't mean that everyone is racist, or that everyone is sketchy, but it's enough of a pattern that it seems odd to me."

As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time around real evangelicals, who are often dramatically different from the show on TV, this runs pretty deeply counter to my experience. All of the most virulently and thoughtfully anti-racist people I've ever met have been deeply evangelical Christians, you'll find a hell of a lot more interracial couples in your average mega church than your average liberal college campus. At the same time, leaving aside cartoonishly ridiculous racists like the klan, all of the most racist people with actual power that I've met have all been deeply liberal and secular.

Perhaps your miles have varied.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


oceanjesse: " If this article makes you upset, don't say how angry you are. Get out there and do better."

A 13 year old child was murdered through neglect and abuse. The people responsible for that child's death should never be held above criticism.

The thing is, having a larger number of better parents in the system will not make it less likely this could happen in the future. It wouldn't prevent people like Larry and Carri Williams from being able to adopt a child. The system needs better oversight. It needs objective observers. Potential parents need to be more carefully vetted. The current system of pre-adoption screening and post-adoption self-oversight and non-mandatory self-reporting needs to change.

"Doing better" in this case means changing the system from outside much more than from within.
posted by zarq at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


If this article makes you upset, don't say how angry you are. Get out there and do better.

I did get out there and do better, so fuck these people.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2013 [43 favorites]


"I did get out there and do better, so fuck these people."
Thank you
posted by Blasdelb at 9:49 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


oceanjesse: "Fundamentalist Christians are huge in the fostercare game because they are out there establishing group homes, fostering, and adopting kids en masse. "

In a lot of these stories, the abusive parents sought overseas adoptions because there's so much less oversight than in the U.S. system.

warm_planet: ""Adoptive parents coming from this point of view are looking at the child almost as an enemy to conquer.
If you can win the battle, you save the child’s soul." The above quote was most illuminating for me in terms of the parents' POV.
"

When I was in seminary & law school at the same time and doing some work on child abuse statistics and laws in the state, I noticed, in a relatively casual survey, that child abuse was a little more common and sometimes different in nature in Christian religions that forbid infant baptism than in those that practice infant baptism. If you went to a Methodist church, for example, their rhetoric around children was about "this is a child of God, part of the body of Christ, respect the child, he's been saved, he's a Christian." If you went to a fundamentalist Baptist church, the rhetoric around children was very much about, "There's a battle for this child's soul, he's in danger, he's acting out original sin, he's not Christian yet, the Devil is making him do this, this isn't just misbehavior, this is evil and sin." In both groups you'd see people saying, "I couldn't control my temper, this child is out of control, etc.," as excuses for abuse. But only in the latter would you see, "I didn't want to but I felt like I had to to save his soul, This is the only way to raise children, they're dangerous portals of sin and have to be controlled, they corrupt other children."

I don't know, it's not an area I know a lot about, and probably there are other confounding factors like poverty, but it'd be an interesting PhD thesis for someone to take on, the correlation of abuse rates to infant baptism practices, and how those beliefs about whether children can be Christians are worked out in childrearing practices.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2013 [48 favorites]


I suggest adding the fundamentalism and evangelical tags. They're...relevant.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time around real evangelicals, who are often dramatically different from the show on TV, this runs pretty deeply counter to my experience.

Your experience run counter what opinion surveys reveal, which very often demonstrates a health amount of racial animus/resentment that is not found to the same extent in liberals. So, as they say, YMMV
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:56 AM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's about as fucked up a story as I think I've read in a long time.

FWIW, we have a larger-than-average family, attend Mass regularly and homeschool most of the kids. Most of our local friends are in similar situations. I've never heard of that book.

For Hana and the other victims:

.

For the perpetrators...I've got nothing.
posted by jquinby at 9:58 AM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


It also just seems weird to me - most of the really hard-core evangelical white people I've encountered have also been really racist.
all of the most racist people with actual power that I've met have all been deeply liberal and secular

I've known a bunch of Daves that were really racist. Not sure if that means anything about Daves or Davids in general. Thought everyone would like to know that.
posted by stavrogin at 9:59 AM on November 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


The blog Love, Joy, Feminism, written by a former homeschooled/fundamentialist-raised woman, has done a lot of good basic writing and research on the Pearls, the Gothards, and adoption/homeschooling abuses in the fundamentalist community (that link will get you started on a lot of those pieces).

Saving Children from Africa: A Quiverfull Adoption Fad is an eye-opener.
posted by emjaybee at 9:59 AM on November 15, 2013 [11 favorites]



I recall that there are a lot of adoptive parents here in MeFi. Are they allowed to say they're angry?


I am an adoptive parent, but I don't need to be a parent to say that I'm angry.

Hopefully, tragedies like this will lead to tighter controls and better screening of adoptive parents. But let me remind us all that there is no control or screening over parents who have their children via birth.
posted by math at 10:01 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time around real evangelicals, who are often dramatically different from the show on TV, this runs pretty deeply counter to my experience.

I hardly need explain to you that evangelical Christianity can include many different and contradictory ideologies and currents of thought; in this case I think your experiences with the types of Evangelicals you associate with are counter to the evidence about the attitudes of the movement in aggregate. For instance, according to Christianity Today, the 2011 Pew Political Typology Poll found that evangelicals oppose interracial marriage at more than twice the rate of the rest of Americans.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:02 AM on November 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


There's a lot of broad brushes used in this thread. Wikipedia says the Pearls claim hundreds of thousands of purchases of the Pearls' book, but that Neilsen estimates just a few thousand purchases were made. So why are we using a book that is probably not popular to smear an entire loosely-categorized group of people, as though they all read and love it?

I'm intimately familiar with the effects of adopting a child with a traumatic past, having grown up with one as a sibling. One of the things that happens quite frequently is that other people in the community assume there is abuse happening in your family, because they cannot comprehend how destructive that traumatic past was to the child's development. This leads to a certain level of ostracism, and also much self righteous posturing on the part of people who are safe in that they haven't made such adoptions. Conversely, I'm also familiar with the fact that people who do such adoptions have no idea the game of Russian roulette they're playing, because of the long term behavioral ramifications of a childhood spent in the midst of starvation and violence.

Having spent my childhood in a country with high levels of grinding third-world poverty, and being familiar with what that really means, compared to poverty in a country like the U.S., I don't think questions of colonialism or racism are necessarily relevant. Adopting out of such an environment is truly saving a life, without any real question. You aren't plucking a child out of a nice third-world family bosom, you're plucking a child out of the orphanage or refugee camp where their likely future is death or a lifetime of poverty in a country whose own social structure will probably be classist toward them. So: is it better for a child to die in the midst of suffering, or for said child to grow up with parents who could be accused of being colonialist?

And when responding to that question, please don't use the OP's extreme example as your average adoptive family, use the average run-of-the-mill fundamentalist adoptive family, where yes, if you subject them to criticism you'll find plenty of unfortunate racist and colonialist tendencies, and plenty of magical thinking, but they still love and cherish the child.
posted by lemmsjid at 10:05 AM on November 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Somehow I had never heard of the Pearls or their book until this thread. Absolutely disgusting.
posted by jbickers at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2013


I don't need to be a parent to say that I'm angry.

That was actually kind of my point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on November 15, 2013


This kind of thing is one of the minor reasons I believe homeschooling should be illegal. It is the community's responsibility to protect all of its children from the people they are statistically most in danger from - family. If the children never get away and are not seen by responsible adults, parents can do anything to them short of murder without penalty.
posted by QIbHom at 10:11 AM on November 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


I think the oysters should sue for defamation.
posted by bz at 10:13 AM on November 15, 2013


"I don't think questions of colonialism or racism are necessarily relevant. Adopting out of such an environment is truly saving a life, without any real question."

Try again? Just because adoption into an environment with greater odds of providing economic and emotional opportunity for the kid can be seen as desirable, it doesn't mean concerns about colonialism (which helped create limited economic opportunities) or racism (which serves as justification for same) are not relevant.

I think maybe you're hoping to point out that cross-cultural adoption does not necessarily reflect conscious endorsement of colonialism or racism by the adoptive parents, which I will grant. But the practice still relies on structural effects of precisely these issues.
posted by mwhybark at 10:14 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee those beliefs about whether children can be Christians

Your comment made me go searching for the concept of Age of Reason,"the age at which children attain the use of reason and begin to have moral responsibility" which I remember prompting a conversation with an evangelical about disciplinary duties on the part of the parent.

From what I can remember, because the child is too young for a moral foundation, the parent is therefore directly responsible for all his or her actions and will deal out judgment accordingly for the good of the child and the parent.

However, my link references the Catholic Church so I'm not sure I'm remembering the conversation clearly?
posted by warm_planet at 10:14 AM on November 15, 2013


There's a lot of broad brushes used in this thread. Wikipedia says the Pearls claim hundreds of thousands of purchases of the Pearls' book, but that Neilsen estimates just a few thousand purchases were made. So why are we using a book that is probably not popular to smear an entire loosely-categorized group of people, as though they all read and love it?

I grew up in a conservative household, and as I was kind of a weird kid, I read a lot of the fundamentalist parenting/life manuals that were around the house. The Pearls' view on child rearing is very similar to the views in dozens, if not hundreds, of similar Christian domestic manuals.
posted by mmmbacon at 10:15 AM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I’m not sure that this was her biggest problem, but thanks for pointing it out as a clue.

It's not just a clue. While a lot of conservative Christians have ideas about correct gender presentation, if you meet a woman who has started wearing dresses even when she scrubs floors or goes for hikes in the woods? The groups that actually require or even encourage such things are very far on the fundamentalist side.

Re: race, I'm not sure that it would have gone much better if they'd been adopting white kids; they often don't treat their own kids better, their own kids are just more cowed from having been subject to such discipline from birth.
posted by Sequence at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2013


So why are we using a book that is probably not popular to smear an entire loosely-categorized group of people, as though they all read and love it?

The book is being mentioned in the context of the parents who have read it and subsequently beaten their children to death.
posted by elizardbits at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


My wife and I foster, and we're in the process of adopting two girls that come from homes that are too horrible to describe. We love them like we love our own biological child. We also fall on the conservative end of the Christian spectrum on many issues. This article fills me with a fiery hot anger that is hard to articulate.

The problems in foster care are too numerous to account, and the amount of abuse that happens, regardless of religious ideology, is pretty mind boggling. You start to see this once you've been working in the system for awhile. The causes are psychologically and sociologically complex, without enough resources to solve them. A real fundamental problem, though, is CPS is not doing due diligence to follow up on neglectful homes (or to avoid putting children there in the first place), regardless of religious ideology. To put it more simply, lack of proper resources leads to a lack of care and neglect by many, many players, on all ends of the process. To camp out on an ideological issue is too easy.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:26 AM on November 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


There's a lot of broad brushes used in this thread.

People are discussing the story at hand and the trend the article illustrates, so it's probably unsurprising that people would be speaking in general terms. For that matter, I'm not really sure what relevance this trend has with your observation that a lot of people on the outside incorrectly think adoptive families have abuse going on within them - while true, this doesn't change what happened to these children, nor does it change the fact that there's a book - whether it sold thousands or hundreds of copies - which openly advocates child abuse and has become somewhat of a hallmark among certain evangelical families.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Previously

The story of adopted Lydia Schatz and how she died as a result of her guardians using the Pearls' methods.
posted by valoius at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2013


Before you assume that all Evangelists approve of the Pearls and their loathsome book, please read this statement from Gentle Christian Mothers.

The combination of an adversarial us vs. them mindset where the parents must "win," physically "disciplining" children until they surrender their will and show total submission, and false doctrine makes the Pearls' methods dangerous. They present a very distorted picture to the world of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a Christian parent in the world today. It is time for Michael and Debi Pearl to be held accountable for their teachings. We urge other Christians to join us in speaking out against what Michael and Debi Pearl have been teaching for far too long.

The statement is the first link on their site forum. There are many Evangelical families who are just as appalled by the Pearls as any of us.
posted by jokeefe at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


How the hell has a book which advocates outright child abuse and torture of babies become the parenting touchstone for some "devout fundamentalist" Christians? Have these parents no sense?

Devout fundamentalism and "sense" tend not to have a lot in common unless it's by coincidence.
posted by Hoopo at 10:30 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So: is it better for a child to die in the midst of suffering, or for said child to grow up with parents who could be accused of being colonialist?

This is the same type of argument sometimes used to argue that the U.S. slave trade was beneficial for Africans and their descendents and that they ought to be more grateful.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:40 AM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


mwhybark,

Agreed--of course colonialism and racism are truly and universally relevant. I used the wrong word there, so apologies. I should have said, 'overriding' or something. In other words, is there ever a situation where, if the child will almost certainly die if not adopted, the adoptive parents' colonialist tendencies are a good reason not to adopt? Perhaps if those tendencies will inevitably lead towards more abuse, and perhaps if the danger to the child in their home country is overblown, but I don't think it universally follows.

I have plenty of issues--plenty--with fundamentalist ways of thinking. I just can't easily condemn them en masse for adopting children out of horrible situations, even if their ways of thinking may cause future harm to the child.

As someone who is quite familiar with the effects of traumatic childhood on development, my own personal reason for not adopting is fear, because I know just how insanely crazy life can become. I think that's the reason fundamentalists can have an easier time making the decision to adopt--because they are undertaking god's mission, they are inevitably doing right and that knowledge can overcome the fear. When faced with the reality of what they've done, and the dawning understanding that God won't come down and give them a hand when it turns out their child has fundamental developmental issues, then breakdown and abuse can happen.

What I wrestle with is--given the above paragraph, should they not adopt in the first place? Certainly in the examples like the OPs, where terrible abuse begins to happen. But said abuse happens in many other contexts, and with similar horrific results. I spent several years working with hundreds of children from 'the system', which taught me that horrific abuse happens from people in all sorts of walks of life, and all sorts of backgrounds.

Adoption is messy. Incredibly, depressingly messy. And the motivations behind the people doing it are messy.
posted by lemmsjid at 10:45 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


infinitywaltz,

I understand that by taking such a position I'm opening myself to that type of criticism. And it's true that those two arguments have a similar structure. However, I think you have to go to extreme mental cartwheels to really equate them. Slavery involved forcibly kidnapping people from other countries against their will and that of their communities and bringing them into a new life of indentured servitude, systemic multi-generational abuse without legal recourse, and cultural alienation. Any argument that this was anything but destructively coercive is patently false, and any suggestion that people who went through that, or who descended from people who went through that, should be grateful, is heinous.

Adoption involves going through a legal process to bring an orphaned child into a new family. Let's underline the word 'orphaned' here. This is a child who will face especial hardship in the host country, whose only safety net is an over-extended and barely funded system of orphanages. Keep in mind that even in the U.S., children exiting institutional care are extraordinarily disadvantaged. Having spent much time working with kids on the verge of exiting that system, I can't understate this fact.

Furthermore, adoption, unlike slavery, involves a legal handshake between the originating community and the adoptive community. While there are colonialist underpinnings to that handshake, it is a handshake nonetheless. When my family adopted, even though the child was clearly going into better circumstances, all of us were interviewed to make sure we were on board with the process. The adoption would not have gone through if those requirements had not been met.
posted by lemmsjid at 11:00 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fundamentalists have an easier time making the decision to adopt--because they are undertaking god's mission,
they are inevitably doing right and that knowledge can overcome the fear. When faced with the reality of what they've done...


I think you've hit on one of the points of why I thought this article was worthy of discussion, lemmsjd.
Clearly, there can and often are good intentions on the part of families who adopt internationally.
But the practice of those intentions, when they are not met with predictable results, has ended in tragedy.

I think this article highlights how the particular intersection of fundamentalism, "adoption as rescue", lack of cross-cultural awareness,
and severe physical discipline resulted not only in the death of one child, but in the neglect and alienation of others.
It points out how this is not just an isolated case, but a pattern becoming clearer in the Seattle-area community.

And the solution for this issue is not just acknowledging that "adoption is messy" across the board,
but addressing some of the underlying issues that have been exposed by these cases.
posted by warm_planet at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks warm_planet,

I totally agree and appreciate how you're framing the issue--it really does come down to specifics and an acknowledgement of complexity. One of the most tragic fallacies of adoption is the expectation on the part of the parents that the child will be 'grateful'. The child will rarely be grateful. They didn't choose to be born into their circumstances. In fact it's often a bad sign if they're grateful (unless they're now an adult who can now empathize with the hard work of being a parent), because it means they have some kind of belief that they do not necessarily deserve the complete acceptance of their parents and their community.
posted by lemmsjid at 11:31 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This kind of thing is one of the minor reasons I believe homeschooling should be illegal. It is the community's responsibility to protect all of its children from the people they are statistically most in danger from - family. If the children never get away and are not seen by responsible adults, parents can do anything to them short of murder without penalty.

Sometimes getting a child out of school and homeschooling them also saves their life, though (as with bullied kids). Homeschooling isn't all good or all bad, any more than schooling outside the home.

What's so infuriating about it is that abusive/repressive parents who use it as a way to restrict their child and keep them under their thumb are ruining it for parents who homeschool to genuinely meet needs for their child that can't otherwise be met.

And every thread that mentions child abuse and CPS, there is someone with a story of CPS either completely failing to help abused kids, or making life hell for a family that wasn't abusive but was unconventional.

There's not a simple solution, in other words.
posted by emjaybee at 11:33 AM on November 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


This kind of thing is one of the minor reasons I believe homeschooling should be illegal. It is the community's responsibility to protect all of its children from the people they are statistically most in danger from - family. If the children never get away and are not seen by responsible adults, parents can do anything to them short of murder without penalty.

I'd rather not give my child an inferior schooling option (in some cases) because there are outliers somewhere that get away with things. It's odd to me that more surveillance, and less familial privacy, be viewed as a viable solution to particular sociological problems.

I'd rather look for deeper and more effective sociological responses that don't require 1) third party surveillance, and 2) taking decision-making out of the hands of the majority, who don't actually abuse their children.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2013


It is a complex issue that needs complex solutions (and money), but if homeschooling is illegal, rather than picking up ones' toys from the sandbox and going home, parents will be forced to be involved.

Yes, I'd make private schools of all kinds illegal, too. And charter schools.
posted by QIbHom at 11:57 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I noticed, in a relatively casual survey, that child abuse was a little more common and sometimes different in nature in Christian religions that forbid infant baptism than in those that practice infant baptism.

Nah, there isn't. Frowner's is much closer to the reality: "I have often suspected that people who use that kind of thing to justify hurting others actually actively enjoy the hurting part, but they don't want to admit that consciously."

I grew up in an evangelical church that my parents joined after having me, the daughter they never wanted, and who, conveniently, as a girl, the new church assured them was sinful and would always be more or less posessed by the devil. This is a church that practiced infant baptism: I was baptised as a child. The hitch is, and this isn't well-known outside this sort of evangelical circle, baptism does not save a person's soul. At any stage. No matter whether they chose baptism or had it as an infant. There is always a "battle" for one's soul. Quite convenient for creating scapegoats. It was always obvious, growing up, that higher-class church members never had issues battling with the devil, whereas women from middle-class families had a bit of trouble, and women from lower-class families, or families like mine who never wanted their daughter and found plenty of "reason" to take that out on her, well, those girls and women were always behaving in ways that betrayed their deep ties to Satan.

Indeed, it has a lot less to do with the religions involved and a lot more to do with abusive behaviors getting free passes in organized groups. And yes, any churches promoting/condoning child abuse should be held responsible for that. There are several reasons for separation of church and state, and one of them is that the law is the law, religious beliefs do not relieve you of legal responsibility.
posted by fraula at 12:01 PM on November 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


New York Times: God Called Them to Adopt. And Adopt. And Adopt. Different family. Different, better circumstances.
posted by zarq at 12:09 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Homeschooling isn't all good or all bad, any more than schooling outside the home.

No, at the systemic, public interest level it's pretty much all bad. But it's definitely got perks for individuals.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wow, sorry if I came across as the person that tells people they can't be upset about kids getting murdered by their parents?
posted by oceanjesse at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time around real evangelicals, who are often dramatically different from the show on TV, this runs pretty deeply counter to my experience.

And I grew up in a fundamentalist household and my direct lived experience agrees with the idea that there's a whole lot of people who take the 'mark of Cain' stuff literally.

My mother's church also believed in the literal existence of demons, which belief being also a big excuse for abuse. If you're possessed by a 'spirit of rebellion' then the mortification of the flesh is one way to save the soul. Mysteriously, as fraula points out, it's usually only certain types of people so afflicted.
posted by winna at 12:22 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's so infuriating about it is that abusive/repressive parents who use it as a way to restrict their child and keep them under their thumb are ruining it for parents who homeschool to genuinely meet needs for their child that can't otherwise be met.

How linked are isolation and abuse? I'm sure that there are many great parents who choose to homeschool their children in a way that doesn't isolate their children, and is nurturing rather than damaging.

However, out of the people that I know personally (family and two close friends), the families were already isolating themselves from "mainstream" society and pulling the kid out of school only served to make that isolation complete. When a family becomes a closed unit like that, there's no countermeasure against the parents' bizarre and/or delusional thinking and some really weird behavior starts happening. Physical abuse is a terrible extreme. But what is best case? A kid who has been kept out of touch with reality and the "mainstream" world for his whole life, and who is now undereducated and socially isolated? What happens with that kid, what are his choices as an adult? From what I've seen, he either lives off girlfriends and/or the social safety net, because he's not really able to participate in society at large.

I'm not saying that homeschooling is always a bad thing, but I do think that the isolation that it allows is a very, very dangerous thing. There's not a doubt in my mind that if the families I know hadn't been allowed correspondence school as an option, the kids would have been better off. Though making everyone go to public school isn't necessarily a solution, since in the case of my relatives and in the case of one friend's family, it was actually the public school that technically expelled the kids and gave them correspondence school as the "alternative schooling option."
posted by rue72 at 12:27 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adoption involves going through a legal process to bring an orphaned child into a new family. Let's underline the word 'orphaned' here.

That brings up the other problem with your argument, which is that in a lot of cases, money has trumped "need," and unscrupulous agencies are misrepresenting children's "orphan" status to biological parents and prospective adopters alike. I wasn't being glib when I made the comparison to the slave trade.

In other words, I agree more or less with the substance of your argument on paper, but the reality is much more complex. The question isn't, "Is a child better off dying young in an orphanage or being adopted by Americans?" but rather "Is a child better off being raised by family in his or her home culture, despite living in third world conditions, or being adopted by Americans?"

The answer to the first question is a pretty easy "Yes," but the answer to the second is a lot murkier.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:28 PM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I too thought that it should be a requirement that Internationally Adopted children should go to public school for a certain period, so that there can be other eyes on them, besides their adoptive parents.

You would think that the churches these folks attend might have special support groups and such, since they're advocating the adoption of these kids for the purposes of soul saving.

I have friends who are deeply involved in fostering kids, through a program at their church. Even with the support, and the state intervention, it's been only somewhat successful. A couple of the kids were adopted and are doing great. A couple chose not to be adopted, but to remain in foster care.

My dad ran emergency shelter homes for kids in foster care and he said something pretty profound, "There are going to be kids, that once they're introduced to structure, appropriate disciple and parental love, who will thirve. They will instantly turn into the happiest, normal kids you've ever seen. All they need is a stabile environment. Then there are kids who are so irrepairably broken that no matter how much therapy, love, attention, you lavish on the, they'll never be whole."

International adoptions from countries that are entrenched in war, poverty and other horrors are going to need more community support than even adoptions from the US foster care system, yet they're the least likely to get that support or for supervision.

I'm suspicious of any faith system that relies upon isolation to impose that faith on its followers. I'm even more suspicisous when children are involved.

. for Hana. She, and all the other kids deserved better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:41 PM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


From infinitywaltz's comment, above:

The question isn't, "Is a child better off dying young in an orphanage or being adopted by Americans?" but rather "Is a child better off being raised by family in his or her home culture, despite living in third world conditions, or being adopted by Americans?"

Oh, this is a tricky and complex issue indeed, and there is no denying that adoption (even with the best of intentions) can be messy. And it's certainly true that, depending on when and where a child is adopted, there are cases where the child was not really an orphan, or was not given up by the parent with full knowledge and consent. And that chills me to the bone, to think that some of us (I have no idea how many) are raising stolen children. But I don't think it's a blanket statement that we can apply to all (domestic or international) adoptions.

We as a society do the best we can. The state social services agencies interview the adoptive families and certify the local adoption agencies. The federal government has a dizzying array of rules and regulations (including DNA checks on the foreign birth mother to ensure that the woman surrendering the child is indeed the child's mother). The foreign government has its own rules and certifications. It's a very complex process, and still there are cases where it fails on the foreign side (with unscrupulous lawyers lying to the birth mothers) or on the domestic side (with families like the Williams).

International adoption is not to blame for this. Indeed, it's far easier for families to get children through the foster care system than it is through international adoption, and as mentioned upthread by SpacemanStix there are plenty of unimaginably horrific cases coming out of foster care.

So to end the derail, while adoption certainly has its issues, this tragedy belongs solely to the Williams and to the poisonous childrearing philosophy they adhered to.
posted by math at 12:54 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of broad brushes used in this thread. Wikipedia says the Pearls claim hundreds of thousands of purchases of the Pearls' book, but that Neilsen estimates just a few thousand purchases were made. So why are we using a book that is probably not popular to smear an entire loosely-categorized group of people, as though they all read and love it?


One more data point; I've found at least six over the past few years at used book stores / Goodwill shops.
posted by tilde at 1:18 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


My mother's church also believed in the literal existence of demons, which belief being also a big excuse for abuse. If you're possessed by a 'spirit of rebellion' then the mortification of the flesh is one way to save the soul. Mysteriously, as fraula points out, it's usually only certain types of people so afflicted.

If you are at all interested in the Colonial-era Witch Craze in North America, the book The Devil in the Shape of a Woman by Carol Karlsen is pretty interesting. One of her arguments, about class ad status of the accused, culminates in the observation that Salem was the last great outbreak of Witchcraft in the pre-United States because some of the social limits had broken down and the wrong sort of people were getting accused. The move against "spectral evidence" by judiciary probably had more to do with the realization that it was an uncontrollable weapon which could be pointed in any direction as any sudden realization that unconfirmable evidence, however theologically attractive, was poisonous to a functioning legal system....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mostly for couples thinking to adopt: one of my colleagues has adopted two children from an African country in an "open adoption", where he and his wife are the legal guardians, but they still have very close relations with the birth family. I can see why families would shy away from this, but seeing this now almost 20 year long relationship, I am certain it is the way to go. For privacy reasons, I can't really describe it in detail, but there are amazing family relations all over, and normal family issues get an extra dimension of awesomeness with them.

Regarding the Williams' case: Here, after a similar thing happened in the 1970's, restrictions and control are very tight. But there are still tragedies. If you are adopted as a young teen from a war-torn or extremely poor country into a freakish conservative family, and then (correctly) removed by authorities to live with a foster-family, where do you belong? Who is your family?

Also: why is it even legal to "discipline" your children? Ruling it out of bounds would give authorities a tool to get at this type of families long before they evolve into terror. I know it would be completely impossible to change at a federal level, but in states? In your state? Do you need to beat up your kids? My siblings and I have raised in total 9 kids into something functional without "discipline". Our cousins, with additional 20+ children don't use "discipline". Some are wild, some are quiet, some do very bad things, some hate homework, some are sporty, some are lazy, some are adopted. I can't speak for other families, but I don't believe we have an easier herd than what is normal.

The link emjaybee posted points at an important and terrifying dimension of this, which has been an undertone of several of the scandals where teens are adopted and then abused. People are not adopting a child, they are buying a help. There, I said it. I cannot understand it, nor how it is even possible within the respective countries' legal systems. But it is told again and again in these stories how the colored children are under-educated and expected to do more than reasonable household chores. And I have seen this in many countries, not just in the US. There must be some underground discussion of this, otherwise it couldn't be so wide-spread. Is there a code-language I don't see?
posted by mumimor at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's odd to me that more surveillance, and less familial privacy, be viewed as a viable solution to particular sociological problems.

I think it's fine for people to homeschool if they want, but public school is partly about being part of a community. My kids are smart, and some public school stuff is too easy, but the value they get in making friends, learning from lots of different adults with different perspectives, etc. way outweighs the fact that I might be able to teach them more cool advanced math stuff at home. So I send them to public school and now and then I do a "pretend school" session for an hour or two on the weekend for enrichment.

I do live in an area with good public schools though.

As for the woman in the story, yuck. That's just a crazy way to raise kids. If things are at the point where you feel you need to do all that extreme physical stuff as punishment, it's your fault, not the kids'. She should never, ever get out of prison.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:48 PM on November 15, 2013


Blasdelb: " At the same time, leaving aside cartoonishly ridiculous racists like the klan, all of the most racist people with actual power that I've met have all been deeply liberal and secular.

Perhaps your miles have varied.
"

Having lived in deeply red, backwoods countryside, and mixed/"purple" working-class neighborhoods, my experience is 180-degrees off of yours.

I know a few racist* Democrats, and a few sexist* Democrats. Their numbers - these two somewhat overlapping groups - are dwarfed by the number of conservatives I know who are racist, sexist AND homophobic.

*We're all a little bit racist/sexist/bigoted. I'm talking about those who would be considered significantly racist here on The Blue, and who have no interest in self-examining and changing that.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:05 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


This was a very difficult article to read as I came from a home with an abusive, violent stepmother. Reading this brought back the feelings of helplessness and anger that comes when other people have control over you and use that control to hurt you. My heart is with those children.
posted by UseyurBrain at 2:05 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


lemmsjid: " I don't think questions of colonialism or racism are necessarily relevant. Adopting out of such an environment is truly saving a life, without any real question."

As someone who is adopted... flagged for offensiveness.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


mumimor: "Also: why is it even legal to "discipline" your children?"

Federal and state law draw lines between discipline and abuse. The former is allowed and the other is considered endangerment. Most states also have specific definitions for parental neglect that may be considered differently than spanking or hitting a child. For example, hitting that does not leave marks, scars or bruises are usually not (on their own) treated as abuse by law.

The problem is, Americans come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. What an Asian-American family (for example) feels is an acceptable form of parental discipline may differ from what a (say,) Latin-American family may find acceptable. Also, American cultural norms on corporal punishment have changed in the last two generations.

In addition, Americans seem generally opposed to government intervention in family life unless a child is clearly endangered. Even then, it seems likely that many people wouldn't agree on the definition of endangerment. So our federal and state laws give parents a great deal of leeway in how they may raise their children.
posted by zarq at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom,

I'm sorry, yeah as I said in a post further down, that was poorly worded and could be taken as offensive. So once again apologies, I try to be careful about wording on the Internet because it's really easy to mean one thing and say another, but there I failed.

What I was trying to express is that if a child is about to die, or will pretty inevitably live a terrible life, then one shouldn't necessarily let own's own self examination get in the way of trying to help that child. In other words, potential hardship faced as the result of adoption should always be weighed against the actual hardship of the child if they are not adopted. And that when a child is in truely bad circumstances, the potential hardships will almost always be quite outweighed by the actual hardships. I think if we talked in person you'd find that we're much on the same page. My sibling who was adopted faced plenty of racism in America and it's a huge issue, especially since adopted children facing racism don't necessarily have a family with a shared experience of racism, thus compounding the alienation.
posted by lemmsjid at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom, I should also add that when I say 'terrible life' I know that is also a problematic statement, because some colonialistically minded adopters might think a 'terrible life' is 'Oh that poor child, having to grow up as a Muslim...' or some such. When I say 'terrible life' I'm referring to the actual circumstances of my adopted sibling, who had malnutrition so severe that it caused a whole host of health issues later in life.
posted by lemmsjid at 2:25 PM on November 15, 2013


mumimor... a few years ago I was on a security line at DFW airport. As the agent was swabbing my carry-on, a mother walked past us dragging a screaming, howling child who was dragging his feet and having a total meltdown.

TSA agent was African American. The mother was Caucasian. I'm also white. Agent grins at me and says something along the lines of "Man, my mother would have beaten me with her belt within an inch of my life if I had ever dared to act that way in public. Black moms know how to handle kids like that. One *POW* with a belt buckle and that kid would never, ever pull that again." And that's how my mom and dad would have handled me, too, when I was growing up.

I don't hit my kids. Not with my hands or a belt or anything else. But I did grow up being beaten (for lack of a better word) into submission. I bet a lot of people my age did.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on November 15, 2013


lemmsjid, in the context of this discussion, where the framing is about children who were adopted and then severely abused and in one case even murdered by their adoptive parents, your arguments sound... odd, to say the least. It sounds like you're claiming that being murdered in America is preferable to being raised in an orphanage in Ethiopia.

I very much doubt you actually believe that, so you may want to take into account the context of the kids in the article we're discussing, and not just that of your family, when you're framing your arguments.
posted by jaguar at 2:45 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


" At the same time, leaving aside cartoonishly ridiculous racists like the klan, all of the most racist people with actual power that I've met have all been deeply liberal and secular.

To return to this earlier point: the racism [that I have noticed] within evangelical Christianity does not rule out racism among liberal or secular people. (If only it did!) I would argue that the kind of racism that liberal, nominally anti-racist people practice is different - I've known an adoptee of color who was brought up by liberal white parents and who really suffered from their "colorblindness" and generally assimilationist attitudes.

Honestly, I tend to think that white folks of any political persuasion who seek to adopt a child of color (not just seek to adopt a child and end up adopting a child of color) should probably really carefully examine their motives. I think that many do - the white adoptive parent I know best is really engaged with the child's birth mother and has many friends from the child's background where the friendship started long before the adoption was even thought of.

But saying "white people are seldom outside of racism", even though it's totally true IME as a white person, doesn't actually get down to the specifics of the racial dynamics of white evangelicals who espouse overt racism and adopt children of color. That's a pretty specific situation, but it really does seem to happen.

It sometimes frustrates me that every specific critique of a particular experience or social milieu gets turned aside with "but some people aren't like that" or "other people in other settings can also be terrible!" I am totally in agreement that humans are awful, almost all of us, almost all the time - but without examining specific situations which all have their own dynamics we're not going to solve anything.
posted by Frowner at 2:53 PM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


What I was trying to express is that if a child is about to die, or will pretty inevitably live a terrible life, then one shouldn't necessarily let own's own self examination get in the way of trying to help that child. In other words, potential hardship faced as the result of adoption should always be weighed against the actual hardship of the child if they are not adopted. And that when a child is in truely bad circumstances, the potential hardships will almost always be quite outweighed by the actual hardships.

But again, international adoption tends to be really dodgy - kids getting sold or stolen, parents being misled into thinking that it is a temporary arrangement, kickbacks, etc. Adoption isn't "rescuing" kids (except in really specific circumstances). It's an industry with its own logic of supply and demand, its own perverse incentives. My sense is that it can be pretty difficult to tell who is in "really" terrible circumstances and who is living with parents who love them or a chosen family and would be perfectly fine if the parents weren't so immiserated by war, colonialism, etc. I don't think it would be okay, for instance, to say "these parents would like to keep their kid but they are poor and their situation is dangerous, so ipso facto the kid would be better off with new white American parents".
posted by Frowner at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


zarq, I know, and I should have included it in my post. When I was a child, everyone subordinate in my family: wives, siblings, children, cousins and animals were beaten. My younger sister says I was chased around the house - I don't remember. I was the eldest, and gradually, our parents realized it was stupid, till at the end my youngest cousins were only moderately shouted at. Today, my kids worry if I am too angry with the dog.

It is a process, and it has to happen within each family. But sometimes legislation can aid that process. Like with smoking.
posted by mumimor at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Frowner, agreed, I'm speaking from my own circumstances, wherein we lived in the adopted child's native country when we adopted, visited the orphanage, went through all the governmental hoops, etc. I suppose one can never avoid the chance that in the midst of all that something nefarious was happening.

jaguar, thanks, and it's true, and I attempted to make that clear. You know, I really try (sometimes I fail) to give an empathic reading to other peoples' comments, because really on the Internet it's hard to really gauge the context in which people are speaking. I appreciate your giving me an empathic reading. Because I was quite very sad when I read the article, and the sadness was accentuated by the fact that I'm a new parent--now I get extremely, irrationally sad/angry when I hear about harm being done to children in a way that I didn't before I made that transition. (Believe me I got angry before, this is just a new level). The problem is when, in the aftermath of that outrage, I am tempted to color my opinion about certain groups that are represented by those who did the harm--that's where I try to calm down and be more dispassionate, because it's a really hard problem that requires careful evidence-weighing.
posted by lemmsjid at 3:15 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is a process, and it has to happen within each family. But sometimes legislation can aid that process. Like with smoking.

Smoking was killed primarily through a change in social norms and litigation, though. I do think it's an interesting comparison and worth making, but precisely because it is, maybe harsher litigation would be a way to go?

In the case of tobacco, attorney generals sued the tobacco companies on behalf of the state because they claimed that the tobacco companies should reimburse them for the Medicare money spent on smokers. In the case of abuse like this, I wonder if class action suits against implicated mega-churches or this book's publisher (though I think the Pearls already have a class action suit against them?) would be an option.

I even wonder if social services departments would be able to sue the churches and adoption agencies involved? That opens up a horrible can of worms, though...

There's also the issue that, like with smoking, there are going to be people who just don't quit, and who aren't going to quit, and that becomes an issue in that you don't necessarily want to punish the good with the bad. I mean, you don't want to paint loving families who adopted children from abroad for legitimate reasons with the same brush as cruel families who adopted children for misguided ideological or even sadistic reasons, and you especially don't want the adopted children in either group to worry about things like deportation or even to get tarred in the whole process. Look at what happened with smokers, and how smoking has become this big moral issue -- we don't want to stigmatize adoption or adoptees, and that could become a danger.

When I was a child, everyone subordinate in my family: wives, siblings, children, cousins and animals were beaten. My younger sister says I was chased around the house - I don't remember. I was the eldest, and gradually, our parents realized it was stupid, till at the end my youngest cousins were only moderately shouted at. Today, my kids worry if I am too angry with the dog.

As far as I know, corporal punishment is definitely alive and well in the US. Virtually every family I knew growing up practiced some version of it. I'm not sure if social norms are still moving away from corporal punishment or not?

I also think banning it altogether would have a disproportionate effect on parents who we don't really need to target, who are already trying to do a good job but are using uncouth or imperfect methods, but would be irrelevant to the parents that we actually want to target, who are using "spare the rod spoil the child"-type justifications for abusive behavior (which we already legislate against).
posted by rue72 at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ugh, what a horrible story. I've never heard of the Pearls before; they sound like a particularly vile and toxic example of their genre.

One small nitpick about the thread, though: While "evangelism" and "fundamentalism" often are yoked together in discussions of certain types of Christians in the USA, the two terms are not really synonymous.

It's certainly possible to evangelize a progressive version of Christianity, and some do - they just don't seem to get nearly as much attention as the shoutier conservative types.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:03 PM on November 15, 2013


With regards to the racism of some of these families, this really stood out to me in the article:

Harris, who is African-American, tried to help, first seeking to involve Belaynesh in groups like the Black Students’ Union or her church, but she says the Hehns wouldn’t let Belaynesh join (arguing in one case that she wasn’t black, but Ethiopian).
posted by jaguar at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adoption is not binary. It's not even a continuum. It is one alternative among many for a struggling family. There's kinship placement, community care, legal guardianships, group homes, direct family support, respite care - lots and lots of formal and informal options.

No one has to choose adoption vs languishing in an orphanage for a child. That is a lie, a vicious delusional lie pushed by adoptive parents and adoption-profiting agencies and orphanages.

Those kids could be placed with local families, or more caregivers hired to turn the orphanage into a foster-care group home, or distant relatives found and supported or - there are a lot of alternatives to leaving a kid in an orphanage. One really good choice among those is placing a child with no alternatives into a loving and prepared adoptive family - but again and again, that is not the only choice. And it's certainly not the cheapest.

And while I used to think hey, closed adoptions is a personal choice, I no longer do. I think it is a heinous thing to do your child. I understand limiting contact for safety and developmental reasons, but there is no justification ever for hiding a child's history and heritage.

I've had people ask me about adopting an older kid as a grateful household helper. It's pretty common in a lot of countries and is not necessarily a bad arrangement, but it's not what most people in the US/Europe think of as adoption any longer, more like an au pair situation.

There's also just the resources involved. The - I'm not sure they should be called her parents - the legal custodians who killed her - should be blamed, but where was the budget to pay for the district nurse, the social workers, the counsellors who should have been visiting this family and training and monitoring them?

A lot of people let down Hana and her siblings, and that includes the people who decided social services and monitoring for vulnerable families like this are optional.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:50 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nothing new unfortunately. Back in 2005 Julia Scheeres published a deeply moving book called Jesus Land writing the story of her childhood together with her black adopted brother in a Christian fundamentalist family. The tragic story of Hana is a deja vu if you have read Jesus Land.
posted by mandoras at 12:37 AM on November 16, 2013


Returning would not have been an option:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/couple-run-return-adopted-9-year-old-son-article-1.1518315
posted by VikingSword at 1:28 AM on November 16, 2013


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