Carri and Larry Williams were arrested his afternoon on charges of homicide by abuse in connection with the death of their adoptive daughter, 13-year-old Hana Grace-Rose Williams. They were also charged with assault of a child in the first degree in connection with the treatment of Hana’s brother, whom they’d also adopted.
For some background, see my first post in this blog about Hana Williams, who was
found dead in her backyard of her Sedro-Woolley home in May this year. Also see
my posts on harsh [child] “training” methods advocated by some and on some instances of child abuse, and the notion of “child-collectors”. Both of these seem to be relevant in this case.
Today we have some details about the abuse that Hana is alleged to have suffered. According to the Seattle Times, ‘A report on [Hana’s] death concluded she’d died from “a culmination of chronic starvation caused by a parent’s intentional food restriction, severe neglect, physical and emotional abuse and stunning endangerment.”
… Investigators found Hana had been put in a dark closet for discipline and forced to sleep outside in a barn. When she was locked in the closet, one person told authorities, the parents played the Bible on tape and Christian music.
Hana … was routinely beaten. Sometimes she wasn’t fed for a day or two,
A report from MSNBC adds more sad details: “In the charging documents, Carri
Williams talked about how much she disliked her two adopted Ethiopian children.
According to charging documents [Hana’s] adopted parents, Carri and Larry Williams starved her for days, put her in a locked closet, shower room and forced her to sleep outside in the barn in the cold. She wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in the house, instead a porta-potty behind the barn. In addition, Hanna was struck daily with a plumbing tool, a tube with a round ball on the end.
… All of the William’s biological children and adopted son have been removed from the home. In the documents, a book entitled ‘To Train a Child Up,’[sic] was referenced.
[Skagit County Prosecutor Richard] Weyrich says it includes punishment techniques the
Williams’ mimicked. There have been other child abuse cases linked to the book
across the country.”
On the one hand, I am happy that Child Protective Services (CPS) and the Skagit County Prosecutor acted to investigate this case, and to bring charges against the perpetrators. On the other hand, there is so much sorrow in the air. To start with, we have Hana’s death, after months of abuse. Then we have the abuse that her brother and other biological Williams children are said to have suffered. Next, we have the issues related to the adoptive parents, who are alleged to have acted with such heartlessness, for so many
months: did the parents not have anywhere to go for help? Was there no one to
help them when they were out of their depth in dealing with these children?
What compelled them to cling to these children but yet abuse them so? Finally,
we need to think about how, as a society, we can protect free speech yet limit
the impact of books like “To Train Up a Child”, which advocate what I would
consider abusive child-rearing methods.
This matter does not end now with these arrests. We need to ensure that there are no more cases like Hana’s. As I said in an earlier post, our adoption agencies and CPS should be extra vigilant about potential adoptive parents who may have noble intentions but neither the finances nor the moral compass to properly bring up children. In addition, we should be cognizant of our responsibilities — as a parent, neighbor, or a friend — to protect the children around us. Recall the “If you see something, say something” program from the Department of Homeland Security? Analogously, if we suspect or see something that looks like child abuse, we need to say something – it is better to be mistaken than have children suffer because we did not take steps to stop abuse. We need to put the welfare of children above protecting relatives, friends or a church or temple. And we need to get parents under stress the help that may avert these kinds of tragedies.
And then we can truly say: Rest in peace, Hana, rest in peace.
- the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4ACHILD.
- the Washington State number to report child abuse is 1-866-ENDHARM