Hana Williams blog posts: Interesting comments I got

Someone has created a Remembrance Page for Hana Williams on Facebook.
I posted pointers to my blog items on Hana on that page, and over the last few days (and especially on the 7th)  people have added several comments. Take a look at the comments — very fascinating reading.

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Love & Lashings: Part 2: On child abuse and “child-collectors”

After my first post in this blog about 13-year old Ethiopian adoptee Hana Grace-Rose Williams, found dead in her backyard of her Sedro-Woolley home in May this year, K & I have been reading up on related issues. Part 1 of this post covered harsh “training” methods advocated by some.  In this post I’m covering some instances of child abuse, and the notion of “child-collectors”.

 We found a surprising number of cases of adoptee child abuse in the news. Here’s a small sample of these cases:

1. Summarizing and quoting from: http://enwikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Lydia_Schatz: On Feb 5, 2010, 7 year-old Lydia (adoptee from Liberia) was whipped with a quarter-inch plastic tubing, and beaten dozens of times by her adoptive father Kevin Schatz while her adoptive mother Elizabeth held her down. All apparently because Lydia mispronounced a word. Lydia suffered massive tissue damage, and died the next day in hospital. Her sister, 11-year-old Zariah, was also hospitalized with serious injuries, but survived. The family homeschooled their six biological children and three adopted children. This case went to trial, and “Kevin Schatz was found guilty of second degree murder and torture and will serve at least 22 years of imprisonment from two life sentences. Elizabeth Schatz was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment and will serve at least 13 years of imprisonment.”

 2. Just a few days ago, we heard about the verdict in the case of Jessica Beagley, an Alaskan mother of a Russian 7-year-old adopted boy, who in Oct. 2010 forced him “to ingest hot sauce and take a cold shower as punishment for allegedly lying about various transgressions at school.” All this allegedly so she could get on the “Dr. Phil” show on TV. According to the MSNBC report, the Beagleys, who have four biological children, adopted twin Russian boys in 2008. The mother was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse.

A Wall Street Journal article on this has this mind-boggling quote: ‘In an interview yesterday with the Law Blog, Beagley’s lawyer William Ingaldson said his client did not deserve to be punished. She used the disciplinary method in the legitimate hopes that it would teach her son a lesson, because other, lesser punishments had not been effective, he explained. “If she deserves to be punished then the vast majority of parents deserve equal punishment,” he said.’ Burn a child’s mouth and throat with hot sauce to teach a lesson? And this mother does not deserve punishment?

3. Finally, take the case of Judith Leekin, and a recent report in the New York Times: “Judith Leekin, who was charged by Florida prosecutors yesterday [Aug 1st] with abusing 11 children she had adopted from New York City, has been described by the authorities as a devious swindler adept at gaming the child welfare bureaucracy. … Ms Leekin was charged … in Florida with 10 felonies: four counts of aggravated child abuse and other crimes, including witness tampering and possession of a false driver’s license.”

A related Times topic page dryly states: ‘Judith Leekin adopted 11 children in New York City under four different names, and moved with them a decade ago to Florida. There, she is accused of abusing them — charges she is fighting — but she pleaded guilty in May 2008 in New York to a fraudulent adoption scheme that netted her $1.68 million in government subsidies, money that prosecutors say she used to support a lavish lifestyle. Prosecutors said the children, who were mentally or physically disabled when adopted and are now mostly young adults, were not adequately fed, were kept restrained with plastic ties, were victims of physical violence and were kept away from school. Ms. Leekin has admitted deceiving child welfare officials but has denied abusing or neglecting the children. … The oldest known victim, who was 5 when he was placed with Ms. Leekin, was a “sweet autistic young man” who spent a lifetime being hit on the head with an iron, regularly beaten for any transgression and tied up at night like a prisoner. A girl, who was about 7 when she was placed with Ms. Leekin, was profoundly retarded and autistic, and remains unable to describe what happened to her… Yet another child, also profoundly retarded and autistic, was placed with Ms. Leekin at age 5… his trauma is evident: He is missing teeth, and he is now blind. “His siblings remember a time when he could see,” the lawyers wrote, “but explain that he was allowed to stare at the sun through a magnifying glass until he lost his vision.”’

I have to stop here. It is not hard to find more such stories of horrible abuse and unfathomable behavior.

Why? What can be done about this?

Parenting is not easy, but most parents raise their children right. And some adoptive children come with emotional/medical issues that are not easy to deal with, but that’s not an excuse to abuse them.

Why do people abuse their children in the name of parenting? Do some people adopt children only for the money? Is this child abuse driven by mis-guided notions of bringing up children, notions derived from or abetted by texts written by “experts”?

A REFORM blog post talks about parents with several biological children, who for various reasons adopt more children. Some of them, based on their behavior, are termed “child collectors”, where a child collector is characterized as someone who (e.g.):

·        Adopts several unrelated children at the same time or within a short period of time.
·        Focuses on adding to the family above stabilizing and effectively rearing the current children in the family…
·        Has no significant source of income other than state subsidies or SSI and uses collecting children as a means of income….
·        Has a number of adoptees in the household that exceeds the capacity of the parents to individually attend to [their needs]…
·        Has a martyr/savior complex. … the adoptive parent feels that they can handle any number of children with any amount of issues because they are “saving” the children. The idea of “saving” is put ahead of the actual responsibility to the child.
·        Uses his or her faith to justify any or all choices about the number of children in the home. Fellow worshipers may often offer support without understanding what is really going on in the home.

This post also mentions other risk factors, including home-schooling, which (could) keep the prying and concerned eyes of school officials and child protective services away from any problems in the home, living in a rural or isolated area (making oversight difficult), and frequent moves (to avoid investigations etc.). 

 Some of the parents in the news cases listed above seem to fit the definition of child-collectors. I may not understand all the issues involved in adoption and child abuse, but some things stand out.

As a society, we should be protecting children — biological or adopted — from any such abuse. Our social net systems are under a severe budget crunch. Even so, our adoption agencies and CPS should be extra vigilant about these “child-collector” parents, who may have noble intentions but neither the finances nor the moral compass to properly bring up children, without resorting to abuse. Potential (adoptive) parents need to be realistic about their capacity and resources (both financial and emotion) to parent. Perhaps we should also have a limit on the number of children adopted by a single family.

The public will have to educate themselves on the need to clamp down on bad parenting methods, and to ensure that good alternatives are implemented. In addition, we should be cognizant of our responsibilities — as a parent, neighbor, or a friend — to protect the children around us, to ask questions when anything bad or suspicious is seen. We need to put the welfare of children above protecting relatives, friends or a church or temple.

For quick reference: the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-4ACHILD. The Washington State number to report child abuse is 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276).

We need some help also for parents under stress, help that may avert the kinds of tragedies we’ve seen on this page. Finally,  I see a lot of references to people who adopt because they want to help children. To people who have the best of intents, but perhaps not the time or the patience to bring up children, I’d say, please go volunteer somewhere (e.g. a school) where you can get contact with children, under supervision, and where you can give your best, without going beyond your limits.

If Lydia’s and Hana’s and other children’s deaths and injuries lead to improvement in the lives of  other children, there will be some small consolation there.

P.S. A ray of hope? K and I bumped into some members of the Lake Washington chapter of “Bikers Against Child Abuse” last weekend. More about this organization in the next post.

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Love & Lashings: Part 1 — “Training up” children

My last post in this blog was about 13-year old Ethiopian adoptee Hana Grace-Rose Williams, found dead in her backyard of her Sedro-Woolley home in May this year. In the last week-plus, after we got to know about Hana, K & I have been reading up on related issues, including harsh methods of “training” (not bringing up, but training!) children, other deaths and abuse of adoptee and foster children, and the notion of “child collectors.”

These make for very sad reading. It is hard to imagine that people would go to such extents to abuse children in their care, and do it in the name of bringing them up properly; or worse, do it in the name of religion. I was not aware of the extent of this issue and I have put together a summary of what we’ve read, in part so others get to know all this. Hopefully this post will add to a movement that ensures that this abuse of children stops soon.

On ‘Parenting’
A 2006 article from Salon.com discussed advice from a Christian parenting book To Train Up a Child (1994), written by Michael Pearl and his wife Debi, which advocates, among other things, “carefully hitting them with switches, PVC pipes and other ‘chastening instruments'”. To teach children not to grab forbidden objects, the book has this to offer: “Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, ‘No.’ Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough.” A number of reviews of this book on Amazon.com urge Amazon to stop selling this book, as they feel it recommends child abuse.

On his web site, Michael Pearl says: “A swift swat with a light, flexible instrument will sting without bruising or causing internal damage. Many people are using a section of ¼ inch plumber’s supply line as a spanking instrument. It will fit in your purse or hang around you (sic) neck. You can buy them for under $1.00 at Home Depot or any hardware store. They come cheaper by the dozen and can be widely distributed in every room and vehicle.”

Further, he recommends discretion: “Don’t be so indiscreet as to spank your children in public—including the church restroom. I get letters regularly telling of trouble with in-laws who threaten to report them to the authorities. Parents have called the Gestapo on their married children. Church friends who have noses longer than the pews on which they perch can cause a world of trouble. If you cannot get them trained before going out in public, stay home and read our four books again.”

Pearls’ methods got some scrutiny when Lynn Paddock, who used the techniques recommended by the Pearls, was found guilty in 2008 of first-degree murder by torture and felony child abuse in the Feb. 2006 death of her 4-year-old adoptive son Sean. Sean suffocated when wrapped tightly in blankets, reportedly to keep him from wandering about at night. The Pearls do not recommend restraining children with blankets, but Paddock’s stepdaughter and her other five adoptive children also testified to abuse at her hands, abuse which involved a quarter-inch plumbing supply line, of the type recommended by the Pearls.

A posting at http://saltosobrius.blogspot.com/2006/10/jim-benton-on-bible-based-baby-beating.html quotes Jim Benton, who has excerpts from James Dobson’s 1992 book The New Dare to Discipline. Some excerpts from this post:

Dobson’s wife whipped their 15 month old daughter for going onto the patio in the rain. Dobson says to show “parental warmth after such discipline” and to have a “loving conclusion to the disciplinary encounter.” … Dobson recommends painful squeezing of the trapezius muscle on the neck to obtain “instant obedience.” (p. 36) … Dobson recommends starting whipping at age 15-18 months, and “there is no magical time at the end of childhood when spanking becomes ineffective.” (p. 65). “My primary purpose … has been to record for posterity my understanding of the Judeo-Christian concept of parenting that has guided millions of mothers and fathers for centuries.” (p. 18).

While I wonder if this is parenting or sadism, Benton characterizes Dobson as a “fairly mild advocate of Christian child abuse” and goes on to describe other books in this genre, including the book by the Pearls.

If you do some searches on the web, you’ll find a lot more along these lines, a strange amalgam of love and lashings. How absolutely horrid!

Why would anyone trust so called “experts” who have no training in child development or any related area? Why would parents trust these “experts” who advocate hiding their “training”/disciplinary methods from society – does that not set off any alarm bells?

My idea of God is not one who asks that children be beaten up and “trained”. God is supposed to be about love, not beatings with plumber’s supply lines.

[More about child abuse cases in the next post]


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Why and how did 13-yr old Ethiopian adoptee Hana Williams die? A vigil and questions

Hana's remembrance vigil, Aug. 21, 2011

Hana's remembrance vigil, Aug. 21, 2011

This evening K and I went with our friends to a candlelight vigil
and remembrance for 13-year-old Hana Grace-Rose Williams. Hana, born in
Ethiopia, was adopted into a Sedro-Woolley home in Aug. 2008, along with her
younger brother. She was found dead in her yard on May 12th this
year, with the coroner concluding she died of hypothermia in the approx. 40
degree rainy weather. At the time of her death, sources said she had significant
weight-loss. Child Protective Services (CPS) has taken custody of the other 8
Williams children. The case is currently with the Skagit county prosecutor’s

There are many questions that people, primarily the Ethiopian
community, are asking: why was Hana out in the yard, in the cold and rain? How
could a 13-year old child from an orphanage in Ethiopia lose significant weight?
Did no one notice anything odd about Hana’s situation before she died?

Mulu Retta, from the Ethiopian Community Mutual Association
(ECMA), Seattle, spoke at the vigil, as did David Guterson (author of “Snow
Falling on Ceders,” who has an adopted Ethiopian child himself). Guterson laid
out the known facts, and the unanswered questions about Hana’s death. To
paraphrase the speakers, it’s not clear if there was any wrong-doing, but if there
had been any wrong-doing, appropriate action needs to be taken, to protect the
other 8 children and to prevent anything like this happening again. A prayer
was said, three poems were read out (one in Amharic and two in English), someone
played “Amazing Grace”, and candles were lit. It was a somber night, with lots
of tears all around. One interesting thing was that no one at the meeting knew
Hana – but there was this shared grief and a commitment to improve matters.

I hope there is a full investigation into the reasons behind Hana’s untimely death. And I hope as a society we work together and do what we can to ensure that Hana’s death is
not in vain.

Rest in Peace, Hana.

More details are available at:

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Carolina Chocolate Drops – Great Musical ZooTunes evening

Last week K and I got to hear a Grammy winning group, Carolina Chocolate Drops, an old time string band from North Carolina.  This band started as a three-member band,
with Rhiannon Giddens (banjo, vocals, fiddle, kazoo), Dom Flemons (banjo,
guitar, jug, harmonica, kazoo, snare drum, bones, quills) and Justin Robinson.
But Justin is back at school, and earlier this year the group added beatbox phenom
Adam Matta (also tambourine) and Hubby Jenkins (guitar, banjo, bones). The group learnt from a lot from fiddler Joe Thompson, and when they sing they mention whom and where they learnt the pieces from, which adds color to the pieces.  Sxip Shirey and Sarah Alden (from the Luminescent Orchestrii)  joined them for a couple of lively pieces.

Carolina Chocolate Drops playing at ZooTunes, Seattle

Carolina Chocolate Drops playing at ZooTunes, Seattle

Great musicians,  good choices of songs including lively sing-alongs, a lovely evening at the Woodland Park Zoo grounds, with little children happily wandering about, a picnic dinner and K beside me  – what more could anyone ask for?

Check out the group’s site , a lyrical review  in the Seattle Times and a sample of their work where Adam Matta does a beatbox trumpet as well as percussion.

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Seattle donates BIG !

I miss Microsoft’s generous gift matching. But last week, we got a lil’ something along those lines. On June 23rd, as part of Give BIG day, the Seattle Foundation and Give BIG  sponsors offered a partial matching of donations made to a number of local non-profits.

And Seattle gave generously. Here are the stats from that day (http://www.seattlefoundation.org/news/Pages/GiveBIGUPDATE.aspx):

“…more than 18,800 donations totaling more than $3.5 million were made to nonprofit organizations on June 23 during The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG challenge. … Donations were made beginning at 7 a.m. on June 23 through the Giving Center on The Seattle Foundation’s website at http://www.seattlefoundation.org. Additional money was collected at CenturyLink Field during the Seattle Sounders FC June 23 match.

The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG challenge: By the Numbers
Note: Final tallies will be available on Tuesday, June 28

Total donations made: More than $3.5 million
Total amount raised (donations + stretch pool): More than $4 million
Number of donations made: More than 18,800
Number of nonprofits receiving donations: Approximately 900
Average gift size: $189.99
Most donations received by a single organization: The Seattle Public Library Foundation

Top 5 nonprofits receiving donations:

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest
The Seattle Public Library Foundation
Tennis Outreach Programs
The 5th Avenue Theatre Association ”

I love the fact that health, libraries, food, the arts and sports all figured
in the top 5 non-profits receiving donations. I was slightly surprised that the Tennis Outreach Program was in this list, but apparently one big $60,000 contribution to helped get it there!
Way to go, Seattle!

Posted in Making a difference, People Matter

Spelling Bees and Indian-Americans

Yesterday, Sukanya Roy from South Abington Township, Pa., won the at the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy. Find out more about this at the Evri page on the Bee . Here’s a good story from the Evri page: Pa. girl aces ‘cymotrichous’ to win Spelling Bee – The Denver Post

I’m really glad that the finals are carried on ESPN for the last few years. Turns out it’s the 4th year in a row that Indian-Americans have won the National Spelling Bee! Slate has a piece on “Why Are Indian Kids So Good At Spelling?”

If you’d like to test yourself, try the mock bee . For one reason why good spelling and grammar is useful, read “Awsum Shoes! Is it ethical to fix grammatical and spelling errors in Internet reviews?”

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Friends, Fun and Frolic at Seattle’s Folklife Festival

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Last Sunday, K and I went to the Northwest Folklife Festival, and had a lovely time.

We started with a shape-note singing group.  What are shape-notes, you ask? We turn to good ole’ Wikipedia, and learn that “Shape notes are a music notation designed to facilitate congregational and community singing…Shapes were added to the note heads in written music to help singers find pitches within major and minor scales without the use of more complex information found in key signatures on the staff.” This was the first time I heard this live. I found it very stylized and interesting.

We then had lunch, wandered around listening to random music, watched people and bumped into friends.

Later in the day, we went to the Liars and Tall Tales session. Here contestants have to tell an improbable story and tell it well. This was great fun, with the first and third prize winners from Portland. I must remember that next time I meet someone from Portland!:-) What a variety of styles there were. And some great belly laughs!

Then we stayed on for a didgeridoo-playing workshop conducted by Doug Bridges and
?Ted Hunter. There were about 100 other participants each ‘armed’ with a 30
inch plastic tube to practice with! We had a crash course on the basic drone, on
vocalizations and layering sounds, and some hints on circular breathing. And a quick demo by the instructors. Great teachers, and lots of good clean fun!

Next step: to hear Jim Page, an old-fashioned folk singer, whose songs are a conversation. Jim has performed at Folklife since the first one 40 years ago, in 1971!

Finally we met with more friends and heard more acoustic music. One of the things about Folklife is hearing emerging artistes. The best we heard this year was Holly McGarry, a singer-songwriter from Sandpoint, Idaho, who’s just turning 18. She has this grown-up rich voice, lovely phrasing, and a light touch on the guitar. Listen to this piece by her. We’ll be hearing her in years to come!

All in all, a good day, filled with friends, music and learning. The Folklife Festival is one of the reasons I like Seattle !

I’ll leave you with another view of Folklife that I found on the Evri site.

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Want a simpler way to follow all the news about the French Open?

Check out the Evri page on the French Open:
http://www.evri.com/event/french-open-0x6088f !

Have fun!!

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A “Take Five” tribute from Pakistan

A friend from India forwarded me this link to a sitar/tabla/guitar tribute to Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck‘s Take Five, from Sachal Studios, Lahore, Pakistan.

Truly, music transcends boundaries!

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