Hana's Story: An adoptee's tragic fate, and how it could happen again

Kathryn Joyce - Slate

In May 2011, Hana, a 13 year-old girl who had been adopted from Ethiopia three years previously, died in the care of her adoptive family in Washington state, USA. She showed signs of severe abuse and neglect. She had been kept outside for the day as a form of punishment and died of hypothermia compounded by malnutrition and gastritis. Hana was one of several adoptees who have died at the hands of their adoptive parents in the past two decades, “and part of a far larger group of children who become estranged from their adoptive families—frequently, as it turns out, large families with fundamentalist beliefs about child rearing,” says the article. The severe abuse and neglect that Hana and her adopted brother suffered at the hands of extreme disciplinarian parents is quite disturbing to read, to say the least.

Hana’s story sheds light on a dark side of adoption, particularly among large, fundamentalist Christian families. According to the article, homeschooling Christian families began adopting children in significant numbers in the mid to late 2000s, “seeing adoption as a form of rescue that demonstrated their faith.” Many of these adoptions failed. The author spoke with 10 other young adults in Seattle alone who had been adopted from Ethiopia, through the same agency as Hana, and whose adoptions had failed, typically around the age of 16 to 18 when they ran away or were kicked out of their adoptive homes. All of these adoptees were adopted to large families, most of whom were devoutly religious and practiced harsh parenting. They are joined by adoptees from other nations, including the 20 Russian adoptees who are thought to have been killed by parental abuse or neglect.

The article also discusses “re-homing,” a phenomenon in which adoptive families relinquish care of their adopted children to another adoptive family or parents, without proper vetting or oversight. Yet reforms are underway, says the article, in Washington state and nationally, to create greater protection for adoptees.