The House Judiciary Committee considered a bill Wednesday that aims to protect adopted children from abuse and neglect. The bill stems from cases such as Hana Grace-Rose Williams, a 13-year-old Ethiopian who died from hypothermia after her adoptive parents starved her and left her outside on a cold night.
The bill would change the adoption process to follow the recommendations made in a report issued last year by the Department of Social and Health Services called “Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee Report.”
“Reading a report like this is really very painful,” said bill sponsor Rep. Mary Helen Roberts (D-Lynnwood).
The report detailed what happened to 15 adopted children, Roberts said. Of the 15, two children died, four were sexually abused and five children had food withheld as a punishment to the point where they were diagnosed as being severely malnourished.
“We are completely remiss in our responsibility to these children at this point,” said David Gusterson of Adoptive Parents of Ethiopian Community, speaking in support of the bill. “We have a duty as a society to be doing a much better job, in particular when we’re bringing in children from other countries. We drag children in from other countries and they end up locked in closets, abused, starved or dead.”
Some of the recommendations included in the report:
- Keep track of adoption proceedings that fail
- Increase the minimum qualifications for social workers who do home checks
- Investigate the disciplinary philosophies of prospective adoptive parents, both during and after placement
“An applicant’s attitude towards discipline is very important to identify an appropriate match between a given child’s background circumstances and needs, and identifying the most appropriate family for that child,” said Patrick Dowd of the Office of the Family and Children Ombudsman.
The bill is scheduled for executive action by the committee Thursday.