Washington State House Democrats


Bill would improve adoption process to protect children from abuse

Do you remember the horrific story of Hana Williams, an adopted Ethiopian girl living in Sedro-Woolley? A couple of years ago her adoptive parents starved her, abused her, beat her repeatedly and left her outside on a cold night, which ultimately killed her.  

Hana’s story is not unique. A recent DSHS report on severe abuse of adopted children recounts 15 cases of adopted children who found anything but loving homes. Two of these children perished and the thirteen survivors are learning to piece their lives back together.

Parents who adopt children are supposed to love them, not cause pain and suffering or neglect their basic needs.  What is wrong with the system and how do we fix it to ensure the safety and well-being of adopted children in our state? 

The report includes recommendations addressing each phase of the adoption process from assessing and training prospective adoptive parents, to support services for adopted children and their families. 

Because implementing the recommendations requires some changes in state law, Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, a Lynnwood Democrat, is sponsoring the legislation (HB 1675) to make it happen. 

Her bill to protect adopted children from abuse and neglect would:

  • Establish procedures to identify, track and report adoption proceedings that fail or are not completed.
  • Require prospective parents to disclose their planned approach to discipline and punishment.

“This bill puts an emphasis on trying to do things right before the adoption takes place so that we know the child goes to a safe and caring home,” said Roberts, whose legislative track record shows her commitment to meeting the needs of Washington children. 

The bill was heard yesterday morning in the Judiciary Committee. Several people testified in favor of the bill, including representatives from the Ethiopian Community in Seattle. Among them, David Guterson, author of the 1994 bestseller “Snow Falling on Cedars,” who is the adoptive parent of an Ethiopian child.   

Roberts concluded her presentation of the bill saying that we have to honor a process that does not shortcut our concern for the safety and well-being of children.  “For us to have seen a placement that had been examined and approved, yet resulted in a fatality, says that we need to be very conscious and ask the questions, how is this child going to be parented and is this child going to be safe?” 

Watch the hearing on HB 1675: