Regulation of adoption services needed to ensure protection of children

By Jen Kyne

November 8, 2012 /

The Washington state adoptive system recently came under fire after a number of child abuse cases came to light. The Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee was set up following these violent incidents, and the committee recently released its report.

The study’s findings need to be taken into serious consideration, and the recommendations need to be given the support and the funding needed, not only in Washington, but also across the nation.

The report, which the group sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire, included 15 case studies on the violent acts that occurred during 2010 and 2011. The violent acts ranged from physical abuse to death, as in the case of 13-year-old Hana Grace Williams, who froze to death outside her house.

Williams was adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 and her parents, Larry and Carri Williams, thought that leaving Williams outside was a proper form of punishment. As the case against the parents developed, it was found that she was also starved and forced to sleep in a closet.

Such occurrences should not be a used as an argument against adoption, and the Washington system should not be shut down. Instead, it needs to be improved to ensure that children are placed in the best possible environments.

In the beginning of the report, the committee clearly stated that most adoptive families in Washington provide nurturing, loving homes. They explained that, within the cases studied, there was no specific unified reason behind the violent incidents. Instead of a single fixed cause, the group reported a few problems within the system that should be changed.

A few of the suggested corrections include “requiring individuals conducting adoption home studies to have adequate education, training or licensing requirements,” “strengthening regulations governing licensed adoption agencies to increase the state’s ability to monitor the performance of child-placing agencies” and “requiring prospective adoptive parents to have adequate education, training and preparation to adopt a child.”

The report noted the importance of building up the system, making sure those involved in the process are properly prepared and providing continuous support for the adoptive families.

One of the problems highlighted after the report’s release was that, while these recommendations are vital for keeping adopted children safe and need to be implemented, they require a lot of money. While this is an understandable concern, keeping children safe needs to be one of the state’s top priorities, and thus providing the necessary funds should also be a top priority.

Adoption can be a beautiful thing, providing children with loving families and happy healthy environments in which to grow up. If the system changes, the children involved will have a much better chance at being placed in the right home with people who truly deserve them.

The process will never be perfect, and there are expected challenges that any family – adoptive or not – will face. The challenges of raising a child can be expected, but violence and neglect cannot be tolerated, and the system must work now to help combat these occurrences.

The Severe Abuse of Adopted Children Committee’s findings cannot be ignored, and the issue of funding must not be used as a long term deterrent: The system cannot be left as is.


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