' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adopted children killed by their parents as they "train" them

Monday, November 7, 2011

Adopted children killed by their parents as they "train" them

Spare the rod and spoil the child goes the old adage, but in today's post we change it to: Spare the rod and SAVE the child. 

The front page of The New York Times carries a story about a simple preacher from Tennessee, Michael Pearl, who with his wife, Debi, has sold more than 670,000 copies of his self-published book, To Train Up a Child. Train is another word for corporal punishment. Christian websites and magazines are all atwitter over To Train Up a Child. They love it, and so do, apparently, parents who home school their children.

Trouble is, some kids in families who have To Train Up a Child are dying because the use of the rod (and switch, and a quarter-inch plumbing line that can be rolled up and carried in one's pocket for immediate use). And you know what? The ones reported on the Times piece are all: Adopted. Many from Africa.

"In the latest case, Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Washington were home schooling their six children when they adopted a boy and a girl from Ethiopia in 2008. (Ed: Now they have eight.) The two were seen by their new parents as rebellious, according to friends.

"Late one night in May this year, the adopted girl. Hana, was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition, officials determined. According to the sheriff's report, her parents had deprived her of food for days at a time and had made her sleep in a cold barn or a closet, and shower outside with a hose. And they often whipped her, leaving marks on her legs. The mother had praised the Pearls' book and given a copy to a friend, the sheriff's report said. Hana had been beaten the day of her death...with the 15-inch plastic tube recommended by Mr. Pearl."
Hana Williams in a happy moment; her adoptive parents are charged with homicide
Other snippets from the book include: "a little fasting is good training;" hosing off a child slow on picking up potty training; instructions on whipping a child on the arms, legs, or back; using light taps for children who roll off their beds; and how to respond to defiant older children who need "switching" for a "spiritual cleansing." They do suggest the punishment not be carried to extreme, but Good Lord! carry around plumbing tubing for a quick fix for an uppity kid?

The same kind of plumbing tube was reported to have been used to beat Lydia Schatz, 7, who was adopted at 4 from Liberia and died in Paradise, California in 2010. Her parents had the book, but ignored the Pearl's admonition not to use force to excess: Lydia was whipped for hours, with pauses for prayer.  She died from severe tissue damage, and her older sister had to be hospitalized. (No mention whether she also is adopted. And I could not help but note the sad irony of their town, Paradise.) The Schatzs were home schooling nine children, three of them adopted. They are now serving long prison terms after Lydia's adoptive father, Kevin Schatz, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and torture, and Elizabeth Schatz to voluntary manslaughter and unlawful corporal punishment. 

69_web_lgTo Train Up a Child also came up in the trial of Lynn Paddock of Johnson Country, North Carolina, who was convicted of first-degree murder of Sean Paddock, 4, in 2006. The Paddocks had adopted six American children, some with emotional problems, and turned to the Internet to find the Pearls' website, Ms. Paddock said. Sean suffocated after being wrapped tightly in a blanket. His siblings testified that they were beaten daily with the...same plumbing tube.

Through the book and video sales, and donations the Pearls' No Greater Joy Ministries has brought in $1.7 million a year, which they say goes "back to the cause." No further explanation to what cause is offered.

The Times piece ends with a quote from an adoptive mother in Portland, Me, who has two adopted children from Ethiopia. "These children have been ripped from their home country, extended family, culture and language," said Lisa Veleff Day. "The last thing they need is to be smacked around."

All the deaths associated with this awful book were of children who were not the biological issue of the people raising them. I know parents sometimes do beat their own children to death, or starve them; but it is the unusual parent who does that. Here we have grownups beating and starving children who were adopted presumably for a better life. Additional commentary today is not necessary.--lorraine


Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate 

We have written about international adoption many times; for more stories, use the search tool at the very bottom of the page. Search for "corruption in international adoption," or a specific country you are interested in, or "Elizabeth Bartholet" or "E.J. Graff."

As a side note: One mother who read the blog on Didion's Blue Nights was offended because I used the word: natural, as in natural family. What other marginalized group gets such push back when they want to change what they are called? Only unreconstructed bigots used the N word, chauvinists used to call feminists dykes, but certainly those words were never heard from the liberals who insist that we are nothing but birth mothers who bear birth children. I suggest we start calling ourselves: the Not Artificial Mothers. That ought to get some blood boiling.


  1. Here in the UK, our government is pressing for swifter more lenient approval of prospective adoptive parents. I think that what this and your previous Didion post clearly highlight is how ill equipped many adopters are to deal with any children, never mind those who are dealing with the trauma of separation and identity confusion. In the eyes of the British popular media, I'm sorry to say even the guardian, adopters are portrayed at best as saintly benefactors, and at worst as entitled consumers. I have yet to read an article about infertility distress that does not tout adoption as a potential 'cure', nor one which suggests that such distress might create a harmful climate for a child to grow up in.
    I am looking forward to reading the Didion book and thought you might be interested in this one :


  2. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it".

    That is one of the (many) bible verses my son's adopter mother had in her "Dear Birth Mother" folder, to the unfortunate young woman who would be brainwashed herself enough by adoption propaganda to give up her child to her (which, tragically, happened to be me).

    I shutter to think that I allowed myself to go through with that act, knowing what I know now about fundamentalist wacko "Christians" now. They now have my son so brainwashed it is outright disturbing.

    Any child who get's adopted by fundamentalist wacko's is in danger. If they are not in physical danger, they are in danger of having their minds destroyed by the mind control brainwashing that is 'religion', make no mistake about it.

  3. thank you for posting this. As an adoptee who was homeschooled i can attest to the fact that this is all to common. Many homeschoolers adopt and many of them are fundamentalist. Thank God my adoptive family did not totally buy into the ideas of Pearl i probably would have died.

  4. I wish I could say I was surprised, I'm not. "Foster and adopted children are 5 to 7 times more likely to suffer abuse or die at the hands of their adopters/care providers, than children left in so-called abusive homes." Those words are written into a report of a study that was ordered by the USJD - in 2007. It is not the first such study and it was not done under the auspices of any party other than the Justice Department...... Sadly, it was also private and ignored.

  5. As an adoptee, a Christian and a homeschooler [still reading? Smash your screen, yet? ;)], I can attest that these issues are in the forefront of my mind and prayers.

    Number 1, and most importantly, I have deep, deep problems with individuals who call themselves "Christians" and "adoptive parents". The two DO NOT go together. How can we say on the one hand that we trust God with all things, "but He can't provide us with a baby so we'll go out and get our own" (this goes with IVF, IUI, egg donation, sperm donation, etc)?

    And don't forget all of the Catholic adoption agencies that told most, if not all, of the adoptees that their mothers died in car accidents just after they were born (to explain why they were adopted and encourage them never to search). Christian? Not in my book.

    Evil exists. People lie. Just because someone says they are something does not make it true. Remember the duck analogy - if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck , acts like a duck, it's a duck.

    These people do not act like Christians. Don't put all people who claim to be Christians in that category.

    Just as I don't believe that my dear, first mother friend will abandon me just because my own did.

  6. Ugh. There are simply no words to respond to reports such as these.

  7. Lori is entirely correct, children in foster care and adoption are far more likely to be abused, in Canada someone pegged this as ten times more likely. Foster care and adoption are not a cure for child abuse, if anything they are a recipe for it. No one bothers to look at children in care or adoption as being abused half the time, and despite murdered, abused and tortured adoptees society refuses to see the reality of the massive abuse happening in both.

    It is a nightmare. Child abuse education should include both foster care and adoption, to omit it any longer is nothing but sheer negligence on the part of government and all else with this issue. People need to look where the baby brokers and adoption peddlers claim there is no need.

  8. The problem with these adopters is not that they are Christians but that they are extreme Fundamentalists. Most Christians of the mainstream variety do not think this way, nor do moderate members of other religions.

    I do not think that extreme Christian, Jewish, Muslim or any other sort of fundamentalist sect or cult should be allowed to adopt. It is too extreme a lifestyle to place a child into.

    What is seen again and again in these horrible situations is too many children in one home, no realistic preparation for dealing with children already traumatized by former experiences, bizarre belief systems, and homeschooling which takes the kids off the radar of social services which might spot abuse before it is too late.
    Add that sick book about Biblical discipline and you have a recipe for disaster, abuse and murder.

    Killing your disrespectful children IS recommended in the Bible, along with many other unsavory and strange things. Taking it all literally is dangerous and foolish and such people should not be entrusted with children,

  9. A personal note here since we are talking about abuse in adoptive vs. NATURAL families:

    My daughter Jane was abused sexually by her grandmother's live-in "friend," which occurred after her adoptive grandfather died. After the accusation, when Jane was 17, Grandma did not throw the bum out. It was a sore point between Jane and her adoptive parents until the end.

  10. Kristi said: Number 1, and most importantly, I have deep, deep problems with individuals who call themselves "Christians" and "adoptive parents". The two DO NOT go together. How can we say on the one hand that we trust God with all things, "but He can't provide us with a baby so we'll go out and get our own" (this goes with IVF, IUI, egg donation, sperm donation, etc)?

    Yes, this. A thousand million times this.

  11. Maryanne is right that the problem with these adopters is not that they are Christians but that they are extreme conservative evangelical Christians who view adoption positively because it provides children to be raised as warriors in God's Army.

    Check this out:


  12. I strongly, again, resist the idea that "extreme conservative evangelical Christians" have anything to do with anything in this post, other than the fact that they themselves may call themselves that. Extreme? Yes. Nothing else applies.

    We must not look at otherwise strongly conservative, evangelical Christians as anything but. The killing mentioned by Maryanne in the scripture is in the Old Testament. The OT also justifies and demands that we kill anyone who doesn't believe in God...kill him, kill his family, kill his livestock, kill his neighbors, etc. However, those who do so are not in any way Christian. Christ came to bring a new promise - the greatest commandment being to love one another, making unlawful and unacceptable the killing and sacrifice found in Genesis.

    For me, the problem is and always has been that the adoptive parents are not the parents. I, an adoptee, understand why my aparents never understood me, told me "pretty isn't your thing", let me have free reign (so long as I was not anywhere near them); I understand also why my true Christian friends who fostered an abandoned child (in their community, not from foreign soil) then adopted this child, couldn't homeschool her as intended. And finally, I understand why aparents can kill their adopted children.

    They have no connection to these children. Every day they are reminded that they are raising someone else's child that doesn't look like them, act like them, laugh like them. The adoptee wasn't a blank slate after all.

    As a Christian, I forgive the aparents easier than the agencies and "social workers" that failed me, my mother and all of the other birth mothers and their children.

  13. Kristi, these murderers and torturers of children, and the authors of that awful book and their followers will be the first to tell you how very Christian they are, so to say that certain kinds of conservative Fundamentalist Christians are the problem here is very relevant. They may not be Christian in the way you or I might define Christianity, but they certainly are at one extreme of Christian belief. Their definition of Christianity and their isolation from school and mainstream society have a great deal to do with the death of those children.

    The particular way in which these people mistreated their children is intimately related to their religious beliefs. It is NOT just that the children are not blood-related. Most decent people of any belief or none would not treat any child the way they did, related or not, adopted or not.

    That these children were adopted from other cultures probably made it worse for them, but that is only one factor among many, and the these people probably adopted from Christian agencies that hold the same beliefs that they do, so they were approved.

    Some Christians do terrible things in the service of their sincere beliefs, as do those of any faith or none. Saying these people are "not Christian" does not really work.

  14. Thank you for your intelligent, sensitive comments, Kristi.

    Pretty wasn't your thing? Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror. You are beautiful.

    In so many many ways my daughter was nothing like her conformist, don't-rock-the-boat parents. Good people, yes, but not her people. Her mother thought the worst thing she could say to Jane was to say: You're just like LORRAINE. She could have said, "your mother," ...but I couldn't be that, now could I?

    --A mother. By biology, birth, numerical order, ancestry. The whole kit and caboodle.

  15. I think adoption itself is a form of child abuse and mother abuse given all the damage and pain it causes.


  16. AmstelLife: An incredible blogged memoir by a 24 year old woman who proudly gave her daughter up for adoption and is currently enjoying an open adoption. Birth mother Amy Hutton has such a positive outlook on life and her situation that it’s hard not to smile when reading her blog. Definitely one for the blog roll

    What is wrong with this paragraph and why did it make me feel like barfing? Hint: start with "proud."

  17. Kristi said: Number 1, and most importantly, I have deep, deep problems with individuals who call themselves "Christians" and "adoptive parents".

    Well, Kristi, I don't think Elisa Morgan who wrote the NIV Moms Devotional Bible would agree with you.


  18. Makes me wonder what our kids endured. If the worst thing
    that your daughter's adopter felt she could say to her was
    she was just like you. Why shouldn't she be she had your blood coursing through her body. As if you were a bad person to be like. Makes me wonder what other abuses she endured as an adoptee.
    My son was told I didn't want him by his adopter. This happened soon after I found him.
    Love isn't it wonderful unless your an adoptee then things are thrown at you because your Loved so much it turns to anger.

  19. Viktoria, to make it worse, open adoptions are not part of life near the river Amstel.

  20. NIV?

    Let's explain for those of us not in the know.

  21. NIV stand for New International Version

  22. "Good people, yes, but not her people."

    So, so true, Lorraine!! And thank you for your kindness, as always. Can I just keep looking in your mirror? ;)

    And, Robin, I agree.

    I don't normally respond to "Anonymous", but I have heard Elisa Morgan speak. She is the president of MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) and, yes, and adoptive mother of two boys (I think?) She is also a minister and while she didn't write the Mom's Devotional Bible, she wrote most of the devotions in the Mom's Devotional Bible (I read it daily). You are right - she would not agree with me.

    Most Christians, most of society, most anyone who has never lost a child or been lost to adoption would not agree with me.

    That's why most of us are here on this wonderful blog - it's the one place we feel understood and agreed with. (I call it the "No Kool-Aid Zone".)

  23. http://www.onetruegift.com/newsletters/10-2011/index.html

    here's the link to "best blogs" starting with Amstel.
    and then FMF

  24. OMG, those blogs are horrid. Did they ever speak to any adoptees before they made their adoption plan for those poor children. Imagine hearing your mother crowing about how wonderful it was to give you away. What is wrong with these people?

  25. I must have missed something in this comment thread. Not sure how it got to the open adoption blogs but, since the subject has been raised...it's something I've blogged about (blogging only for Adoption Awareness Month).

    Most of those blogs (that I've seen) appear to be by moms who have placed/relinquished anywhere from a matter of months to a few years ago. There may be a couple (like the one mentioned above) where the child is of lower-primary age.

    They haven't lived the thick and thin of an open adoption, nor have they endured an open adoption's closure... which can happen at any time, with no recourse.

    Over two decades ago, if the internet had existed, I'd probably have been one of them. I still thought open adoption was "forever," still assumed I'd been told the truth, and was willing to overlook many things that just didn't gel.

    (Call me a Pollyanna, but I still believe, when open adoption is based in equality and free from coercion, it can work for the children. I.e. Dawn, the mom whose story you posted a few weeks ago, and others who have managed to put aside possessiveness. But only time will tell how the kids feel.)

    I also believe that family preservation, when moms are parentally fit (as is typically the case with the demographic that's targeted for open adoption) should be paramount.

    I suspect that these bloggers likely have never read/seen/been told that adoptees often view placement/relinquishment as abandonment. Based on my experience and that of other open-adoption first-moms I've known, I would suspect their pregnancy counselors told them their children would be grateful, glad and better off adopted. The view that one is an instrument of Divine intent is very common... pushed by CPC counselors.

    Been there.

    I discovered otherwise (about adoptees perceptions, etc.) only with the advent of ready-internet access, around 1998 -- and was horrified.

    Many of these bloggers appear also to be highly-religiously influenced, as was I at the time. (I.e. "God's plan for families doesn't include single motherhood.)

    I can't look at their blogs often because I wonder which of these moms will wind up with closed adoptions -- in months or years. Which ones will lose all contact with their children? Which will be required to adhere to increasingly absurd parameters in order to maintain contact (i.e. - required to hide later-born siblings, be silent in the face of trust betrayals, etc.)?

    Though peers (adoptive parents) are holding each other more accountable now than they did years ago, I am certain some of these open adoptions will close.

    I wish I could say differently.

    When they do, I hope these women are able to find support somewhere.

    I hope the children involved are able to navigate the difficulties presented by a closed open adoption.

  26. I don't trust myself at the moment to stay relatively balanced or coherent in anything I have to say about this subject. My own son was mentally and physically abused by his adoptive parents for many years as a child. I tend to go a little ballistic when talking about it.

    But I did want to share an article originally published by Carole J. Anderson on this subject back in 1991. Carole, an early member of Concerned United Birthparents (CUB), was also a professional social worker for many years and studied child abuse among adoptees. The title of her journal article is “Child Abuse & Adoption." You can read it in its entirety at http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/archive/AndersonCAAA.htm

  27. Kristi, thank you for replying.
    It seems to me that in view of what you have written here ("The two (Christianity and adoption) DO NOT go together") not only do you disagree with Elisa Morgan, but also, because of that fundamental disagreement, you do not even consider her Christian.

    What would you consider to be the best option for the few children whose natural parents and extended family are simply unwilling or unable to raise them? Or for children whose circumstances within their natural families are so dire that it would be dangerous for them to remain there? For the latter in particular guardianship is not always a viable option.

  28. Dear Unknown Faceless Nameless Person in Favor of Adoption in the name of God:

    A) please use some kind of moniker to make following your thread easier.

    B) Before you accuse us and others to be against all adoption, please read: WHAT WE THINK ABOUT ADOPTION, one of our permanent pages. You can find it hear the top of the blog, just under the name, BM, First Mother Forum. And remember, we do not go to your blogs to antagonize you.

  29. This is from so-called Dear Unknown Faceless Nameless Person Assumed to be in Favor of Adoption in the name of God.

    One, I am a first mother. Two, I am not religious. Three, I do not have a blog. Four, I do not support adoption unless absolutely necessary and the pros outweigh the cons, by which I mean there is no parent or close original family willing or able to care for the child.
    In accordance with your polite request, if I post again I shall sign myself DUFNPF.

    Here's a link to an article by Lisa Belkin on Huff PO.
    Can Adoption Lead to Child Abuse?

  30. DUFNPF:

    This is not meant to be cheeky, but what I mean is the next time you comment, hit the "name" category and put in DUFNPF or whatever you would like, and instead of "anonymous" your comment will come up DUFNPF (or other name) in the header and be easy to identify.

    And I ask the same of those who are publishing running commentary and discussing issues with each other. That makes it easier for everyone to follow a thread.
    Thank you.

  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  32. Robin,

    I have to agree with you adoption is a form of child abuse. It starts from the day of birth. Lies told to protect not the adoptee but those that adopt. When a child is forced to live
    a lie instead of a truth what does that day? It days truth doesn't matter at least not your truth because mine is more important making sure the lies remain intact to protect me.

    I think it's an unhealty way to live and it's abuse plain and simple.

  33. hmmmm.... I wonder if these parents had enough forethought to realize that #1 what goes around comes around and #2 that these children will be choosing their nursing homes and caring for them in their old age...

  34. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/religion-and-abuse-judge-_b_1077778.html

    Interesting article on Fundamentalist "discipline" in general but does mention some of the children killed were adopted.

    I think there is a tie-in between the extremes of abuse and the Fundamentalist "adopt an orphan" ministries that urge adoption more to save souls and increase their numbers than to provide safe, decent homes for children. That many of these churches have their own missions and international adoption agencies makes it all very cozy for the unfit, sadistic, and unprepared to adopt.

  35. Many of these orphanage kids have Reactive Attachment Disorder. It appears these parents don't have a clue about RAD. The current research suggests that the effective parenting approach is to use extremely gentle, non-confrontational methods--Soft-spokenness, nurturing and acceptance. Corporal punishment doesn't help RAD kids.

    If these parents had gotten any kind of counseling at all, they'd know that, but because of their fundamentalist background they probably would shy away from behavioral health professionals.

  36. Maryanne wrote:"That many of these churches have their own missions and international adoption agencies makes it all very cozy for the unfit, sadistic, and unprepared to adopt."

    I'm just wondering how this is done. I'm not very familiar with IA and am interested in learning more.


  37. I just heard Penn state Sandusky is an adoptive parent to six adopted boys and fostered others.

    How many of those boys were abused by this "man" how many lives did he mess up?

  38. See the sidebar on the left of the blog, at top.

  39. Robin wrote:
    I'm not very familiar with IA and am interested in learning more."

    IA is complicated, often corrupt, and differs from country to country. I hope others with more expertise than I in this field will help answer this.

    But to get you started, here is an article about Evengelical "orphan ministries:

    Here is a site about international adoption in general by adult international adoptees:

    Marley Greiner of Bastardette has written in depth about abused and murdered Russian adoptees:

    David Smolin:

    There is much, much more out there.

  40. And we at FMF have written numerous posts about the corruption in various countries. Pop in a country in the search function at the bottom of the blog (Guatemala, Nepal, China , etc.) and you start get links to our stories. Oh, and Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet is another good name to search. She never met a kid from a poor country who wouldn't be better off adoption in a rich country.

  41. Robin, I see that Maryanne has already beaten me to it with Kathryn Joyce's excellent article, but if you want to hear it from the horse's mouth, there's this:
    Orphan Care and the Great Commission Resurgence
    "My prayer is that twenty years from now there are thousands of Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries, and church leaders who started their lives as orphans now preaching the Gospel of God their Father."
    It's worth reading through the whole thing.

    Here is the Christian World Adoption Agency referred to by Kathryn Joyce in her article:
    http://www.cwa.org/ which believes that "God is in control of our agency and your adoption".

  42. Lo, my mind is blank on the name of the journalist who wrote the great article debunking the "orphan crisis" worldwide. I know it has been featured here and many places but can't find it.

    Just a caveat ; for all that is wrong with international adoption,and very much is, not all of it is corrupt, and I don't want to be included with those who see all adoptive parents, international or domestic, as evil, or all adoption as "abuse". If everything is abuse, nothing is. It trivializes things like child rape committed by adoptive parent and founder of children's charity "The Second Mile" Sandusky. Sandusky procured victims, some foster kids, from his "charity".

    This is a story that will just get uglier and uglier as more is uncovered.

  43. Was it "The Lie We Love"' by E. J Graff?

  44. For Robin, three by Graff:

    The Lie We Love:

    The Baby Business
    This article specifically mentions the Christian World Adoption Agency ("God is in control of our agency and your adoption").

    The Makeni Children:

    I too disagree that adoption is abuse by or in itself, or that all international adoptions that have taken place are necessarily tainted by corruption.
    However, I do agree that adoption as an institution is dangerously open to abuse, and that when adoptive parents abuse the children in their trust the suffering and sense of loss felt by those children is exponentially compounded.
    I also think that when children are removed from their situations within their original countries and adopted to fulfill the dictates of "The Great Commission", they are particularly vulnerable, because their adopters have no real interest in them except as a means to an end.

  45. Yes, Graff was whom I meant and thanks for providing those excellent articles. Also agreeing with your last paragraph. especially on the subject of "The Great Commission."

    Among those with these beliefs, adoption is not mostly a "cure" for infertility, but a way to save heathen souls. Many of the Christian Fundamentalists who adopt already have biological children; some have more than they can handle, yet they adopt more at the behest of their church. Some of those who are infertile become "Child hoarders" adopting large numbers of special needs kids with little realistic preparation for what they are taking on.

    As Heavens to Betsy said, these kids are a project, not seen as individuals but as "souls" to be forced into a fanatic mold. The problems that already exist in any adoption are greatly multiplied for these unfortunate kids, especially the ones from other cultures.

  46. The problem is not adoption, its adoption for religious reasons.

    Adoptees would be better off if they were adopted by atheists. Perhaps that should be a requirement. Also, there should be a limit to how many children one couple can adopt and it might be better to only allow couples with no bio children to adopt. They are likely to be more invested in the adoptee.

  47. The problem is adoption, it is an abnormal situation that is very easy to lead to abuse.



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