Sunday, September 25, 2011

If kids are 'better off,' does it matter whether they are adopted or abducted?

Jane

“But aren’t they better off”? That’s the question that’s always asked when people learn about the possibility that a child adopted illegally may be returned to his original family. The unstated hubris is that children are always better off with middle class American families than say, with a single Dad in Virginia, poor parents in rural China, or a couple in impoverished Guatemala.

A Guatemalan Court has ordered that seven year old Karen Abigail be returned to her parents, Loyda and Dayner Rodriguez. If her adoptive parents, Jennifer and Timothy Monahan of Liberty Missouri, fail to return Karen by September 29, the Court will fine them $3,000 Quetzales (about $389) and order Guatemalan authorities to work with US authorities and the International Police (INTERPOL) to find Karen and return her to her real parents.

Karen, whose real name is Anyeli Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez, was abducted from her home in 2006 and sold in the adoption market. The Monahans applied to adopt a child through Celebrate Children, a Florida-based Christian non-profit. The agency director, Sue Hedberg, offered them Karen who had been brought to the agency’s attention by a Guatemalan, Marvin Bran. However when a DNA test revealed that the woman who relinquished Karen was not her mother, Hedberg suggested to Jennifer Monahan that Bran could take the child to an orphanage and have her declared abandoned which would obviate the need for a DNA test. This plan worked and the Monahans took Karen to Missouri in 2008.

Through meticulous detective work, Loyda Rodriguez discovered what had happened to her daughter. She and her husband filed an action for Karen’s return and a DNA test revealed that Loyda was Karen’s mother. The Monahan have not talked to the media but hired Peter Mirijanian, of a Washington DC based public relations firm, who stated the Monahans “will continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child.”

It’s a safe bet that with Mirijanian’s help, the Monahans will play “the better off " card (i. e. best interests of the child).” The "better off" argument in its extreme is another form of eugenics. (If society can’t keep defectives from breeding, at least it can keep them from raising their offspring.) Like eugenics, however, mass adoptions like we saw in the Baby Scoop Era (1945 to 1973) do not make a dent in social problems. Bringing twenty thousand or so children from poor countries to the US each year does nothing for the millions of children living in horrendous circumstances all over the world.

Arguably, of course, any particular child might be better off with a different set of parents. When I grew up, I thought it would be dandy if my parents were Rockefellers.

While there are clear cases of children “better of” because of adoption, there are also clear cases of “worse off” children. On September 16 Michael and Annette Craver were convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their seven year old son adopted from Russia. Christopher Sutton, whom we wrote about here, is serving a life sentence for the murder of his adoptive mother and the attempted murder of his adoptive father.

For most children, however, it’s impossible to know whether they would be better off. As Jane JeongTrenka, a Korean adoptee wrote in The Language of Blood:

“Would I rather have not been adopted? I don’t know. ... How can I weigh the loss of my language and culture against the freedom that America has to offer, the opportunity to have the same rights as a man? How can a person exiled as a child, without a choice, possibly fathom how he would have ‘turned out’ had he stayed in Korea? How many educational opportunities must I mark on my tally sheet before I can say it was worth losing my mother? How can an adoptee weigh her terrible loss against the burden of gratitude she feels for her adoptive country and parents?”

What we do know, however, is that in accepting the “better off argument,” society is condoning child abduction and ultimately the mass redistribution of children from the powerless to the powerful.
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While I'm writing about corruption in adoption, we note that Armenia has joined Guatemala, China, Cambodia, Ethiopia and many other nations where illegal and unethical adoption practices abound.

For more on this story see: US Won't Return Adopted Child snatched from Guatemalan mother

29 comments :

  1. "burden of gratitude" That's telling, isn't it? I'm grateful for many things, but none of it feels like a 'burden'.

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  2. Sarah: Jane was quoting an adoptee. Some feel that way.

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  3. I know she was and that's what I mean. Gratitude shouldn't be a burden and when it is, it seems like it's more imposed than genuine. Not to say that there isn't genuine gratitude, just that a 'burden' suggests (to me) that someone has said "You *should* be grateful".

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  4. I am appalled by this case, where it is CLEARLY a violation, and I was not aware of the apars decision in this. Obviously, they were aware that there was some sort of misdeed here and chose to ignore it in order to get what they wanted and fall back on the argument, which as you said, will undoubtedly be that the child is "better off" staying here and it is "in the best interest" to keep her away from her real family. This is another shocking example of the Ugly American in adoption.

    Frankly, I get tired of everything, no matter how heinous the deed, being "in the best interest of children" whether it is or not. These children have mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. At what point do THEIR interests get taken into account? These are people's lives that are being moved around, not chess pieces, and every episode like this one disrupts many lives, not just the child's.

    It will be interesting to see what comes of this, and if Interpol will indeed act against a US Citizen. I hope they do. It is time that the US be called to account for raping the futures of so many nations and playing fast and loose with the lives of women and their babies.

    Congratulations to this stalwart and courageous mother who tracked her child down! She should be held up as an example for every woman in the world as the best possible role model of motherhood wronged. There should be coins minted with her image, and medals in her honor. Instead, I fear, she will be ripped to shreds in American "justice" much like mothers have for decades.

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  5. Great piece, Jane. I applaud you and Lorraine for working tiresly for justice for children and their mothers. I hope the aparents do the right thing and bring their illegally adopted daughter to Guatemala and transition her lovingly back to her family. I read a piece by an adoptive mother suggesting they pay for the parents to move here. Really? What ugly Americans we can be.
    I would buy one of those coins, Sandy. Can you even imagine if a child was obducted in the US and adopted out to a foreign family? The child would be on US soil by now.

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  6. In the United States, not only have the arguments "better off" and "in the best interests" been a mainstay in adoption, but they have been used with horrors like the attempt to end the Native American tribes, and as an excuse to steal children for profit from poor families and place them in foster care. This is not new or different. It takes recreating the belief that no matter what family it is, the child belongs with that family.

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  7. I would guess that after many years the child will eventually be reunited with her mother and father. It will have been a bitter fight. The tragedy is that the adoptive parents force the split, rather than having the courage to help their daughter to return to her family, and potentially be part of her life forever. It also seems that the adoptive parents knew from the beginning that something was not right with the papers. How do you not say to your daughter, "These are your parents and they love you. We have a hard road ahead but we are with you for the journey." This IS love, not possession.

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  8. "It takes recreating the belief that no matter what family it is, the child belongs with that family."

    Of course, let us return to those wonderful days of the 19th century when there were no child welfare laws. Children were owned by the biological father, to do with as he pleased. Ah, the good old days!

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  9. Anonymous: Of course Lori doesn't mean that, and neither does Jane in the post. Your cynical comment reveals that you, Anonymous, don't understand squat about what it means to not be raised in your biological family because another one has a shiny red tricycle waiting for you. If they can afford the tricycle, they can have you!

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  10. @Anon - 7:54 a.m. -

    No, that is not what I meant. I hear bitter and angry - not sure why since you didn't bother to put up a name or a reason for your answer.

    What I meant is that those two arguments have been used by the "privileged" to explain their greed in obtaining children for adoption and more than just adoption. States get paid to keep kids in foster care, even when it is something that makes no sense.

    Children need connections with their biological families for positive growth and development. To develop identity, a child needs a reflection of themselves, both physically and psychologically. An adoptive and/or foster home do not supply that.

    If you choose to believe that I- Ms. Women's Rights - would even begin to think that a man owned me or my kid or that I would condone such ideas, well, your issue, not mine.

    @Lorraine, thank you for defending us, but this one is choosing to be willfully ignorant. That is not something I bother with.

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  11. From Michelle Harrison: I'm "Unknown" and don't know why it came out that way.

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  12. I guess this Missouri couple agrees with Sheryl Crow who I quote from US Magazine "Wyatt is definitely all mine. Little souls find their way to you whether they're from your womb or someone else's." I guess it just doesn't matter how that little soul finds its way to you. This is such a standard (defensive) line with APs. NPs never have to say anything like this.

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  13. Better off?

    Too many AP's believe their own publicity.

    That's never a good idea.

    (And might I throw in-do we really have to listen to people don't have the courage to put some kind of name with their words?

    Give yourself some kind of handle people, declare yourselves, we all have.)

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  14. Excellent post! As an adoptee, the first thing I thought was that this argument is very similar to the "quality of life" argument.

    Governments and insurance companies regularly deny necessary medications or assistance to those whom they deem to have a "lesser" quality of life. Most famously, Stephen Hawking, almost completely debilitated by Lou Gehrig's disease, has said that "clearly, there [are] people worse off than me...it shows that one need not lose hope."

    Who are we to decide to whom a child belongs, where he would be better off? Leave those decisions to God and nature.

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  15. Completely off topic but the Style network is doing a documentary about a sperm donor who meets a few of the 70 children he "donated to." Should be interesting.

    http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/27/sperm-donor-documentary-comes-to-style/

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  16. Yo anon: did you see the sidebar I posted yesterday? I watched the show last night and may be doing a short post on it. But my cold is still terrible.

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  17. It seems like the facts don't matter all that much to you.

    1. The abandonment process doesn't allow DNA to be ignored. The first adoption had to be terminated with the US Embassy and the negative result reported. The abandonment process here, according to online postings by their former lawyer, resulted in a police investigation and the girl's pic being published asking the birth family to come forward in two major papers. It was only when these efforts didn't work that a new adoption process could be started.

    2. Furthermore, how do you know this girl was kidnapped? The birth family here has reported publicly like a dozen different versions of the kidnapping. Look them up in Spanish and English. They are all online. If my child was kidnapped, it would be seared in my memory forever - the one true version. Furthermore, I had a friend who was a DNA expert look at the DNA test results of the kid, woman who presented her at the Embassy, and the alleged birth mother. And as their former lawyer reported online, the woman presenting the child at the Embassy wasn't a stranger, but was a close family member and likely the birth mother's sister. Why hasn't she been arrested or prosecuted??? Why has Sobrevivientes failed to address the family's complicity in this "kidnapping"?

    3. What evidence do you have that the Monahans are arguing or will argue the child is "better off" being in the U.S.?

    I don't know what is going on, but it is clear we've only heard a seriously distorted one side of the story.

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  18. Anon,

    Since you didn't provide your name or the source of the "facts" you cite, I can only assume that you are simply passing along unsubstantiated rumors.

    The facts I summarized come from a report by Erin Siegal of the Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/gender/adoption/Guatemala-Karen-Abigail.html

    I don't know what the Monahans are arguing or will argue. Since they didn't return Karen Abigail when they learned that her parents wanted her, I can only assume either (1) they thought she was better off with them or (2) they didn't care whether she was better off or not. Perhaps you could tell us which is true.

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  19. Adoptive parents should rise up in droves in outrage over the corruption that led to this case. Some do, but I would venture to say that many more spend their time trying to find ways to justify preventing the reunion.

    I can't imagine what it would have been like if someone had told me when my kids six or seven that I had to return them to their first parents. But I also cannot imagine what it would be like to live with the knowledge that my child had been stolen from their family.

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  20. "Furthermore, I had a friend who was a DNA expert look at the DNA test results of the kid, woman who presented her at the Embassy, and the alleged birth mother."

    And how did you get your hands on the the DNA test results? I'm calling bullshit on your bullshit. What's in it for this family to have staged this entire thing? It just doesn't ring true. The Monahans should immediatly start the process to return this child to her homeland and her loving mother.

    If the Monahans care so much for this child, perhaps they could move to Guatemala and maintain some contact with her.

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  21. The facts that Anonymous posted here are so murky it is hard to tell what she is referring to.

    Please, people, think before you post--will someone coming upon this cold have a clue what you are talking about?

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  22. Jane and everyone.

    Everything I posted can be found. You just need to take the time to find it.

    Fact 1 that I posted is just what Guatemalan law is. Ask a Guatemalan lawyer.

    Fact 2 is an open question. Loyda said the child was ripped out of her arms directly on the front porch, that she disappeared off the front porch when she went in to put groceries down, that she was in the backyard and the child disappeared from the house, and some other versions too. Why are there so many versions?

    Fact 3 is what it is. The DNA results are all available online (though not a direct comparison between Loyda and the woman) -- but that comparison was done and is published by the Monahans' former lawyer Susana Luarca - she says it is the sister. And that can be verified.

    While I'm sure some will say her word is worthless, given she is under indictment, she posted a detailed description of her involvement in the case from when she got involved in the abandonment to when the child was adopted

    Putting aside a presumption of innocence which means you shouldn't ignore the facts as presented by someone who hasn't yet been convicted of anything, she would have been CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY to post this level of detailed information AFTER her orphanage has been raided unless it would have been close to factually accurate - otherwise she will be cruxified by prosecutors. The level of detail in her account shows there is tons of things in there that can easily be proven accurate or false.

    See

    http://susanaluarca-english.blogspot.com/2009_10_10_archive.html

    http://susanaluarca-english.blogspot.com/2009_10_11_archive.html

    It is crystal clear from reading the postings by Susana Luarca at least that there is something really funky going on in Guatemala in this case.

    Many of you seem to interpret the Monahans silence as complicity or indifference.

    That is, of course, one possibility.

    But until the facts are known, there remains another equally likely possibility -- that the Monahans are deeply afraid of what is happening in Guatemala.

    Susana Luarca posted in 2009 the info about it being the biological sister who put Karen up for adoption.

    If you were the adoptive family under these circumstances, would you just automatically return a child to a woman whose own sister trafficked the child, particularly when she herself never came clean about that publicly and has told many different versions of the kidnapping?

    To me, this screams DANGER DANGER DANGER for the child.

    Anon.

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  23. Hello anonymous: Are you one of the Monahans?

    Not asking to attack, but it would be better to know whom we are supposedly talking to.

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  24. Why does it matter who I am? (no, I'm not a Monahan). Just someone who cares about having debates based on facts.

    It is fair to say I have a job where I can't express my opinion in my own name (e.g., gov't employee).

    But again, the FACTS should be what matters and people should express opinions, I would hope, about facts, no?

    Anon.

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  25. These articles refer to China, a different country, but I hope you are also watching there...

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/world/asia/china-fires-12-government-workers-in-illegal-adoption-scandal.html?scp=3&sq=china%20orphanages&st=cse

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/nyregion/chinas-adoption-scandal-sends-chills-through-families-in-united-states.html?scp=4&sq=china%20orphanages&st=cse

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/05/world/asia/05kidnapping.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=longhui&st=cse

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  26. Rep Chris Smith (R) - NJ has written an op-ed for FoxNews. In it he states: International child abduction rips children from their lives, taking them to a foreign land and alienating them from a left behind parent who loves them and whom they have a right to know. Their childhood is disrupted, in limbo, or sometimes in hiding as the taking parent seeks to evade the law, or to conjure legal cover for their immoral actions....


    We must call it what it is. Child abduction is child abuse.

    While the international community has recognized the harms and horrors of international child abduction, and established the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 1980 for the deterrence of abductors and prompt return of children, American parents have consistently experienced multi-year waits and costly legal battles for the return of their children—if the children are returned at all. Less than 40 percent of children are returned from countries that have signed the Convention.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/10/07/child-abduction-is-child-abuse/#ixzz1a5w1VQqI

    I think we all need to start writing him letters, asking him if he has called Jennifer and Timothy Monahan of Liberty Missouri and told them they are abusing Karen. I want to know if he has urged them return Karen to her legal and lawful parents after she was kidnapped from Guatemala. I can only imagine he hasn't bothered.

    I will be the first one to send a letter this morning pointing out this ridiculous hypocrisy. His website is http://chrissmith.house.gov/ and his contact information can be found at http://chrissmith.house.gov/Contact/.

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  27. Have you heard any more about this case? It angers me that the child's mother is being referred to as the "birth" mother. Geesh, I don't think Mrs. Charles A. Lindbergh was ever referred to as her son's "birth" mother.
    I have been looking at Google and do not see any updates since early April. Interpol was to get involved in early October if the child was not returned.
    I blogged about this yesterday and linked to the great blog post Jane compiled. I would love to put pressure on the Monahans to reunite mother and child.

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