The girl was two at the time of the abduction, she spent a year under a different name in an adoption mill before she was adopted by an American couple, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Liberty, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.
The girl left the country with forged papers on Dec. 9, 2008. The U.S. ratified the Hague Abduction Convention in January of that year, but the case was filed with the girl's original abduction date in 2006--when the U.S. and Guatemala did not have an agreement. Because of this technicality, the U.S. government has told Guatemalan officials it will not order the return of the girl, now named Karen.
THE INSANITY OF A TECHNICALITY
Supporters of Rodríguez argue that the U.S. government is obliged under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within the past five years. That date--and not her abduction date--should be taken into account, insists the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case on behalf of the child's biological mother. Their argument is so far falling on deaf ears in this country.
"We're obviously deeply concerned about allegations regarding stolen children and inter-country adoptions wherever these cases come up," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "We consider the appropriate venue in the United States for pursuing this case is in the state courts. They're the competent organ for holding a full hearing on the merits and the best interests of the child." Rodriguez is looking for a law firm in the U.S. to handle the case.
We have seen these cases in the U.S. drag on for years as the child gets older, and then the argument for not returning her to her mother becomes ever stronger. If a child had been abducted in America at two, and then found to be living in a middle-class life in Guatemala five years later, would U.S. officials would be demanding the child be returned, and not passively let the Guatemalan courts handle the matter. The press would be demanding the return of the child immediately. Yet in reading numerous stories about this case, we came across this at Cafe Mom (bold is Cafe Mom's):
"Biology can't simply trump the love and care that adoptive parents give a child.Let us also note that the child was correctly identified in March of 2009, three years ago; she had only left Guatemala in 2008; since at that time who she was adopted by would have been clear, it appears that the Monahans have been stonewalling the mother for years. DNA testing has confirmed what the mother knew when she found he picture: this is her daughter. I could not determine when the Monahans first were informed they had an abducted child.
And since 2008, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan have been loving and caring for "their daughter," a little girl ABC News reports they thought they'd legally adopted through an agency here in the United States. They've been her parents for four years! And they don't seem like bad people. Although the adoption is considered illegal in Guatemala because the little girl was kidnapped, Guatemalan officials have reportedly cleared the Monahans of any wrongdoing."
THE 'BEST INTERESTS' OF THE CHILD
If the past is a guide to what will happen here, the American couple and their lawyers will delay proceedings as long as possible, so-called child experts will testify that it would be damaging to the girl to return her to her mother, the "best interests of the child" will be argued, and god knows what the outcome will be. Despite such legal wrangling and foot-dragging, often the child is eventually returned to the biological parents--think Baby He, Baby Anna/Jessica DeBoer, the recent Wyrembek boy, and Baby Richard in Chicago. But this is the first case we know of where another sovereign state has asked for the return of a child who had been kidnapped.
While the Monahans claim to have known nothing of the abduction, at the time they adopted Guatemalan adoptions were already highly suspect, and many known to be the result of kidnappings and unscrupulous criminals who were trafficking in children. Some adoption advocates, such as Elizabeth Bartholet, who never heard of an intentional adoption she did not approve of, have disputed the use of the word "trafficking" when the children are adopted. But this case clearly proves that a little girl was stolen from her mother for the sole purpose of child trafficking.
Anyeli disappeared in November 2006, as her mother was distracted while opening the door to their house in San Miguel Petapa, a working-class suburb of Guatemala City. She turned to see a woman whisk the girl, then two years old, away in a taxi. Lodya Rodreguez did everything right--she contacted the local and federal authorities immediately, including authorities in charge of human right violations and missing children, she searched for her daughter on her own at adoption agencies, and after staging a hunger strike with the founder of Survivors Foundation, gained access to government adoption records. It still took nearly a year to find her photo at the National Adoptions Council, where Rodriguez and her brothers sifted through photographs for four straight days in 2009. The mother immediately recognized her daughter; a DNA test established her as the mother.
Anyeli--her original name--should be returned to her mother immediately. It is the moral thing to do. It is the right thing to do. Will it happen? Unfortunately, we doubt it.
GUATEMALA'S TROUBLED RECORD IN ADOPTIONS
Guatemala's quick adoptions once made it a top source of children for the U.S., second only to China with about 4,000 adoptions a year. But the Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of fraud, including falsified paperwork, fake birth certificates and charges of baby theft--though it still allowed many adoptions already in progress to go ahead. Such as this one. The State Department is currently assisting with 397 children whose adoptions were in process at the time of the ban.
The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, a UN-created agency prosecuting organized crime cases in the country, has reviewed more than 3,000 adoptions completed or in process and found nearly 100 serious irregularities. As we have noted earlier, the Guatemalan army stole at least 333 children and sold them for adoption in other countries during the Central American nation's 36-year civil war, a government report has concluded. Many of those children ended up in the United States, as well as Sweden, Italy and France. The number of corrupt adoptions--333--involving stolen children in the government report came from examining a mere 672 adoptions between between 1977-89,the years of peak adoption from Guatemala.
When Anyeli came to this country, she had a falsified passport listing her birthday as January 14, 2005; she was actually born on October 1, 2004. When a woman claiming to be her mother failed a DNA test, the girl was left with an adoption agency, Spring Association, which had the girl declared as abandoned. Guatemala's solicitor general approved the adoption in July, 2008, despite the fact that his office had already received a missing person's report on the girl with photographs as early as February of that year, according to the corruption commission.
Anyone considering adoption from a country with a suspicious history in adoption should be dubious that any child being presented as available actually is without a family. There is much money to be made in the trafficking of children, and so unfortunately it will continue, as long as "good" people look the other way when they are determined to get a child. --lorraine
Sources: Guatemala Mother Searched 5 Years For Adopted Girl
Guatemalan Mother to Ask US Court to Return Adopted Daughter
US tells Guatemala it will not return adopted girl
Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption
Abuse in International Adoption, Part 2 with new commentary
UN finds irregularities in Guatemalan adoptions--no surprise there
May the Richest Parents Win--The DeBoer Case
Have Christy and Jason Vaughn No Morals?
Adoptive Parents Decry UNICEF's Humanitarian Position about Adopting Overseas