' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Kidnapped in Guatemala, 'adopted' in America

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kidnapped in Guatemala, 'adopted' in America

Guatemala Mother Searched for 5 Years for Adopted Girl the head reads at Huff Po. It ought to read: Guatemala Mother Searched for 5 Years for Kidnapped Daughter and found her alive and adopted in America, because that is the whole story. We have written about the terrible corruption involved in Guatemalan adoptions several times before, but this one is different in that this is the first time the Guatemalan government has ordered a child returned to her mother, Lodya Rodriguez Morales. 

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. 

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.
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."
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.

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 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

From FMF:
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


  1. Thanks for exposing this travesty, Lorraine!
    I wonder how Timothy and Jennifer Monahan will spin this to their daughter. What they are doing to her is criminal. I believe they have the finances to allow her adoptive mother to travel with her to Guatemala and rent a flat while they incorporate Anyeli back into her Guatemalan life. If they handled things correctly they could have a grandparent type relationship with their adoptive daughter. But no, they selfishly keep her from her family.

  2. And some media are reporting the child as "allegedly" kidnapped! DNA has proven it is a child who had been reported snatched! Makes me want to scream.

    And now they are dragging out the old "best interests" of the child which always favors the status quo in contested adoptions - but this is a KIDNAPPING, not a contested adoption! When do we ever leave kidnap victims where they are?

    When an American man named Goldman - from NJ - had his child held by FAMILY overseas, US lawmakers went to extremes to see that his son was returned. But when the shoe is on the other foot...not so!

    It makes me want to SCREAM with RAGE and anger at my nation. Shame, shame, shame on the USA.

  3. I've been following this case for a long time; it's documented in Erin Segal's "Finding Fernanda" about fraudulent Guatemalan adoptions. Dr. Monahan (orthopedic surgeon) and Jennifer have retained a public relations firm to respond to inquiries.

    What will Anyeli/Karen Abigail think when she finds out the truth which she will someday when she googles her own name? She has two full brothers back in Guatemala!

    I suspect the State Department rolled over and stuck their asses in the air because the Monahans probably worked through their congressman, Sam Graves (R) and Senator Roy Blunt (R) and probably Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieux, who has made many trips to Guatemala to speed up adoptions from there. Agencies such as the State Department fear the wrath of Congress because of appropriations and are easily intimidated when there is no one on the other side to protest inequity. This is the second recent Guatemalan illegitimate adoption in Missouri; last year the Guatemalan Ambassador came to Jefferson City for the Missouri Supreme Court hearing about Encarnacion Romero's son's illegal adoption by the Mosers of Carthage. She was caught in an immigration raid of a poultry processing plant and imprisoned, and the Mosers tried to adopt her one-year-old son.

  4. We've written about Encarnacion Romero's case a couple of times and I was looking for a resolution but one hasn't been forthcoming. The case went to the Missouri Supreme Court where the case was called a "travesty of justice." That court reversed the decision of the lower court, which terminated the mother's rights. The case back to the lower court for a retrial,
    which occurred in February. Tick tock, months go by. This is not justice, this is legal kidnapping of the children of poor people. And it is unspeakable.

  5. Hideous.

    As an AP, my heart goes out to all parties involved and I'm not sure the quick fix of the American family simply travling to Guat., renting a flat and aiding in the transition (as "Grandparent" figures) is as easy as one might presume.....

    However, this little one should be returned to her family, with every effort made to do so with loving, consistency and support. For better or for worse, the U.S. family has been the only family she knows. This will need to be handled delicately to say the least.

    The fact is, this will be another trauma in her already short life. Great care will be needed.

    Great care for this child, for her family in Guat. and for the adoptive family. I'm not so quick to paint them as the bad guys here. We have no idea what they had been told when this all arose. I'm sure their agency didn't simply produce affirmation of their own wrong doing and wring their hands in shame. They may very well have believed they were fighting for this child's life.

    What might seem crystal clear now, may not have been 5 or 6 years ago.

    Wouldn't we be just as quick to judge this family had they quickly agreed to send her back, regardless of evidence or regard for her circumstances? Toss her out simply because she is adopted?

    I just can't imagine this nightmare for any of the parties involved.

    Shameful and frankly the blame lies with the kidnapper in Guat. and the agency who handled or rather groslly mishandled her adoption to the U.S.

    I hope this child is reunited with her Guat. mother and that her U.S. Parents can remain in her life as well.


  6. I don't understand why the Supreme Court of Missouri does not have the power to make decisions instead of simply sending cases back to lower courts. This is foolish and clearly not in the interest of the child!

  7. I hope someone will find more information about when the DNA test was done, and when the Monahan family knew their child was kidnapped in Guatemala. I think it was a while ago, not just a couple of months.

    As for the agency in Guatemala, clearly fraud was involved. Three people have been prosecuted already. I agree this needs to be handled sensitively, but the U.S. should not be sitting on its hands because the date was filed wrong. The Guatemalan authorities are saying they will ask Interpol to intervene if the child is not returned.

  8. Pat said "the U.S. family has been the only family she knows"
    This is inaccurate. Anyeli knew her mother from the time of conception until she was two years old. That is almost as long as she has known the Monahans. Fetuses, infants and toddlers all know their mothers.
    Last fall several arrests, trials and convictions were reported. If the Monahan's sent Anyeli/Karen back home when they were directed to by the Guatemalan government it would not have been kicking an orphan to the curb.

  9. I know, this "only mother she has ever known" business is somewhat grating, isn't it?

    She had a mother for nine months and two years before she was kidnapped. She also has two full brothers, and a father. Returning a child to her parents is never "kicking" out the child. It is the decent thing to do in this case.

  10. The Monahans will someday have to answer to this little girl when she learns the truth. How sad.

  11. I think pointing the finger at any government agency in this case is shifting blame. If the "adoptive parents" are aware that the child has an interested family who desperately wants her back and she was actually kidnapped rather than relinquished, then they have the MORAL and ETHICAL obligation to return her (ESPECIALLY if they claim to "love" her).

    Someone who really loved this child and had a firing neuron in their head would return her to her mother. It doesn't take any type of legal action or government to tell you that.

  12. Nancy Thavis wrote, "Fetuses, infants and toddlers all know their mothers."

    I'm not writing this to be snarky; I just don't understand something. So many good women who stick up for birthmothers also happen to be pro-choice. I don't get how the humanity of the fetus is acknowledged when it's convenient, but denied when it's inconvenient. Or worse than denied: how the woman supposedly has a "right" to kill the baby inside of her. Birthmothers here justifiably complain that they are the ignored member of the "adoption triad", yet they ignore the fetus when they want to. How is this better than would be adoptive parents who disregard birthmothers when it suits them?

  13. From various sources around the net, there are indications that a DNA test came back as a match in 2009!!! It's unclear if this was done using fresh DNA or using a sample that was already on file as belonging to the child. There are also indications that the adoptive parents knew from the get-go that not everything was above board with this adoption.

    I too am thoroughly sick of the only family ever known argument. Best interest to me is a crock of sh*t! It's so arbitrary and biased it's sickening.

  14. Some of you reading the comments here might want to check under the post a few back:

    When your adopted child wants to visit her birthmother....

  15. In a better world everyone involved in this tragedy would work together for the good and comfort of this poor child who has already been through so much disruption and separation in her brief life.

    She would neither be abruptly returned to her "rightful owner" like a stolen object with no feelings, nor would she be kept with a "finders keepers" attitude by the adoptive parents and cut off from her natural heritage.

    Sadly, given the legal situation, this will not happen, as an adversary mindset is in place on both sides. Yes, it is wholly the fault of the kidnappers, and the crooked agency, and partly the fault of the adoptive parents for not acting on this sooner.

    What should be most important now, but is not, is how to keep all those who love this child whom she has come to know, and those to whom she is genetically related, in her life and accessible to her.

    Take the law and ownership out of it, what is needed is sensitive counseling for the birth family as well as the adoptive family to make both sides see what is now going to work to keep the little girl connected and safe, not abandoned by anyone again.

    As to what will happen when she is an adult, nobody knows. Such cases in the past have usually resolved with the child be glad where she is, grateful to the parents who did get to raise her, adoptive or natural. The winners in the custody battle really do win for the most part.

    But in the meantime, it is hard to see a child torn like this because of the selfishness of adults who have to have all or nothing rather than seeking a compromise.

  16. This child will be traumatized no matter what. She is a kidnap victim. When she is old enough to understand I'm sure she will be very grateful that her REAL parents did everything they could to get her back. I know I would be.

    The first thing that came to mind when I read this was the David and Sean Goldman case. The U.S. certainly went to bat to get that boy back and he was living with blood relatives.

    Is this just a case of national arrogance? Do we really believe that every child is better off in the U.S. no matter how s/he got here and thus act accordingly?

  17. Following is a Guatemala Adoption Information and News page

    Dr. Timothy and Jennifer Monahan knew from nearly the beginning of their adoption process that Anyelí was not legitimately offered for adoption. If the Monahans had done the right thing years ago - refused to be in any way involved in the adoption of Anyelí, reported to the US and Guatemalan authorities the DNA results and sham operation, stopped immediately their association with the Florida adoption agency Celebrate Christian International - the Monahans would not be in this 'devastating situation'. Indeed the hundreds of thousands of dollars they invested in owning this child could have been invested in, and probably for 1/50th of the cost, in reuniting the child with her mother and family. Mike and Leslie Harmoning of Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, have publicly stepped up to the Monahans' defense. They too adopted a child from Guatemala using Celebrate Christian International. They have gone on record as saying they had are enormously displeased with CCI and no longer in contact. They have indicated that the National Attorney General's Office (PGN) ruled negatively on several occasions regarding their adoption of Daphne, but they have not disclosed the reasons.Leslie Harmoning is now 'not concerned about the legality of her adoption'. There is much more already known about the facts of Anyelí's case. But we fail to see where the Monahans or those who have supported them have acted with clear heads, sympathy for the child's mother, and genuine love for the child. We see rather emptiness being addressed with greed, obsession, and a very questionable kind of love for the children being bartered.

  18. Elizabeth I have read your post Three times and I really don't understand what you are getting at. All three members of the so called "triad" start out the same way, as fetuses.
    My point is that even fetuses know and bond with their mother. So to say that adoptive families are the only ones an adoptive child knows is ludicrous. And Anywli lived outside of the womb for two years with her Mother and Father before being kidnapped.
    If you want to talk abortion you are on the wrong site IMO.

  19. Just adding I find it horrible that this child or any child was kidnapped and want to see the kidnappers prosecuted, also wish the adoptive parents would work with the mother to integrate her into the child's life.

    I am equally horrified by adoption of children old enough to know their language and culture abruptly brought to English speaking Western nations and expected to adjust overnight, and be grateful for the "rescue". Even worse is changing a name that a child knows without the child wanting that. I think most of us here find that selfish and repulsive.

    But this little five year old girl will feel just as abandoned, scared, and disoriented if she is sent back to Guatemala without a lot of sensitive preparation and reassurance. Even though she was kidnapped, can she comprehend that at this point? It is doubtful she has memories before the age of 2, or that the adoptive parents have kept up with her Spanish. Yes, children can adjust, but is it right to force them to just do it, either in adoption or in return to biological mother?

    "Best Interest of the Child" is a joke because it is not evenly applied, not that the concept does not have some merit. Children are routinely moved all over in foster care with no regard for their feelings, and shipped to Western countries with equal disregard for the culture shock and feelings of the child. That is wrong. So is what some want to see here, just return her to Guatemala and pretend the adoption never happened. It is tragic for all but most of all the child.

  20. In Guatemala Karen has two siblings and parents. I agree that no matter how sensitively this is handled she will be traumatized. But living with genetic strangers in a foreign land is traumatizing, too. The adoptive parents should quit hiding behind their big New York PR firm and develop a plan to reunite her with her family.

  21. These people should be in jail for kidnapping. To knowingly keep a child from his/ her natural family when you know they were snatched from the house they shared with their families is criminal. Only in America, folks.

  22. Elizabeth Cox: Many women who defend women who have lost children to adoption, and many women who have lost children to adoption, remember only too well the Baby Scoop Era before Roe vs. Wade. Women who became pregnant while unmarried were forced to serve as breeding animals for prosperous married couples who took their babies. That was no better than slavery.
    Notice how the number of babies available for adoption plummeted when abortion became legal and safe? Remember how all those so-called maternity homes (really prisons) closed? All of a sudden, pregnant women had a real choice. Many of us will fight to make sure that choice is never taken away.

  23. I'm amazed by all these strong views without anyone really knowing what happened here. See this CNN story which raises a bunch of questions:


    1. It ISN'T proven it is the same child. A child presented at the US Embassy in an adoption that failed is apparently the birth mother's - but there ISN'T proof it is the same child who ended up in Missouri -- Loyda may claim it is the same child, but all she points to is test against the DNA at the Embassy. There was tons of funky baby-switching going on in Guat back -- yet here we assume it is the same child even though were tons of issues with the rest of the adoption?

    2. Why does the birth mother have so many stories about the kidnapping?

    3. Why does it matter what the State Department says? The birth mother could have filed a case in a Missouri court YEARS AGO when she learned where the child is -- AND STILL CAN! The State Department itself said that repeatedly!! What is the birth mother waiting for? And why is anyone debating what the State Department said and technicalities. It doesn't matter!

    4. Do two wrongs make a right? The only way for the whole truth to be told is in a court where both sides get to tell their stories completely. Yet Loyda and her lawyers didn't file a case in the US and according to news reports the Monahans didn't even know the court case was happening in Guatemala. The best way to fixed a biased process isn't with another biased process.

    5. All these claims the Monahans tried to cover up some DNA test are ridiculous. According to various reports the Monahans told the US Embassy the original DNA test failed and they ended the adoption. But it wasn't a stranger putting Loyda's kid up for adoption - according to CNN, it sounds like it was her own sister! That seems to pose a problem for the kidnapping stories. And if her sister kidnapped her kid, then why hasn't she outed her by now? See the blog of the orphanage director - http://www.susanaluarca-english.blogspot.com/2009_10_10_archive.html who also talks about the sister's possible involvement - it was only after many months and police investigating and newspapers publishing pics of the girl saying she was abandoned that a court said her birth parents couldn't be found - and it took another year for the adoption to go through (all on that blog).

    Now I take a lot on the blog with a grain of salt as the woman is now indicted as part of this whole scam. BUT anyone can look into everything she claims and see if it is true just like CNN is doing. Given how much detail she gives, it can easily be proven wrong. For example, why doesn't someone ask Loyda to make public her DNA, the child presented at the Embassy, and the woman who presented the child? Then any DNA expert will be able to definitively say if the child presented at the Embassy by a stranger or her sister.

    It seems to me there is tons of stuff no one knows here. And to sit in judgment of anyone before the whole story comes out is really unfair.

    I hope this whole thing ends up in a US court where both sides get their day in court at the same time.


  24. Good job, "Jim". Demonize the natual mother. That is what most adopters are good at...

  25. Wow Jim, you are a piece of work! The mother should have just filed in the US? Really? Like it's that easy? Do you have any idea how much money it takes to file in family court??? My husband and myself have been involved with the Missouri courts for almost 2 years now and in a case that would seem clear cut to anyone with half a brain from day 1 we are STILL being dicked around!!!

    If the DNA at the Embassy is incorrect, that doesn't negate the fact that this child wasn't ethically adopted. Given the amount of clout and money the aparents have, I find it hard to believe that they were powerless to do their own investigation instead of relying on the agency. There were issues raised about this child back in 2008 and there are press reports from at least 2009 back in Guatemala.

    I refuse to take much of anything the orphanage director says as fact at this point and she seems to have been engaged in a smear campaign from the get-go once it became apparent that this case was going to blow up in her face.

  26. from CNN today:

    "In Guatemala at least 10 people have been charged with human trafficking in connection with the case of this adoptive girl. So far, two of those people have been convicted, and the others are awaiting trial."

  27. Who are Dr. and Mrs. Monahan?

    So many people assume they are 'loving'. Why?

    If your two year old was kidnapped and trafficked illegally to two people, would you for a moment believe that those people 'loved' your child?

    The Monahan's live in a cul de sac with huge trees and hedges hiding their house. They don't answer the front door and they disguise themselves on the phone. They hide behind Washington PR firms and expensive lawyers. Let them show us their own meticulous records of the phony adoption, their own records.

    Good folk? Loving folk? Or criminals of the worse kind?

    We rightfully should worry about the welfare of Anyeli every moment she is from her family and public view.



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