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Guatamalan Mother Searches Five Years for Daughter
August 19, 2011 7:09 AM   Subscribe

In a case that is rocking the international adoption world, a Guatemalan judge has ordered the return of a six year old girl to her biological family.

Loyda Rodriguez's two year old daughter was grabbed by an unknown woman and taken away in a waiting taxi. Loyda spent five years searching for her daughter, contacting Guatemalan authorities and international adoption agencies, and finally resorting to a hunger strike.

Five years after her daughter's disappearance, Loyda learned her daughter had been adopted by an American couple in Liberty, Missouri and that her name had been changed prior to the adoption. Upon this finding, the "Guatemalan court has ordered La Procuraduría General de la Nación (PGN, or Attorney General's Office) and the Ministry of External Relations to work with the U.S. Embassy to 'locate and retrieve' a child adopted to Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Missouri in 2007 under the fraudulent name 'Karen Abigail López García.' The court, Juzgado Constituido en Tribunal de Amparo, also ruled for the girl's passport to be annulled and for her birth certificate to be cancelled, based on the fact that the identity of 'Karen Abigail' seems to have been created for the sole purpose of facilitating an illegal adoption."

The Guatemalan court has given a deadline of two months from the July 29th ruling for the child to be returned to her biological family. If the child is not returned, Interpol may be contacted to treat the case as human trafficking. Nine people have been arrested in connection with the case, including the judge in Guatemala who let the adoption go through.

The president of Ethica weighs in on the controversy, and the Liberty Tribune has also reported on the matter.

In 2007, Guatemalan adoptions were suspended, and in 2010 an anti-corruption commission overseen by the United Nations found irregularities in adoptions from Guatemala. Adoptions were reopened in the same year, though not without controversy.

A similar case occurred in 2008, but the parents were fortunate enough to prevent the adoption prior to the child leaving the country.
posted by zizzle (221 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
International adoption is just so fucked up it's unreal. Great post, thanks.
posted by Melismata at 7:10 AM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


For people browsing at work, first link goes to a video.
posted by Pendragon at 7:21 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Putting the crooked bastards who arranged all this in jail = good.

Taking the kid from the only home she remembers, not so much. I can see how the court might consider this justice but it won't end well.
posted by localroger at 7:22 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Holy crap that poor kid. I can't imagine any scenario that ends well for everyone involved, but no matter what, the kid is taking the brunt of it.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:23 AM on August 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


A few days ago, in an unprecedented ruling, a judge in Guatemala ordered an adoption rescinded and a child returned from her American adoptive family to her biological family in Guatemala because her adoption was found to be fraudulent.

Fraudulent? The little girl was KIDNAPPED and then fraudulently put up for adoption. I think that's an important detail. "Judge orders kidnapped child returned to parents" seems more accurate and much less controversial.

Interpol may be contacted to treat the case as human trafficking.

As human trafficking. This IS human trafficking.

Yeah, devastating for the adoptive parents and the little girl who hardly knows what's going on. Let's hope the adoptive parents put their own interests aside and do what is best for the little girl and help her transition back to her parents and don't make some kind of Elián González thing out of it.
posted by three blind mice at 7:26 AM on August 19, 2011 [58 favorites]


The second comment on the Liberty Tribune story is interesting - someone claiming to know the family who says they knew all along that something was fishy with this adoption.
posted by something something at 7:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


do what is best for the little girl
The problem is that I don't think anyone can possibly know what that is.

This is a terrible situation for everyone involved. What I didn't see from the articles is if they found the kidnappers. If they did this once, they might have done it multiple times.
posted by demiurge at 7:30 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have an ongoing interest in adoption and international adoption. I would be surprised if the adoptive parents had any idea that the circumstances of the adoption weren't on the up-and-up, and I'm not sure what I think about that. On the one hand, adoptive parents trust their agencies, and why shouldn't they? On the other hand, sometimes I think there is a kind of willful ignorance, of choosing not to research international adoption more thoroughly in order to make an informed decision about the ethical risks you take.

Sometimes people tell me they want to adopt internationally, and I want to give them a reading list and say, "Just please look these over before you make your decision."

This current case is a heartbreaking mess. I'll be interested to see how it plays out, and how it affects international adoption law Seems like there have been more and more stories showing the dark side of the industry in the last few years.
posted by not that girl at 7:30 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let's hope the adoptive parents put their own interests aside and do what is best for the little girl and help her transition back to her parents...

You could actually put this the other way and it might even make more sense. After all, how is it in the child's best interests to be with people she doesn't know in a country where she doesn't speak the language?
posted by DU at 7:31 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


This American Life reported on a similar story a couple of years ago. More on that story here; I think the outcome of that case is about as good as these things can be and hope something similar happens in this case.
posted by TedW at 7:34 AM on August 19, 2011


Six is young. Six is young enough to learn a new language very quickly. She probably has a basis already if she was taken at 2. And it goes the other way all the time - would you blink twice at an American family adopting a 6 year old from Guatemala?
posted by bq at 7:36 AM on August 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


I don't understand how you could adopt a child illegally and not know it. I get that the fake birth certificate was created after the girl was kidnapped, but it seems like the adoptive parents would ask questions about her situation that they must not have asked--the "willful ignorance" mentioned above.

If the girl spoke no English, and was obviously from another country, I'd be asking why she was up for adoption here in the states, had a passport already, etc. It really does seem fishy, and makes me wonder who the kidnappers were and if they were at all acquainted with the parents to begin with.
posted by misha at 7:37 AM on August 19, 2011


I did find some speculations that the adoptive parents knew the DNA from the girl did not match the DNA from the woman claiming to be her mother. All adoptions through Guatemala require DNA testing to make sure the giving of the child for adoption is on the up and up. I couldn't find any news sources to back up these speculations, so I didn't include it in the post.

And the other aspect of this that came up for me when reading about the case is that I have no doubt if this child were born in the US, kidnapped in a similar manner, and adopted out to a couple in another country, the US would be demanding the return of that child in a similar manner, siting the hardship and devastation of the biological parents and the child being a US citizen, etc. But going the other way....well, it remains to be seen how it will be handled.
posted by zizzle at 7:37 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's hope the adoptive parents put their own interests aside and do what is best for the little girl and help her transition back to her parents...

The kid is six and unless I don't know as much about child development as I think I do, doesn't know a life outside of Liberty -- Kansas City's biggest suburb. And unless Guatemala is a considerably better place now than when the Guatemalans I know got out of there to emigrate to the US, this situation is ... considerably more complicated than how you lay it out.
posted by griphus at 7:37 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


One more story on the case I mentioned and others involving the same agency in Samoa.
posted by TedW at 7:38 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ask each set of parent if they'd be willing to relocate to another country to stay with the girl. The ones who say yes get to keep her.
posted by rahnefan at 7:40 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


parent+s
posted by rahnefan at 7:41 AM on August 19, 2011


The problem is that I don't think anyone can possibly know what that is.

C'mon. This little girl was kidnapped from her parents. How would the adoptive parents feel if it happened to them? They'd want her back. There is some common ground amongst the adults and it is up to them - and really only them - to work together as adults and help this little girl get her life back.

You could actually put this the other way and it might even make more sense. After all, how is it in the child's best interests to be with people she doesn't know in a country where she doesn't speak the language?

Isn't that what happened when she was "adopted"?

Kids are pretty malleable as long as the adults around them are loving and supportive.

If the adults start fighting, then it goes to hell. The adults need to work together and not make it - or let others make it - an international incident.

this situation is ... considerably more complicated than how you lay it out.

Yes, but this is the Elián González route: can't send that poor kid back where she won't enjoy the fruits of American liberty. This is wrong.
posted by three blind mice at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


I don't understand how you could adopt a child illegally and not know it. I get that the fake birth certificate was created after the girl was kidnapped, but it seems like the adoptive parents would ask questions about her situation that they must not have asked--the "willful ignorance" mentioned above.

Yeah, there's no way the group that had just kidnapped a two year old would then lie about it when asked, in order to sell her to Americans. A few simple questions like 'Say, just between friends, did you KIDNAP this kid?' could have nipped it all in the bud.

But seriously, anyone who goes into the process of international adoption should be at least vaguely aware that the whole institution is rife with corruption. Caveat emptor..
posted by FatherDagon at 7:44 AM on August 19, 2011


rahnefan: "Ask each set of parent if they'd be willing to relocate to another country to stay with the girl. The ones who say yes get to keep her."


That's incredibly simplistic thinking. First of all, I have no doubt that both sets of parents would be willing to relocated, but the financial situation of the mother in Guatemala would probably prohibit her from actually doing so. Secondly, being willing to move out of the country to keep this child could also mean that you were willing to go to illegal methods to adopt her in the first place, which might be what happened here.

Also, the girl was kidnapped in November, 2006, and adopted in early 2007, which is when adoptions from Guatemala were suspended, and the adoptive parents not knowing that or ignoring it just bothers me. This just gets fishier and fishier.

The real losers here are the little girl and, I think, the natural mother who has searched tirelessly for a daughter who may not even recognize her, and even resent her from taking her away from the life she has known for the last 4 years.
posted by misha at 7:45 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


That's incredibly simplistic thinking.

Certainly it is. But I'm not convinced that anyone but her natural parent wouldn't hesitate to say yes, especially if they have $ here in the states. Can a judge require something like this, and could he also require that the party with custody not move farther than x miles from the other party? And could he require financial help for the relocation (from the other party)?
posted by rahnefan at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2011


And unless Guatemala is a considerably better place now than when the Guatemalans I know got out of there to emigrate to the US, this situation is ... considerably more complicated than how you lay it out.

This is completely repulsive. Think about what you're saying here. Child abduction is justified if the kid ends up in a place with a higher GDP? Maybe these child traffickers should forget about the international thing and just kidnap kids from Detroit instead. Their economy's pretty weak, right?
posted by No-sword at 7:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [58 favorites]


Yes, but this is the Elián González route: can't send that poor kid back where she won't enjoy the fruits of American liberty. This is wrong.

As misha states above, the kid will know something was happening, that she was taken out of one place to live in another. She will know her mother took her away from all that to live in Guatemala, you can't really keep this sort of stuff from a kid who was conscious through the affair. I switched countries from one of (relative) poverty to New York City when I was her age. I damn well noticed, and the older I got, and the more I read about the Soviet Union, the more I really noticed and thank my lucky fuckin' stars each day that I'm not in Russia.

Guatemala is not a great place to live, given the choice between the US and there. It's not Cambodia, it's not Darfur, but it's also not a great place to live, as far as opportunities are concerned. She will doubtless grow up with stories about how great America is because, well, that's how it goes in countries like that (and the one I emigrated from as well.)

Maybe she will forgive her mother, maybe she will spend the rest of her life knowing she was snatched out of paradise to live in poverty. Maybe she won't care and will live happily in Guatemala for the rest of her days thinking of all this as just some silly stuff that happened to her as a kid. But, like I said, if I was forced to the Soviet Union from a midwestern suburb? I'd want to choke the life out of whoever did that to me.
posted by griphus at 7:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dear woman whose daughter was kidnapped and found years later,

If you want her back, you have to move to a place where you have no social support, where you may not know the language, and where you will be subject to racism. Do you really love your daughter?


I don't think that "whoever is willing to move" is a good metric at all. Who the child should live with isn't about who can prove they love her best. (King Lear showed how poorly that turns out, anyhow.)
posted by jeather at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


:( Horrible situation.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on August 19, 2011


Could someone please explain to me why an American couple would be adopting foreign children in the first place? Are there so few American children in need of a loving home? Or is this about approval? Would they have been rejected by the US authorities first?

And also, what can I say about a system that makes it financially rewarding to kidnap children and transport them across borders. I don't think I have the vocabulary to express my disgust.
posted by londonmark at 7:57 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Having said all that above, I do want to make it clear that I'm not campaigning for the girl to stay in Missouri. I'd never want to be put in the situation where I have to make that choice.
posted by griphus at 7:58 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism shows different dates for the suspension of Guatemalan adoptions in the U.S. than the Business Week deal, and I think they are more credible.

We didn't suspend adoptions until January 9, 2008. All other developed nations had stopped adopting from Guatemala much earlier, in 2002, but we had not adopted the Hague Convention at that point. And we still allowed adoptions "in process" to continue during the suspension. Because apparently we are idiots.

Here's another astounding statistic:
In 2007, China sent 5,453 out of its population of 1.3 billion. In the same year, Guatemala sent 4,728 out of its 13 million. In that year, and several years before, an astonishing one out of every 110 Guatemalan children born was adopted in the United States.
Wow.
posted by misha at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't know what the outcome will be, but I hope both sets of parents (biological and adoptive) work together on this.
posted by zippy at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2011


It absolutely is human trafficking, and the parents in Missouri and the child are equally victims of this crime. I know it's unrealistic of me but I wish there was a way they could all live together, so the child could have the benefit of both her families.

I am so sad and sorry this happened.
posted by FunkyStar at 8:01 AM on August 19, 2011


griphus: “And unless Guatemala is a considerably better place now than when the Guatemalans I know got out of there to emigrate to the US, this situation is ... considerably more complicated than how you lay it out... Maybe she will forgive her mother, maybe she will spend the rest of her life knowing she was snatched out of paradise to live in poverty. Maybe she won't care and will live happily in Guatemala for the rest of her days thinking of all this as just some silly stuff that happened to her as a kid. But, like I said, if I was forced to the Soviet Union from a midwestern suburb? I'd want to choke the life out of whoever did that to me.”

I understand the sense of the difference in opportunities between countries, but this is a muddled and paternalistic way of approaching this problem.

First and foremost, kidnapping in the service of international adoption should not be allowed. Differing opportunities between countries is not a defense for kidnapping. If this is allowed, it legitimizes a massive injustice.

Also, your assumption that the family in Guatemala lives in poverty isn't necessarily warranted.
posted by koeselitz at 8:02 AM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


londonmark: "Could someone please explain to me why an American couple would be adopting foreign children in the first place? "

Several reasons:

1) The screening process is far less politicized. It may also cost less.
2) Time frames are predictable. US adoption is a waiting game. You have to wait for approval, then wait to become a parent. International adoption takes less time.
3) Adoptive parents can often choose the sex of the baby they want to adopt. US Agencies do not allow that.
4) They don't have to interact with or know who the birth mother is. In US adoptions, it is possible for some birth parents to choose who adopts their child.
5) There's less fear that a child will be able to discover who their birth parent is when they grow up, and reject their adopting family. Also, that a birth parent will someday attempt to connect with the child they gave up for adoption.
posted by zarq at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Maybe these child traffickers should forget about the international thing and just kidnap kids from Detroit instead. Their economy's pretty weak, right?

I understand you are being hyperbolic to make a point, but I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using Detroit as a rhetorical punching bag in future threads. Thanks.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


griphus, I think this is definitely a situation where personal experience informs one's opinion profoundly. If my parents hadn't taken refugee status and moved us to the US more than twenty years ago, I would be living under the last European dictatorship right now. And if someone had approached me when I was eight years old and tried to take me back there, I would be not only lost, but traumatized. The (irrational) thought of being deported now fills me with dread and terror. Luckily, I'll be sworn in for my citizenship in a couple weeks.
posted by litnerd at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also,

6) Approval may be easier, depending on how the adoption is handled.
posted by zarq at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2011


There is no other solution but to return the child to her biological mother. She was kidnapped. KIDNAPPED. I don't give a flying fuck how great her life is now, she was KIDNAPPED. For those of you advocating that she stay with her adoptive family, you are advocating kidnapping as a means to adopt foreign children.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [50 favorites]


I can't sympathize much with the adoptive parents. I stand by my statement - I think it's an excellent question to inform a decision and come up with something more creative than winner/loser. Better a Mom who would risk all, search the world, find you and fight for you than someone who just happens to have money. No matter what happens, it will not be easy for the girl.
posted by rahnefan at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


londonmark-

Most adoptive parents who choose international adoption (over domestic adoption) do so, at least partially, because they are afraid of birth parents changing their minds after placement. They are going out of their way precisely to avoid the possibility that a court might decide to take their new child away from them. It's perceived as being a safer option.
posted by pjdoland at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks zarq. Makes me think this whole situation is even more fucked up than I thought. Very sad.
posted by londonmark at 8:05 AM on August 19, 2011


Could someone please explain to me why an American couple would be adopting foreign children in the first place? Are there so few American children in need of a loving home?

Because the situations they adopt children out of are oftentimes considerably worse than anything you'd find in America. In America even the poorest families are eligible for food stamps, TANF, WIC, Medicare and so on. A family in South America? Even if they have a safety net, I doubt it is nearly as good.

Also, your assumption that the family in Guatemala lives in poverty isn't necessarily warranted.

I meant relative poverty, not abject. Again, I'm not saying the kid needs to stay. I am saying that the VERY ILLEGAL KIDNAPPING has created a much more morally ambiguous situation than KID GOES BACK HOME PERIOD DUST OFF HANDS AND WE DID A GOOD JOB.
posted by griphus at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2011


At the very least the kid should get american citizenship.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:09 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It absolutely is human trafficking, and the parents in Missouri and the child are equally victims of this crime.

What about the parents in Guatemala?
posted by muddgirl at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2011 [14 favorites]


I wonder how valuable a consolation prize that'll be by the time she is grown. :(
posted by rahnefan at 8:10 AM on August 19, 2011


6) Approval may be easier, depending on how the adoption is handled.

In her book Blue Ribbon Babies and Labors of Love, Christine Ward Gailey finds that people who adopt internationally are generally better-off than people who adopt domestically, that their homestudies are less invasive, and that they are sometimes able to circumvent requirements by paying additional money.
posted by not that girl at 8:13 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's easy to think, "If the situation in Guatemala is so bad, why is Mom there?" That, of course, is our privilege blinding us to the reality: that Mom was born and raised there, her family live there, it's her home and, in any event, she likely does not have the resources to relocate even if she wanted to.

The mother went on a hunger strike and never stopped searching for her daughter. I'm sure she wants what is best for her daughter, and if she lives in poverty I'll bet she is seriously conflicted about this. Her daughter is living in relative comfort and has advantages her natural Mom couldn't give her.

Mom should never have had to be in this position, where now people will judge whether this girl was better off with someone else. How unfair that many will think her selfish just for wanting her own child.

Ideally, whoever was complicit in the kidnapping or illegal adoption should have to pay some serious financial compensation to the natural mother as well as the child being returned. It wouldn't take much for the daughter's situation to markedly improve in Guatemala, as the average yearly salary is only $4700.

As the girl's passport is being taken away since it was fraudulent, I imagine it is the American couple who will have to decide if they are willing to relocate to be near their adoptive daughter.
posted by misha at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


zarq-

You really have no idea what you're talking about. Point-by-point...

1. The screening process is actually more difficult for international adoptions. You have to go through a home study in your state for both domestic and international adoptions. A foreign country may have additional criteria beyond this. For instance, China has BMI limits and higher financial requirements.
2. Predicable doesn't mean shorter. Once we completed our home study for our (domestic) adoption, my wife and I had our son within 8 months. The wait for a child from almost any country our agency worked with would have been significantly longer than that.
3. This is just wrong. If you do a private adoption in the U.S. you have an incredible amount of flexibility. You can accept or reject placements based on just about any criteria.
4. There are open international adoptions and totally closed domestic adoptions.
5. This is an issue for some adoptive parents.
posted by pjdoland at 8:15 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


griphus: “I meant relative poverty, not abject. Again, I'm not saying the kid needs to stay. I am saying that the VERY ILLEGAL KIDNAPPING has created a much more morally ambiguous situation than KID GOES BACK HOME PERIOD DUST OFF HANDS AND WE DID A GOOD JOB.”

Absolutely. And I missed your disclaimer above about how you're not necessarily campaigning for the girl to stay in the US before I posted – sorry. I agree with you on this, I think.

What's tough is that it's very, very difficult to sort out a child's best interest. It's easy to see, I think, what the right choice is politically, in the interest of justice overall; it's much harder to say how that will affect the kid in question. It's a pretty huge thing, sending a kid back to Guatemala after all these years.
posted by koeselitz at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


pjdoland: “zarq - You really have no idea what you're talking about. Point-by-point...”

So what about the essential question? You know – the one you didn't answer.

Why would an American couple ever want to adopt internationally?
posted by koeselitz at 8:18 AM on August 19, 2011


Wow, if true the Liberty Tribune comment is just devastating to the US parents as victims case.
posted by 6550 at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2011


Because the situations they adopt children out of are oftentimes considerably worse than anything you'd find in America. In America even the poorest families are eligible for food stamps, TANF, WIC, Medicare and so on. A family in South America? Even if they have a safety net, I doubt it is nearly as good.

I guess it depends on your view of adoption. Personally, I'm not sure what to make of couples who set out to find the most needy child of all. There's something very distasteful about comparing child suffering. Smacks of status shopping, a la Madonna. If indeed that's what's happening.

But if, as some people have suggested, it's simply easier to adopt internationally, well then, that's fucked up. I don't know how any country could shrug when its own citizens choose to adopt international children rather than giving a loving home to the kids within its own borders. A country ought to have a duty of care to its children, and if it's easier to buy a baby than adopt free of charge at home, there is something deeply, deeply wrong.
posted by londonmark at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


mudgirl - ABSOLUTELY, just thinking a lot of people seem terribly unsympathetic to the family who have loved this child for years as their own and are heartbroken. I absolutely believe the family in Guatemala were victims as wel.
posted by FunkyStar at 8:20 AM on August 19, 2011


Sorry, Joe; next time I'll use California.

Also, griphus, just so we're clear, I'm not calling you repulsive as a person, and I agree that it's a shitty situation that won't end well for the girl now that things are where they are (your later comments make your position on that pretty clear, thanks). But the fact that the US has a better social safety net than Guatemala has nothing to do with any of that, and the idea that it might leads only to bad places (like "let's go to earthquake-ravaged Country X and attempt to kidnap a bunch of kids that are unattended at the moment we find them, so that we can raise them in the US as Baptists; it's win-win!").
posted by No-sword at 8:22 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are many, many older children up for adoption in Guatemala that are overlooked because Americans want to adopt babies. That thinking, that only a baby will do, just encourages human trafficking.

And yet I can understand not wanting to adopt an older child, because we also hear of children with serious psychological issues, histories of violence that are not fully disclosed during adoption, children who have been in the system so long that attachment issues are almost certainly going to result.

International adoption is rife with additional problems. Maybe we shouldn't even be going there. There have to be children here who need homes, and just because it is easier to adopt internationally like Sandra Bullock or Madonna doesn't mean it is the best for the child.

But then, what about all those older kids in Guatemala who are not ever going to be adopted because they are the victims of the human trafficking crimes that have already been committed?

There's no easy answer to any of this.
posted by misha at 8:25 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not forget the other issue at play is if the child is not returned, then that means the US government sanctions kidnapping as a means for international adoption.

The precedent set in either direction will greatly affect international adoptions around the world. It's an incredibly murky political situation that carries consequences well beyond this one child's situation, and from a government standpoint, those consequences have to be considered as well.

At the same time, how would this be handled if it were a domestic case? Say the child was kidnapped as a two year old within the US, adopted within the US domestically, and five years later a judge rules the child returned and the adoption annulled? There'd be no question about what would happen in that situation.

The international aspect of this complicates matters in some ways, but I think ultimately the fundamental issue is the child was kidnapped and the adoption was illegal. It should be handled the same way a domestic case of this same sort would be handled.
posted by zizzle at 8:25 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did find some speculations that the adoptive parents knew the DNA from the girl did not match the DNA from the woman claiming to be her mother.

The speculation comes [allegedly] from notes from the adoptive mother:

The Monahans’ adoption was a slow, tangled process that began in 2006. By July 2007, a failed DNA test revealed that a fake birth mother had relinquished “Karen Abigail.” According to emails the Monahans sent to Guatemalan private investigators, they were distressed and confused. They’d already waited seven months for the adoption to move forward, with almost no progress.[i] On August 1st, Jennifer Monahan wrote in her personal timeline of the adoption that agency head Sue Hedberg had planned to ask LabCorp, the primary DNA testing facility in the US used for adoptions, to “bury” the results of the mismatched test. But “LabCorp can’t do that anymore,” Monahan noted, because of newly tightened regulations.

Even without that sort of speculation, this child needs to be returned to her actual mother. There are very very few valid reasons why a child who was kidnapped and then adopted should be allowed to stay with the adoptive parents. And it is seriously fucked up that some people think that because they feel the standard of living is better in the United States than in Guatemala that mothers who have had their children stolen should not have their children returned to them. Sorry poor people of the world, richer Americans have the right to your children? It's better for them, because America is awesome?
posted by eunoia at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


*Sandra Bullock's child was adopted from New Orleans.....she's one of few celebrities who adopted domestically.....*
posted by zizzle at 8:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


For those wondering why an American couple would ever want to adopt internationally, I can think of two reasons not mentioned:

1. Perhaps they are adopting from a country that one or both parents has ties to. I.e. Great grandpa came from Estonia, so we want to adopt an Estonian child.

2. The idea of taking a child from a developing country, one with far fewer opportunities than the U.S. and raising them here where they could achieve the American Dream, well, I think that's attractive to some. Kids in the U.S. already have that possibility, because, bootstraps, y'know.*



*I'm not advocating this second thought, just putting it out there as a possibility.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:31 AM on August 19, 2011


misha-

Sandra Bullock did not adopt internationally. Her son was born in New Orleans.
posted by pjdoland at 8:32 AM on August 19, 2011


International adoption has become a global market in babies. It's despicable.

Nothing should trump this mother's right to have her baby back.
posted by spitbull at 8:40 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


pjdoland: "zarq-

You really have no idea what you're talking about.


Perhaps, but before I had my kids I researched both international and domestic adoption, and visited local agencies to determine what would be required. My comment was not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather to point out why people may choose international over domestic adoption.

Point-by-point...

1. The screening process is actually more difficult for international adoptions. You have to go through a home study in your state for both domestic and international adoptions. A foreign country may have additional criteria beyond this. For instance, China has BMI limits and higher financial requirements.


Interesting. I suppose the operative word there is "may?" Doesn't the complexity and intensiveness of the screening process ultimately depend on the country where a child is being adopted from? My understanding is that adoption through Russia and India can be less expensive and require less screening than other countries.

2. Predicable doesn't mean shorter. Once we completed our home study for our (domestic) adoption, my wife and I had our son within 8 months. The wait for a child from almost any country our agency worked with would have been significantly longer than that.

That's fast.

My wife and I were given a time frame of between 2 to 5 years for a domestic adoption through an agency. We were told an adoption from either China or Russia would have taken approximately 12 to 18 months.

So one's mileage obviously may vary. Of course, we didn't go through with the adoption. They may have told us those time frames as a worst case scenario, but at the time they were presented to us as an average.

3. This is just wrong. If you do a private adoption in the U.S. you have an incredible amount of flexibility. You can accept or reject placements based on just about any criteria.

Which is why I distinguished from private adoption by mentioning agencies. Private adoption is an entirely different road -- one which many families do not necessarily want to traverse -- for cost and emotional reasons.

In any event, telling an agency in the US that you only want a girl or a boy is a bad idea. If you do so, they will typically tell you no, and may even reject you outright as a potential applicant.

We were warned of this up front at every single agency we went to, even though we had not mentioned it, and didn't care a bit about the gender of any child we adopted.

4. There are open international adoptions and totally closed domestic adoptions.

Sure. Do you not pay more for such flexibility?

5. This is an issue for some adoptive parents."

It's a concern for a number of them for psychological reasons. Also made more difficult since there have been reports lately of birth parents tracking down their children through social media, in violation of agreements they signed years ago.
posted by zarq at 8:43 AM on August 19, 2011


Could someone please explain to me why an American couple would be adopting foreign children in the first place? Are there so few American children in need of a loving home?

A lot of US-Americans want babies, but they don't want African-American babies. Sad but true. A few years ago, there were reports that African-American babies were actually being adopted internationally at high rates to other countries.
posted by yarly at 8:44 AM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I honestly don't see how this is "murky" at all - definitely heartbreaking for everyone involved, but by no means murky.

IMO, the "right thing" for the US to do at this point is strip any adoption agencies which operated in Guatemala of their tax exempt status. From the CCI website:
CCI does not and will not take part in the abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.
posted by muddgirl at 8:44 AM on August 19, 2011


Synopsis of this case from a comment on the board here. This may be a little old but anticipates what has happened:

"I'll try to give you a synopsis of this case as I have been following this case very closely.
On November 2006, Loyda reported her daughter missing from her front courtyard of her home. A police report was filed at that time and over the course of nearly 3 years, Loyda has been searching for her daughter. Loyda participated in a hunger strike last year to bring attention to her case and this year participated in the hunger strike in "name". After searching through files she identified her daughter through a picture of Karen Abigail that was adopted out to a couple in MIssouri. the child has been in the US since December 2008.
The story of what happened to the child goes something like this: the child shows up at an hogar with a woman posing to be her mother to be relinquished. As a relinquishment, the child and "mother" undergo DNA testing and fail the testing. Per Kevin's comment, the PAPs persued Susana and asked her to take on the case, per Susana Luara (in a previous thread) took on the case that no one else would.
The child was then processed as an abandonment through the courts in Escuintla. The judge who ordered the abandonment decree is now under investigation for unethical actions in his declarations of abandonments.
The hogar attorney has been in jail for trafficking of human beings (Susana commented on that in this thread) for 3 months. I imagine she is there pending trial. There are other attorneys, I believe the news paper stated 5 attorneys in total that were being investigated.
DNA tests were conducted on Loyda and tested against the DNA originally taken (the test that rendered a failed maternal match). Susana suggests that due to the genetic markers that the person posing as the birthmother could have been a relative of Loyda's and offers up the suggestion that perhaps Loyda and her sister orchestrated the entire thing -- which doesn't make sense why then would Loyda go through so much trouble for so many years if her intent was always to give up her child?
The family in Missouri had refused to cooperate and hired an attorney. Susana even stated that the family refused to take her calls. Susana was also adamant that the child in Missouri was not Anyeli. as it turns out, she was incorrect. The DNA test confirm that the child in Missouri is in fact Anyeli.
So this did not start off as an abandonment. It started off as a relinquishment that failed the DNA match requirement. I would imagine that since the DNA required a photograph that the authorities have DNA and photo identification, and cedula of the person that posed as the birthmother -- in other words: they can find that person. therefore, the mystery of if it was Loyda's sister or not can be discovered quite easily I would imagine.
Now that the identity of the child has been confirmed, the next step is to annul the adoption. Per Susana once that is done, the basis for the visa and citizenship is invalid so the logical step would be for the child to be returned to Guatemala. Since there is no historical presidence for that, none of us know what is going to happen.
posted by spaceviking at 8:47 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone know what the response of the Monahan's to all this has been? I'd be fucking horrified if I found out a child I adopted had been kidnapped and sold to a human trafficking ring. I mean, despite the attachment that's no doubt grown between them and Ayeli over the past 2 1/2 years, there is no way the right thing to do is anything other than return her to her birth mother.

No, amend that, the right thing to do would be return Ayeli to her birth mother in person, spend some time with the Rodrigeuzes, bond over your shared love for the child, and then arrange to help support Ayeli over the years.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


On August 1st, Jennifer Monahan wrote in her personal timeline of the adoption that agency head Sue Hedberg had planned to ask LabCorp, the primary DNA testing facility in the US used for adoptions, to “bury” the results of the mismatched test. But “LabCorp can’t do that anymore,” Monahan noted, because of newly tightened regulations.


Unacceptable
posted by bq at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't see how this is "murky" at all - definitely heartbreaking for everyone involved, but by no means murky.

Totally agree with your sentiments, but I think some murkiness does come from the length of time the child has spent with her adoptive family. It would be a lot more clear cut if she had only been placed a month or two ago. The fact that she has been there for years must, I think, be a factor. At what point would you begin to take the child's preferences into account? Would you return her at eight? At 10? At 12?
posted by londonmark at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel some pity for the American couple, because they do presumably love this child, but they will recover with time and therapy. I worry much more for the little girl, who will need a lot of help getting back into her own culture.

On the other hand, if she was snatched at 2, she probably has some, if fuzzy, memories from before, though she may have buried them (or been encouraged to). My kid remembers some things from that age and he's almost 6. I would think her mother's face, at least, would not be entirely unfamiliar to her, or the sound of her voice.

I salute this brave and tireless woman for getting her child back. It would be nice if the family received some compensation for their trauma so that she could, for example, get a good education and have as good a life as possible in Guatemala.
posted by emjaybee at 8:51 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna backtrack a bit. Kokopuff and panjandrum have it right.
posted by rahnefan at 8:52 AM on August 19, 2011


Completely ignoring the ethics of the situation, the judge's ruling means absolutely jack squat. American courts are under no obligation to enforce the decisions of international courts, and almost never do. You show the sheriff an order from a court in Guatemala? He tells you to go pound sand.

If the parents of this kid want to get her back, they're going to have to file suit in Missouri, as that's the only court that actually has jurisdiction, i.e. the ability to order the adoptive parents to surrender the child.

As a result, this case isn't nearly as big a deal as it seems to be. Sure, there's the whole sensational bit of it all, but the actual, real-world consequences are likely to be minimal until suit is filed in the US.

We've sort of been over this before. In Medellin v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that international treaties are not binding upon domestic courts in the absence of enabling statutes (most of the time), and that even a ruling of an international court like the International Court of Justice does not actually bind US courts in the slightest. This case is a bit different, but that doesn't help things, as the rule that foreign courts have no power over citizens of other countries is one of the oldest doctrines of international law.
posted by valkyryn at 8:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here is an interesting (although unsubstantiated) comment refuting the handwringing about returning a child to poverty:
I have met Loyda (Anyeli’s mother in Guatemala) and Anyeli’s brother. They live in a nice middle-class neighborhood, the children go to school, are healthy, loved, and educated.
The fact that she has been there for years must, I think, be a factor. At what point would you begin to take the child's preferences into account? Would you return her at eight? At 10? At 12?

Mustn't we also take into account the allegations that the adoptive parents knew that CCI had falsified documents, were aware of the extralegal methods by which the false DNA tests were subverted, and did not alert any authorities? I think it's likely that they were told that this is all standard bureaucratic red tape, but surely at some point they thought, "This is crazy," but continued anyway.

I think even 6 years old is early enough to ask the girl what her preferences are, but that does not mean she or her US parents should have the final say. The Guatemalan court has ordered her return. I don't feel I have the right to decide what's best for the child.
posted by muddgirl at 8:58 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the parents of this kid want to get her back, they're going to have to file suit in Missouri, as that's the only court that actually has jurisdiction, i.e. the ability to order the adoptive parents to surrender the child.

If this was a straight-forward kidnapping (if we removed adoption from the equation, and someone had kidnapped this girl, falsified documents, and then transported her to the US), what would the process be for the parents to get their daughter back?
posted by muddgirl at 8:59 AM on August 19, 2011


No, amend that, the right thing to do would be return Ayeli to her birth mother in person, spend some time with the Rodrigeuzes, bond over your shared love for the child, and then arrange to help support Ayeli over the years.

When we were in a custody dispute with our daughter's birthfather, I often found myself thinking about what we could do to continue to support her if he won custody. Would he let us pay for private schooling? For health care? Might we pay some kind of support? I doubted our relationship would be good enough for any of that, so I imagined us setting up a trust she could access as a young adult. I wanted to believe that there was something we would be able to do for her even if we weren't her parents anymore.
posted by not that girl at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Completely ignoring the ethics of the situation, the judge's ruling means absolutely jack squat. American courts are under no obligation to enforce the decisions of international courts, and almost never do. You show the sheriff an order from a court in Guatemala? He tells you to go pound sand.

Not quite true. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, an international court order may be enforceable by a US state court.
posted by yarly at 9:05 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe American parents will think twice now about using the third world capitalistic exploitation as a band-aid for their fertility issues. But probably not. People do what they can get away with because they feel entitled to it. Rent-a-3rd-world-womb is a growing business.
posted by melissam at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


If she had merely been kidnapped and no legal proceedings had occurred to establish her presence in the US, they'd still need to work with local law enforcement. Foreign courts absolutely cannot order what amounts to the repatriation of anyone without the cooperation of the local government(s). Basically, the Guatemalan embassy and the State Department are going to need to talk to each other to figure out how to deal with it.

But since those procedures have happened, that isn't enough. The biological parents are going to need to contest the adoption proceeding, probably in the court in which those procedures were first conducted. The State Department has no authority to overturn that kind of proceedings, and the biological parents are going to have to contest the case, on its merits, in Missouri (or wherever the child is located).

This is also why extradition treaties exist, as even criminal suspects in foreign countries cannot be arrested or returned to the place where they allegedly committed their crimes unless the two national governments agree to cooperate. The FBI can't arrest anyone outside US territory, and foreign police forces can't arrest anyone here. Interpol is really just an international clearing house where national law enforcement agencies can communicate with each other; they don't actually arrest anyone.
posted by valkyryn at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2011


FWIW, Guatemala has been closed to any legitimate international adoption for almost 3 years, due to Guatemala's failure/refusal to ratify the Hague Treaty.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2011


Not quite true. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, an international court order may be enforceable by a US state court.

As Thorzdad notes, Guatemala has not adopted that particular Hague convention, so the order of a Guatemalan court is not likely to be subject to it. More than that though, the fact that it's been more than a year since the adoption proceeding is a viable defense to removal under the Convention.

Really though, the Convention is intended to prevent one custodial parent from crossing international borders in search of a sympathetic court. It is not really designed to deal with kidnapping and botched adoptions.
posted by valkyryn at 9:11 AM on August 19, 2011


Anyone know what the response of the Monahan's to all this has been? I'd be fucking horrified if I found out a child I adopted had been kidnapped and sold to a human trafficking ring. I mean, despite the attachment that's no doubt grown between them and Ayeli over the past 2 1/2 years, there is no way the right thing to do is anything other than return her to her birth mother.

There are allegations that the Monahans were made aware of the facts of this case 2 years ago.

One of the commenters on Erin Siegal's blog was in a similar situation - the child she was adopting from Guatemala failed the DNA test comparison with the reported birth mother. The adoption did not go through and she continues to support the child in Guatemala.

...and no legal proceedings had occurred to establish her presence in the US

I don't think I understand this - if I kidnap a child, falsify her documents so that she appears to be my daughter, and then immigrate to Mexico on a visa which covers the girl, wouldn't her presence in the US be established?

If the US then rescinds the birth certificate which was used to obtain the passport which was used for the visa, wouldn't she now be an illegal immigrant?
posted by muddgirl at 9:15 AM on August 19, 2011


For everyone's reference, Guatemala a "lower middle income" country according to the World Bank. Here are its Development Indicators. Definitely not perfect, but life expectancy is a respectable 71 years.
posted by melissam at 9:17 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Foreign courts absolutely cannot order what amounts to the repatriation of anyone without the cooperation of the local government(s).

I believe that the mechanism to enforce a non-US custody order is already contained in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act , which Missouri has enacted.

Also, federal & state courts have concurrent original jurisdiction over international child abduction cases (including enforcement) under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, which implements the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.
posted by yarly at 9:24 AM on August 19, 2011


I feel it's necessary to explicitely state that I understand the fuction of INTERPOL and that an INTERPOL agent can't show up in Missouri and take the kid back, nor can a Guatemalan police officer fly up here and do the same.

All the same, I think this IS an important step, because without an explicite court order the PNG and the Ministry of External Affairs were unwilling or unable to take the steps necessary to work with the US government to return this kid. It is not the last step, but it is a long-delayed first step.
posted by muddgirl at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2011


Stats on Guatemala from Save the Children, an admittedly biased source.

"Guatemala has highest rate of chronic malnutrition in children under five in all of Latin America."
posted by litnerd at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2011


I want to apologize for saying "Sandra Bullock", who as other commenters correctly noted adopted from New Orleans. I was actually thinking of Angelina Jolie, don't know why I mixed them up as they are nothing alike!

These are the blog entries of the lawyer who worked with the Moynahans and the adoption agency which specifically talk about the adoption.

Of course, her story differs quite a bit from the other reports. She is from Guatemala herself and also has adopted a child, but she sounds pretty shady. She does have some information that is not in the other stories, like the fact that the birth mother also identified other photos of girls as her daughter before this girl (which doesn't really matter, as this girl IS her daughter, and of course she was desperate to find the girl, and photos are hard to identify, etc.).

The lawyer also suggests the biological mother voluntarily gave up her daughter and the denied it (as I said, I doubt her credibility).
posted by misha at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2011


I believe that the mechanism to enforce a non-US custody order is already contained in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act , which Missouri has enacted.

Doesn't change the fact that some kind of judicial proceeding must be initiated in Missouri before anything can happen.

And the fact is that because Guatemala hasn't adopted the Hague Convention, whether or not proceedings intended to implement it are even available here is a very serious question.

The existence of the Convention and the statutes you reference does not do nearly as much to clear up this situation as you are suggesting.
posted by valkyryn at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2011


The lawyer also suggests the biological mother voluntarily gave up her daughter and the denied it (as I said, I doubt her credibility).

The allegation I've heard is that the person who gave DNA as the fake birth mother was is the paternal aunt of Anyeli. Of course, if Anyeli was surrendered voluntarily at first, why wouldn't Loyda's DNA be given as the birth mother's?
posted by muddgirl at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2011


The lawyer also stated this in 2009 on her blog:
The adoptive mother also told us that they had been trying to adopt Karen Abigail since the end of November, 2006, when they approached the US adoption agency that was helping them to adopt a boy from Guatemala, after looking at the picture of Karen Abigail on their website and she was told that she and her husband could adopt her, on December 2006. They met Karen Abigail in January 2007, when they came to Guatemala to visit the boy they were then adopting.
That's chilling, as this girl was kidnapped in November, 2006.

Yes, muddgirl, that the aunt gave the girl up was the allegation. The lawyer claims that the DNA match was made on 20 genetic markers instead of the usual 10, and all but 2 matched, which would give credence to the aunt story, but that is, of course, only her allegation.
posted by misha at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2011


wow. This hits close to home in more ways than one. I've traveled in Guatemala a number of times, and write quite extensively about Guatemala travel. A cousin of mine, also from the midwest, has an adopted 6-year-old Guatemalan daughter. The idea of this happening to them is horrifying -- to her, my cousin is her mother through and through -- and yet, of course she should be returned to her birth mother, no matter the discrepancy in per capita income. But I can put myself in both families' shoes, as well as the child's, and it's heartbreaking no matter what.
posted by changeling at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2011


Let's hope the adoptive parents put their own interests aside and do what is best for the little girl and help her transition back to her parents...

Excellent! She should get started on learning how to make sandwiches out of sadness and crushed dreams. Women's rights barely exist at all. She'll have no job, no money, no independence and probably begrudge her mother for bringing her back. That's if she makes it to adulthood and doesn't starve to death.
posted by Malice at 9:54 AM on August 19, 2011


She'll have no job, no money, no independence and probably begrudge her mother for bringing her back. That's if she makes it to adulthood and doesn't starve to death.

Of FFS, this is a baseless assumption. I can't believe that people are arguing that literally every child in Guatemala is starving to death. What a fucking jingoist view of the world.
posted by muddgirl at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2011 [28 favorites]


The fact that she has been there for years must, I think, be a factor. At what point would you begin to take the child's preferences into account? Would you return her at eight? At 10? At 12?

Jaycee Dugard was 29.

Obvious false equivalencies: there is no evidence that the adoptive parents here have abused the girl. There is only circumstantial evidence that they knew of the kidnapping.

True equivalence: in both cases, we are talking about kidnapping.

I have two daughters and I can only hope that in Loyda's circumstances I would demonstrate the courage she has shown.
posted by rdc at 9:58 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Of FFS, this is a baseless assumption. I can't believe that people are arguing that literally every child in Guatemala is starving to death. What a fucking jingoist view of the world.

Even if they were, kidnapping is probably not the best solution.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Although it took place entirely in the US, this is extremely similar to the Baby Jessica case in the 1990s. As far as I remember, I think most of these cases have the child returned back to the birth parents, as long as the birth parents haven't given up their parental rights entirely.
posted by jonp72 at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2011


Excellent! She should get started on learning how to make sandwiches out of sadness and crushed dreams. Women's rights barely exist at all. She'll have no job, no money, no independence and probably begrudge her mother for bringing her back. That's if she makes it to adulthood and doesn't starve to death.

Rich people do not have the right to steal the children of poor people. If they are concerned for her welfare in Guatemala, they can continue to support her there.
posted by KathrynT at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2011 [30 favorites]


Rich people do not have the right to steal the children of poor people. If they are concerned for her welfare in Guatemala, they can continue to support her there.

They could also (and I know this is crazy talk) make legal immigration to the United States easier. Perhaps a wee bit more ethical than some "kidnap all the babies in poor countries" plan.
posted by feckless at 10:13 AM on August 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Doesn't change the fact that some kind of judicial proceeding must be initiated in Missouri before anything can happen.

Sure, but this is now (possibly) in the realm of enforcement of a court order in a court that has jurisdiction & is subject to the ; it's not like the Medellin case -- there is an established path here, and it's not some exotic corner of international law.

And the fact is that because Guatemala hasn't adopted the Hague Convention, whether or not proceedings intended to implement it are even available here is a very serious question.

There are two Hague conventions you're getting confused, the one on adoption and the one on custody/abduction. Guatemala is a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which I believe forms the basis for a US court's jurisdiction over a Guatemala court custody order under the Unform Child Custody Act.
posted by yarly at 10:21 AM on August 19, 2011


Although it took place entirely in the US, this is extremely similar to the Baby Jessica case in the 1990s.

The Baby Jessica case, and another one that was highly publicized at about that time--I can't remember the name right now and google isn't turning it up for me--led to revisions in United States adoption law. In particular, the creation of Putative Father Registries, which allow birthfathers to assert parental rights even if they don't know what has happened to the baby (men can register even if they don't know for sure there is a baby). Part of the adoption process is to check the Putative Father Registry for any men who have made a claim. The law also sets up specific timelines for various actions. For instance, if something shows up on the registry, that man has to be notified of the adoption in progress, and of any hearings related to it. But he also has a limited time to go to court to assert his parental rights, and if he misses the deadline, he can lose on that basis. I just saw a news story about a case like that at Ethica, the blog linked to in the OP.

Putative father registries are controversial, in part because of the tight timelines. A birthfather has some very limited amount of time after the birth of the child to register (I'm remembering 30 days but could be wrong) and then 30 days from registration to commence parentage action in court. They were an attempt to balance birthfathers' rights with the need or desire for adoptive families (and adopted children) to have closure, but because of the tight timeline, and because many men don't even know about them, many people see them as biased in favor of adoptive families.

As far as I remember, I think most of these cases have the child returned back to the birth parents, as long as the birth parents haven't given up their parental rights entirely.

It is not possible for people to partially give up parental rights, or for an adoption to be finalized if birthparents' parental rights have not been terminated (this can be done voluntarily, or by the court if, say, the birthfather does not respond to publication notices about the baby's placement for adoption). When I studied up on these two custody cases (because I was looking for magic oracle answers to what might happen in our own custody case), they both hinged on fraud or failure to comply with the law. In the Baby Jessica case, IIRC, a lawyer for the adoptive family had the birthmother sign her surrenders 48 hours after the birth, in a state that required a 72-hour waiting period; therefore, there never was a valid surrender of parental rights (at your Wikipedia link, it says that the adoptive parents' lawyer falsely represented himself to the birthmother as her lawyer). In the other case (I want to say Baby Michael but Google isn't backing me up), the adoptive parents knew the birthmother intended to lie to the birthfather and say that the baby had died at birth, and proceeded with the adoption anyway.
posted by not that girl at 10:24 AM on August 19, 2011


It all sounds so emotionally familiar.
posted by cookie-k at 10:37 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guatemala is a difficult place to live, especially for the poor, and most Guatemalans are poor. But it's also a culture of loving, close families who cherish children. The adoptive American family may have been bamboozled, but adoptive families are likely to want to believe what they hear, because they so want a child. There are good agencies, and there are Guatemalans who give up a child for adoption for many reasons. Sadly, too many times it's because they can't afford the child, to a degree that most Americans can't begin to understand. That economic coercion is a terrible thing, and I feel for any mother who has to make that choice.

I hope that the adoptive family sues the crap out of the agency, so that they can afford to go to Guatemala to return this child to her mother, stay there for some time to help her adjust, and work out a plan to share access to the child, so that she may benefit from this horrible crime. As an adopted child, she will have become an American citizen, and I hope that can't be removed from her. It's heartbreaking, and there's no easy resolution for the pain this will cause.

I visited Guatemala when some friends adopted a Guatemalan child. The poverty is acute, and the country is still recovering from years of civil war. I asked some of the Guatemalans I met about adoption, and they said it was likely good for the child, and maybe the child, as an educated adult, would return to Guatemala to help it grow and prosper. But they also supported the Guatemalan government's efforts to ensure that the process is legit. Adoption brings a lot of cash into the country, and corruption almost certainly plays a role in abuses.

If you want to help some of the poorest people in Guatemala, please check out Safe Passage, an amazing program helping the poor of Guatemala City, who glean the dump for recycleables, and food, to sell. I visited the program, and it's doing good work, in a way that respects the culture.
posted by theora55 at 10:45 AM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


There appears to be a general consensus, with some exceptions, that the preferred outcome is to do what is best for the child. There are significantly different perspectives on what is best for the child. The fact is--none of us know what is best for the child, and it way well be that no one knows what is best. It seems to me this leads to two basic alternatives: 1) handle this in the most legalistic manner possible--follow appropriate international conventions, common law, State and Federal statutes, etc. make a decision independent of 'what is best for the child" and stick to it; or have the judiciary in Mo. act affirmatively on what they believe is "in the best interest of the child" and then aggressively defend that decision. Much to my own surprise, if I had to make this choice it would be to follow the most legalistic solution available regardless of emotional components. I think in this instance, and similar cases, it is almost impossible to determine what is best for the child. It is hard enough when there is a shared culture and abuse/neglect/abandonment are not salient issues. Let a court work it out, keep the child in Mo. until resolved and hope the parents embrace the outcome.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:08 AM on August 19, 2011


This thread is v. v. bizarre. I cannot fathom the thought process which concludes that this kid might be better off living in the house of people who know she was kidnapped, i.e. now willing accomplices to an outrageous crime.

Some of you people are nuts.
posted by bukvich at 11:15 AM on August 19, 2011 [21 favorites]


"This child needs to be returned to her actual mother."

I hope you're not using "actual mother" as a synonym of "biological mother" and an alternative to "adoptive mother." Because I've seen adoptive parents get badly hurt by that habit. I don't know nearly enough about this case to have an opinion about it, but "real mother" and "actual mother" aren't the same thing as "biological mother."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:16 AM on August 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


What if the girl was 16? 12? 9?

I think there's some age at which there's a compelling case to be made that the child's best interest is to remain with her current adoptive parents.
posted by pjdoland at 11:23 AM on August 19, 2011


rocking the international adoption world

Good. That world needs a good shaking up.

You want a baby girl from China or India? I can get you a baby girl from China or India. Believe me. There are ways, dude. You don't even want to know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a baby girl from China or India by 3 o'clock this afternoon... with nail polish. These fucking amateurs...
posted by Revvy at 11:27 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry honey, this isn't your real family.

The plane is waiting, so say adiós -- that's "goodbye" in Spanish.
posted by swift at 11:28 AM on August 19, 2011


I think hypotheticals are unproductive.
posted by muddgirl at 11:29 AM on August 19, 2011


I think there's some age at which there's a compelling case to be made that the child's best interest is to remain with her current adoptive parents.

I think at 12+ the argument would be that the kid should get to choose for herself, or at least get some say in her own future. That's the case in child custody cases in Canada, at any rate.

What a nightmare situation. The people who abducted this child should be.... well, there's no fate bad enough for them, really, that I can advocate as a liberal and agnostic pacifist.
posted by orange swan at 11:34 AM on August 19, 2011


For example, I think if a child is kidnapped at 6, held in an orphanage or foster care for 2 years, adopted at 8, and discovered in the US at 9... if the adopting couple drags their feet for two further years and the court has to issue an order when the child is 11, that's a different case than if the child is adopted at birth.
posted by muddgirl at 11:34 AM on August 19, 2011


The plane is waiting, so say adiós -- that's "goodbye" in Spanish.

I'm pretty sure a child who lived in Guatemala for the first 4 years of her life would know what "adiós" means.
posted by muddgirl at 11:39 AM on August 19, 2011


What is best for the child? That is not the only consideration. What is best for other children who are at risk of being snatched from their families? There's a reason it's illegal to pay ransom to kidnappers - because it incentivizes kidnapping.
posted by bq at 11:43 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


muddgirl, that would be two years. She was two years old when she was taken. At that age, she was just barely beginning to speak.
posted by litnerd at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2011


My daughter is nearly five, and has startlingly clear memories from age two. I don't think we can assume that her former life is dead to her.
posted by KathrynT at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What the hell is going on in this thread? of course should be returned to the mother. The girl was KIDNAPPED WTF is wrong with you people?

Yes, the girl will have a higher material standard of living in the U.S. then Guatemala, but it sounds like she’d be living in some crappy small town in Missouri, hardly the best America has to offer. But people in Guatemala are probably just as happy overall as people in the U.S. People adapt to their circumstances.

“relative poverty” is not the metric you use, rather you look at security. Food security, housing security and so on. Someone in Guatemala who owns their own home with no mortgage is in a less stressful position then someone in the U.S. who rents or has a huge mortgage and is at risk for losing their job.
Sorry, Joe; next time I'll use California.
I’m pretty sure per capita GDP in California is higher than Missouri (Wikipedia lists it as $51,914 for CA and $41,117 for MO. It’s only $37.6k for Michigan, btw.)
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


muddgirl, that would be two years. She was two years old when she was taken. At that age, she was just barely beginning to speak.

My understanding is that she was given to the adoption agency in ~2006, when she was two, but the adoption was not final (and thus she was not taken to the United States) until 2008. Those two years were spent with foster families or at a Guatemalan orphanage (this is unclear).

In other words, she came to the US when she was 3 or 4, well after she started speaking.
posted by muddgirl at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2011


litnerd: ""Guatemala has highest rate of chronic malnutrition in children under five in all of Latin America.""

Good thing the kid is 6, then.

litnerd: "muddgirl, that would be two years. She was two years old when she was taken. At that age, she was just barely beginning to speak."

My wife had a vocabulary of more than 100 words at the age of 14 months and were speaking in complete sentences.
posted by brokkr at 11:49 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Linda_Holmes: While I agree completely with your point in general, this was an illegal adoption so technically, this child only has one mother, both legally and biologically. I understand that there's more to this situation than legality and biology, but those two things are kind of important. Once people start forgetting those two things, you open the door to nonsense like how Guatemalan children are starving in the dirty streets, and how America is the land of plenty and opportunity, and OMG spanish, etc.

Plus, if it's true that the adoptive mother knew the DNA tests didn't match and instead of doing her best to find out whose child she was about to head home with, I don't really feel that I need to respect her potential feelings about my potentially insensitive word choice at this time.
posted by eunoia at 11:50 AM on August 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


If she stays with her adoptive parents it will be an awkward conversation when she asks about her real parents or finds out about the case. I know if it was me I would resent my parents for keeping me as their child knowing that I was kidnapped and my parent was working hard to get me back. Even if they gave me a "better" life I would question why they felt they had the right to keep my from my biological mother.
posted by lilkeith07 at 11:53 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, the girl will have a higher material standard of living in the U.S. then Guatemala, but it sounds like she’d be living in some crappy small town in Missouri, hardly the best America has to offer.

Liberty is not a "crappy small town" -- as griphus pointed out above, it's the biggest suburb of Kansas City.

I don't know whether the girl should stay there or not, but don't just assume that because it's in Missouri or in the South it automatically = "crappy small town."
posted by blucevalo at 11:54 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope you're not using "actual mother" as a synonym of "biological mother" and an alternative to "adoptive mother." Because I've seen adoptive parents get badly hurt by that habit. I don't know nearly enough about this case to have an opinion about it, but "real mother" and "actual mother" aren't the same thing as "biological mother."

In a non-fraudulent adoption, I totally agree with you. However, in the case of a fraudulent adoption / kidnapping, I think the lines are blurrier. Loyda Rodriguez is not just Ayeli's biological mother, but her legal mother.
posted by KathrynT at 11:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


And higher standard of living has nothing to do with it. My daughter is almost five, and if she had been stolen from my front yard when she was two and sold to an uber-wealthy Swedish couple who could offer her anything she wanted and lived in a country with universal health care and stronger human rights than the US, I would fight like hell to get her back. Because she's MY DAUGHTER.
posted by KathrynT at 11:59 AM on August 19, 2011 [26 favorites]


delmoi: “What the hell is going on in this thread?”

I don't know. Maybe you should read it.
posted by koeselitz at 12:01 PM on August 19, 2011


Liberty is not a "crappy small town" -- as griphus pointed out above, it's the biggest suburb of Kansas City.

It is not a "crappy small town," no, but it's not the largest suburb of Kansas City, either. It's not even close -- a 2007 population estimate put it at about 30k. Independence (116k), Overland Park (173k) and Olathe (125k) are much larger to name a few.
posted by rewil at 12:35 PM on August 19, 2011


delmoi: “What the hell is going on in this thread?”

koeselitz: I don't know. Maybe you should read it.


I have read it, koeselitz.

And I'm bewildered.

The way some people seem to regard Central America in this thread, you'd think Teddy Roosevelt was still president!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is something incredibly distasteful about the idea that people who adopt internationally from the US are committing some saintly act. Yes, many children are brought here to a better life and that's a great thing, but what about all of the African-American orphans here in the US that need homes? I live in the south, and here there are countless children who need a family but who aren't considered because of their race. International adoption in the US has a strong race component much of the time. Latino and asian children are "acceptable" for a white family. African-American children, too often, are not. I think that is shameful.
posted by mudlark at 12:46 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


...no, but it's not the largest suburb of Kansas City...

Yeah, I was wrong. Totally missed the "one of the" before "largest" in Wikipedia.
posted by griphus at 12:47 PM on August 19, 2011


Ans I'm sure that someone has made this point already, but it goes without saying that if a kid from the US was kidnapped to Guatemala and then found four years later, they would be immediately brought back here without any hint of controversy. It would be a "Story of Hope/ Triumph" on the Nightly News with plenty of shots of the grateful American parents happy to have their kid back.
posted by mudlark at 12:52 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seems to me this leads to two basic alternatives: 1) handle this in the most legalistic manner possible--follow appropriate international conventions, common law, State and Federal statutes, etc. make a decision independent of 'what is best for the child" and stick to it; or have the judiciary in Mo. act affirmatively on what they believe is "in the best interest of the child" and then aggressively defend that decision.

I can't speak to US law. However, the Hague Convention on abductions at Article 13 says that, in essence, the return of a child as required by law can be overridden by the best interests of the child (or the child being competent & mature + choosing to stay)

From a brief look at the International Child Abduction Remedies Act posted by yarly above, the same holds. I know for certain in Canada that in custody disputes, the well-being of the child is the prime criteria.

So your alternatives are correct, except that the legalistic method is to have the judiciary act on what they think the best interest of the child is. Children's law is [or at least seems to me, as an outsider] this weird combination of paternalistic naivety (of course we can tell what's best for the child), humanizing the law as best it can (when it comes to custody, there will not be an algorithm for the best outcome), and well making the best of a bad situation, which is definitely the case here.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:18 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: I don't know. Maybe you should read it.

What makes you think I didn't read it?
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on August 19, 2011


Speaking as an adoptive father, I do object to the use of the phrase "real mother/father" or "actual mother/father". I am my son's real and actual father. I'm just not his biological father.

Also, speaking as an adoptive father, I'm ambiguous about adoption in general, and not just internationally. Not opposed, just ambiguous. My child is a family adoption (my wife's great nephew genetically) and taken by child protective services from his birth mother. That was right and proper, she was most definitely neglecting him and manifestly unsuited to raise him without harm.

But she was heartbroken about it, and I have a great deal of sympathy for her. When he's older my son will meet her if he'd like, for now she doesn't know where we live because she's mentally unstable and potentially might kidnap him.

There is no doubt in my mind that my son needed to be taken from his biological mother, she was a danger to his health and possibly to his life. But there is also no doubt that it was a shattering experience for her. I cannot imagine how much worse it would be for parents who lost their child not due to neglect, but to kidnapping.

Even parents who give their children up for adoption after careful consideration and deliberation often experience a great deal of regret later.

Again, I'm not opposed to adoption, just ambiguous. It is something that I think wants a great deal more care and consideration and debate in our society than it gets. I think the whole subject is tainted by the anti-choice advocates pushing adoption as an alternative to abortion, and that's a very bad thing indeed.

The situation in the linked story is so incredibly messed up I have no idea what to think, save that we really, really, need to begin working on the deep problems involved in international adoption. Either way things go down, someone gets hurt.
posted by sotonohito at 1:43 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


delmoi: “What makes you think I didn't read it?”

I was kind of pissed off, like you seem to be, that anybody would suggest that kidnapping should be allowed if the kids are getting kidnapped from the third world and taken to the first world.

I calmed down a bit when I realized that nobody here is actually suggesting that.
posted by koeselitz at 1:47 PM on August 19, 2011


"For everyone's reference, Guatemala a "lower middle income" country according to the World Bank. Here are its Development Indicators. Definitely not perfect, but life expectancy is a respectable 71 years."

"Guatemala has highest rate of chronic malnutrition in children under five in all of Latin America."


Looking at the average standard of living in Guatemala is a little like looking at the average standard of living in the southern US during the Jim Crow era.

Half the country has a decent shot at the middle class — and though the Guatemalan middle class is small compared to its US counterpart, it's quite comfortable. But the other half of the country is basically doomed to poverty for the foreseeable future.

So there's no tidy generalization about "what life is like" in Guatemala, because the norm is very different depending on your race and location. For what it's worth, most of kids adopted out of the country (back when it was legal) came from poor, rural, usually Mayan families. But the kidnapping angle makes it sound like this was different. There have been stories for a long time about Mayan children being stolen for international adoption — but as far as I can tell, most actual kidnapping now happens in the capital, with targets who are rich or at least rich-looking.

Anyway, justice is justice, and kidnapping poor people is no less a crime than kidnapping rich ones. I'm just saying, if you wanted to make economics a factor, you would have to look at her mother's specific situation and not just the overall picture of What It's Like There.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:47 PM on August 19, 2011


about all of the African-American orphans here in the US that need homes? I live in the south, and here there are countless children who need a family but who aren't considered because of their race.

First of all, let me say that this child should absolutely, 100% be given back to the biological mother. This is not a legal adoption. I can tell you that, as a 6 year old, I would wanted to live with my family anywhere, including in a tent or under a bridge. The assumptions and generalizations made about the biological mother's quality of life are astonishing to me. This was a kidnapping. Period.

Second of all, I want to enter my two cents in about domestic adoptions in the US. There are a lot of children in foster care in the US. Not all of them (or even most of them) are orphans. Not all of them are available for adoption. Many of them are being housed in foster care while the courts give their biological parents multiple chances to get their act together. And the foster care system in the US is a big F-ed up mess. Kids can be shuffled around from caregiver to caregiver at the insistence of the biological parents or foster care agency, sometimes preventing those poor kids from establishing healthy emotional relationships with anyone and having severe attachment issues later. Many adoptable kids are older kids, or have special needs, or had parents who abused alcohol/drugs during the pregnancy, or are sibling groups. Open adoptions are generally more affordable than closed adoptions, and this can go very well or be a big stumbling block for some parents who are uncomfortable and insecure about open adoptions (I"m not saying that they shouldn't get educated about how to be a better at being part of an open adoption, I'm just explaining what I've seen.) The days of a little baby with no special needs coming to you from a well-nourished, non-drug/alcohol pregnancy with no strings attached or messy extended biological family drama for less than $20K? Those days are gone, because they often existed at the expense of other people's rights or because of messed up cultural and socioeconomic inequities. So, I think that it is better that they are gone, frankly. Are there great domestic adoptions? Oh, heck yes, and I'm proud to know a lot of amazing domestically adopted kids and their families, some closed and some open, all transracial.

Yes, some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a transracial family, sad but true. We're on the path to becoming a transracial family through adoption, and we're willing to limit where we live, etc. so our future kid can have neighbors and friends who surround them daily who look like them, but we can't expect others to do the same.

International adoption can be messed up, and it can be awesome. And often it comes down to a case-by-case examination of the circumstances surrounding the adoption. Adoption agencies need to be shut down immediately if there is even a HINT of impropriety, because human trafficking cannot stand. But this is not a black or white, domestic or international, thing. The reality is far, far more complicated.
posted by jeanmari at 1:58 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think we're mostly on the same page about "actual" parents, really. If you would never use that term with regard to a legally adopted child, then I understand why you might argue this particular adoption is different. I just react with instinctive distaste to any use of words like "real" and "actual" that distinguish biological from adoptive parents. I completely understand what some of you are saying about this particular case. That's why I said I hope you're not using that term as a general signifier of biological parentage, and it sounds like you're not. So I feel better.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:03 PM on August 19, 2011


Wow I'm reading an awful lot of assumptions hear about international adoptions, many incorrect.

I speak as someone who adopted from China.

People go the international route for a lot of reasons. One is that, as a single parent, I was warned by agency after agency and adoption lawyers that it would be impossible to adopt a child from, say, a single mother giving birth, unless I went the private route and as I was considering this, there a number of cases around the country where people had been ripped off, families had wound up in court, in very painful disputes, etc.

I was also told told that agencies would always favor couples in placing kids. I was warned by social service agencies that adopting kids out of the foster care system was loaded with problems--too many kids were seriously damaged, kids were often not truly free for adoption, there were racial issues at the time (understandably, some agencies had come to oppose white people adopting black kids, etc.) I very much wanted to go the American route but it simply appeared closed off.

As far as "they had to know," no, they did not. The whole process, which does not go quickly, by the way, is controlled by others, including primarily government agencies, in places like China. You have limited access to information and if you think you're going to be allowed to go dialing through records in China, forget it. You cannot overstate the web of orphanages, police and state agency involvement in the process in China. One of the last steps to finalize the process involved laying out more than $3,000 in cash in a hotel room while cops, soldiers and Chinese officials representing who knows what organizations stood by. This was supposedly the fee to the orphanage to reimburse them for the costs of caring for her.

I wound up adopting from China only after attempting to adopt through Vietnam, a process that was so fraught with error and ever changing requirements that i finally gave up after two and a half years. I know people who adopted from Vietnam very successfully and happily; it all depended on at what point you got into its program.

Here's an example of how things can go wrong: the child that I was supposed to adopt was under the control of a local agency. After I started paying, the equivalent of a federal agency stepped in and started the process all over again, twice. Meantime, the girl aged, and not by the calendar but by paperwork. The child, who was 4 when we started, was 6 a year later. The circumstances of her arrival at the orphanage changed. Then miraculously, so did her name. And her age kept rising, til she was suddenly 9. A policeman I know flew to Vietnam twice, as he was required to do, for some ceremony, only to never be able to bring his adopted daughter home. So those of you who see international adoption as an easy process, forget it.

It's also not just Americans adopting in places like China. While I was there, we met people from Sweden, France and Italy adopting kids.

And it's not cheap. You're talking $25,000 or $30,000 easy, for most foreign adoptions.

For a long time, I felt completely confident that the China program was pure. In recent years, that does not seem to be the case, though the most obvious problems seem to have developed a few years after I adopted. We certainly know some of the effects of the one-child policy. You can fault me if you'd like, but I know many Chinese women who say they were threatened, fined, etc., for having "illegal" children. The Chinese government makes money off this process. I do not believe that most Chinese adoptions are illicit but I do not know that for a fact.

As far as adopting and making sure a birth parent wasn't likely to show up: well, I admit that element worried me a little at first, though it was hardly a primary reason. It was a niggling detail in the back of mind. Now, given my daughter's occasional questions, and they are very occasional, I'd give anything to help her to find her birth mother and help her learn her story.
posted by etaoin at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm astounded that anyone would consider that it might be appropriate for the girl to stay with her adoptive parents.

I have a dear friend who (completely legitimately) adopted a Guatemalan child. When anyone comments on how lucky her son is, she gets very angry. She says he's not lucky at all: his mother could not keep him (due to health problems and poverty), and now he is living in a foreign country away from his culture and family. She says that is it horrifying that he could not stay with his birth family, and wishes this was not the case for any child. She loves her son, but I know she would send him back to his family in a heartbeat if it were possible.

This, a thousand times over: And higher standard of living has nothing to do with it. My daughter is almost five, and if she had been stolen from my front yard when she was two and sold to an uber-wealthy Swedish couple who could offer her anything she wanted and lived in a country with universal health care and stronger human rights than the US, I would fight like hell to get her back. Because she's MY DAUGHTER.
posted by Specklet at 2:50 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Etaoin, thank you for sharing, explaining and correcting.
posted by zarq at 3:00 PM on August 19, 2011


I'll agree that the only proper thing to do is to send the kid back. This is the only path to justice.

That said, there is a very, very high chance the child will grow up to hate everyone involved, and especially her birth mother, with the passion of a thousand suns for doing it.

Unlike most of my fellow Americans, I have been to central America numerous times thanks to the wife who likes to watch birds. Not Guatemala, but parts of Panama, Mexico, and Trinidad where tourists who are going for the beaches and shopping don't go.

The Third World is not the pit of heartache and despair many Americans think, and the vast majority of people we met there did not ache to return to America with us. They had their own lives and culture and in some ways their culture was very attractive; I could certainly imagine retiring to rural Mexico or Costa Rica and being entirely happy. Trinidad, not so much. Panama, depends on which part of the country.

The thing is, there are hardships associated with living in America. We have a lot of money, so our society is structured so that you need a lot of money to live well. This creates a lot of stress when that money gets tight.

But this girl isn't old enough to have seen any of that. She has lived about half her life, by any measure the half when her development is accelerating as she matures into sociality, in a fairy tale of security and plenty. Her own story illustrates that better than anything; how many American children are kidnapped so they can be sold to foreign adoption agencies? This is a risk we simply don't face, and there are lots of others.

People who live parts of the third world, away from border interfaces like Tijuana and Cozumel tend not to resent or envy Americans because they don't have their noses constantly rubbed in our wealth. But this girl came here and lived like a princess only to be returned to a place which is rather obviously different. Guatemala is on my wife's to-do list along with Nicaragua and, hopefully one day, Cuba. Americans can make and execute a list like that. Your typical resident of Cardel, Mexico, where we visited once to see a raptor migration, isn't going to be doing a similar list that includes southern Louisiana no matter how much they love birds.

Maybe she won't let this eat her alive. But I wouldn't bet on it, and I heed the words of griphus: But, like I said, if I was forced to the Soviet Union from a midwestern suburb? I'd want to choke the life out of whoever did that to me.
posted by localroger at 4:02 PM on August 19, 2011


I was warned by social service agencies that adopting kids out of the foster care system was loaded with problems--too many kids were seriously damaged

Having been through foster care training, I know exactly what you mean and I'm assuming you have the best of intentions, but I ask you to be mindful of calling human beings "damaged."
posted by desjardins at 4:11 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, this was a gross thread to read. Whole lot of American Exceptionalism up in here.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:22 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why would anyone assume the girl's future won't be good at home with her birth family? Why assume the transition will be traumatic? It might be to some extent, but we all face change, sometimes radical change. I can tell you the papers are blazing about the Somali children that will be dying by the hundreds of thousands if something doesn't happen for them. A stolen child is found by her Mother, a triumph! If I lost a two year old to kidnapping, I would not sleep until that child was in my arms again.
posted by Oyéah at 6:25 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I expressed my view above, which is basically that there are no ambiguities here at all. As a father, if someone had kidnapped my daughter at age 2 and taken her to be a princess in fantasyland, I would not rest until I had her back whether that was at age 6 or age 66. I would walk through fire and endure anything before I would abandon the quest. I therefore admire this child's real mother (usage intentional) for her courage and persistence. In my view, she's proven her fitness as a parent if there were even the slightest doubt before. Me, I'd have been in Missouri on those people's front lawn myself. Every day. With a bullhorn.

But I just wonder, given all the generalizations about Guatemalan poverty in this thread, whether anyone actually knows the real (!) mother's economic status? Why assume she's a starving Mayan peasant (not that that would make this acceptable in any way)? Presumably she had the wherewithal to pursue this case. There are plenty of middle class and wealthy people in Guatemala.

*The "Real mother" usage debate is spurious. She's the child's real mother as well as her biological mother. The "adoptive" parents are at best the beneficiaries of a criminal act, and at worst accessories to a crime themselves. End. Of. Story.
posted by spitbull at 7:26 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Etaoin I understand your desire for a child and the problems encountered with that.

You have limited access to information and if you think you're going to be allowed to go dialing through records in China, forget it.

After discovering how opaque the process was, and the large amounts of money involved, did you have any doubts ethically about going forward with adoption, and if so, how did you resolve?
posted by smoke at 7:29 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a sad and terrifying story, for many reasons.

For those who say that the only answer is to return the child to Guatemala, how many of you have children of your own? And how would you explain to your six-year-old that they need to leave and live in a strange country with a strange family speaking a foreign language, and they would quite possibly never see you again? I don't think I could do that.

In cases with no allegations of criminality, such as those stories of babies switched at birth, there seems to be no clear consensus (in law or in ethics) on what to do. Particularly interesting and relevant is the Callie Johnson and Rebecca Chittum case; switched at birth, and discovered at age 3, the courts eventually ruled against one of the biological mother's custody claim for her daughter, determining that it was not in the best interest of the child. And that was a child at age 3.

But finally, what really upsets me about these kinds of stories is that they lead people to assume that all Guatemalan adoptions are fraudulent. We now have tens of thousands of Guatemalan children being raised in adoptive families here in the states, and how many of them will now be asked if they were stolen at birth? What would that do to your psyche, growing up, to have that kind of doubt in your mind?
posted by math at 7:44 PM on August 19, 2011


math, that is a very good question and very valid because it seems to be true that Guatemala really is the center of a ring for infant trafficking, which is why the rest of the world shut them out years before the US wandered around to doing so. Their incidence of foreign adoption is crazy high; I saw in one link that almost 1% of their babies end up adopted by Americans. There is no way that is happening without some powerful coercive forces involved.
posted by localroger at 7:49 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those who say that the only answer is to return the child to Guatemala, how many of you have children of your own? And how would you explain to your six-year-old that they need to leave and live in a strange country with a strange family speaking a foreign language, and they would quite possibly never see you again? I don't think I could do that.

And if it was your child that was stolen, and living happily for several years before you found her, what would you think then?
posted by Glinn at 7:49 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


For those who say that the only answer is to return the child to Guatemala, how many of you have children of your own?

It's because I have children of my own that I am so certain that the answer is to return the child to her mother. As I said above, if my daughter were kidnapped at the age of 2 and sold to an agency who placed her with super-rich Scandinavians or something, I would crawl to hell over broken glass to get her back.

And how would you explain to your six-year-old that they need to leave and live in a strange country with a strange family speaking a foreign language, and they would quite possibly never see you again?

I would hope that the resolution of this case would involve both families getting court-mandated time with the little girl, both in the US and in Guatemala, for the sake of the child.
posted by KathrynT at 7:52 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would hope that the resolution of this case would involve both families getting court-mandated time with the little girl, both in the US and in Guatemala, for the sake of the child.

I like this idea took but who will pay for the travel?
posted by localroger at 8:09 PM on August 19, 2011


I like this idea took but who will pay for the travel?

If I were king? It would be paid for out of the positively titanic damages assessed against the adoption agency.
posted by KathrynT at 8:18 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was kind of pissed off, like you seem to be, that anybody would suggest that kidnapping should be allowed if the kids are getting kidnapped from the third world and taken to the first world.

I calmed down a bit when I realized that nobody here is actually suggesting that.
Okay, then why would you take it out on someone who agrees with you? I read the thread, and I was shocked at some of the comments that seemed to say the parents should get to keep the kid or that it would be bad for her to go back to her real mother because she happened to live in a 3rd world country (despite being middle class in that country, apparently)
…Maybe she won't let this eat her alive. But I wouldn't bet on it, and I heed the words of griphus: But, like I said, if I was forced to the Soviet Union from a midwestern suburb? I'd want to choke the life out of whoever did that to me.
Honestly I don't think a six year old will really grasp any of that. And beyond that her parents are relatively rich for her country. That's what's mind boggling about some of the comments in this thread. Lots of people may be dirt-poor in Guatemala, but it doesn't seem like this girl will be when she gets back. And someone who is six years old is just not going to be aware of what wealth means. She might miss the big-screen TV and the DVD player but most of the things that wealth gives you don't really apply to six year olds in the first place.

Plus, it's pretty weird to think that biterness about a lack of material wealth will lead to people hating their parents. It seems like you're assuming this girl will grow up to be so materialistic and selfish that she would end up hating someone just because she has less access to wealth then she otherwise would. Seems pretty weird.
posted by delmoi at 8:50 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


To respond to the comments from Glinn and KathrynT, I totally agree with your points, which is why I feel that this situation is so tragic (and difficult to resolve). My questions were meant to help us see this from the side of the Missouri couple.

KathrynT expressed what many parents must feel when she responded to my question of:

For those who say that the only answer is to return the child to Guatemala, how many of you have children of your own?

with the heartfelt words:

It's because I have children of my own that I am so certain that the answer is to return the child to her mother. As I said above, if my daughter were kidnapped at the age of 2 and sold to an agency who placed her with super-rich Scandinavians or something, I would crawl to hell over broken glass to get her back.

But to look at this from a different perspective, what if KathrynT (or any of you reading this thread) were to suddenly discover that your child was not your child, due to some switched-at-the-hospital mishap (see my story upthread about Rebecca Chittum), and in fact your child's "real" parents wanted him or her back? And suppose there was a court order demanding you to give back the child... could you do it?

I hope we see that the issue is a bit more difficult when it moves from the hypothetical "some other adopted baby in Missouri" to the actual "my child sleeping in my arms", or when it moves from "someone stole my baby and I would crawl over broken glass to get her back" to "someone wants to take my baby away from me".

Granted, the Missouri couple might have some complicity (although just how much is debatable). But I worry that some of us mefites might be making an unconscious assumption that the parental bonds through adoption aren't as "real" as the parental bonds through birth, and that thus it's OK to simply tell the adoptive parents to send back the child. I can assure you that this is not the case, and that you don't have to give birth to a child to love that child more than life itself. Just ask any doting father, or any adoptive parent.

I'm not at all denying the pain of the birth mother whose child was stolen from her. But I don't want to deny the pain of the adoptive parents, either.

As I said, it's a sad and terrifying story. No easy answers on this one.
posted by math at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2011


THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD
THE CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED AND SOLD

there are no "buts", "ifs" or "maybes".
this child needs to go back to her real family now, not stay with the people who stole her.
posted by liza at 10:58 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


And suppose there was a court order demanding you to give back the child... could you do it?

I believe I wouldn't have let it get to the point of a court order, because I believe what's "best for the child" is to work something out before it becomes an international incident.
posted by muddgirl at 5:18 AM on August 20, 2011


this child needs to go back to her real family now, not stay with the people who stole her.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Is there any evidence that the people who adopted her had any idea at all that the child was kidnapped?

(And am I the only one who thinks it would be a horrible idea to rip this poor girl away from the only family she's ever known? Yes, that would be better for the biological parents, but I'm feeling that the girl's needs and wellbeing should outstrip that of her parents)
posted by schmod at 6:21 AM on August 20, 2011


It's cruel to assume that the adoptive parents were complicit in this. They wanted a child so desperately that they put their trust in an agency which, it would appear, knowingly engaged in illegal acts in order to get this child to them. I really, really hope that they will be able to part of the child's life in the future but there's no question that the child has to go home to her biological mother. There should be absolutely no question about that. As has been stated repeatedly, this child was kidnapped.

Many people who've been adopted have an overwhelming urge to know about their biological family. The Stolen Generation of Australian Aboriginals and their experiences should be required reading for anyone in doubt of how important one's history and background is to people who, regardless of any perceived advantage they might have received, have been taken from what's considered by some to be a very disadvantaged life and placed into a more affluent situation.

This is an awful situation but if the two families are able to build a relationship then it's possible that the girl at the centre of it all can live a happy life in the future.
posted by h00py at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And am I the only one who thinks it would be a horrible idea to rip this poor girl away from the only family she's ever known?

No, as the thread makes clear. On the other hand, you're all wrong. We have a long, documented history on the trauma this kind of thing causes in places from the Arctic to Australia. Some countries are busy paying out "god, we're so sorry we fucked up an entire generation" money.

Plus, you know how many kids have some issues upon learning they were adopted? Now imagine learning you were stolen, and that your adoptive parents were at best willfully ignorant and at worst complicit, and that your mother's been trying to get you back all this time. That'll work out well.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:52 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


no it's not cruel.

there was a moment during the Hackergate hearings when James Murdoch was asked if he knew what willful blindness was and astonishingly, for a guy who is heir to literally an empire, he couldn't answer the question.

willful blindness is a crime. it's a way of being complicit by choosing not to ask the hard questions believing that, if you get caught but didnt really know, your ignorance acts as immunity in the criminal complicity.

the people who bought Loyda's daughter and are defending them are guilty of willful blindness. they went to Guatemala because they knew the process would be loose enough they would get a child of their liking fast, easy and with little questions asked compared to other adoption systems.

it's high time people really called out this BS of americans being entitled and be treated as heroes for stealing babies in developing countries and calling it adoption. a lot of adoptions are kidnapping and human trafficking and should be called out for what they are. this happened in South America during the decades of military juntas in El Cono Sur. Argentina was particularly notorious for this.

this child was stolen, sold and trafficked. she needs to be returned to her rightful family.
posted by liza at 8:06 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


From eunoia's link:

When Monahan asked Hedberg what could be done after the child’s failed DNA test, aparently seeking alternative ways to push the adoption through, Hedberg responded that Marvin might bring the child to an orphanage, where she might eventually become declared abandoned. Or, Hedberg said, Bran might dump the girl “somewhere where nobody could find her.” In subsequent emails, Monahan said she was “terrified.”

The first bolded text above indicates that Jennifer Monahan was indeed complicit in continuing with the 'adoption' even after learning that the DNA results showed that Anyeli was not who the agency had said she was. BUT the second bolded text shows that Monahan might have also decided to go through with the 'adoption' because of fears of what would happen to Anyeli if the Monahans backed out.

The Baby Jessica case, and another one that was highly publicized at about that time--I can't remember the name right now and google isn't turning it up for me...

not that girl, I think you're thinking of the Baby Richard case.
posted by marsha56 at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2011


it's high time people really called out this BS of americans being entitled and be treated as heroes for stealing babies in developing countries and calling it adoption.

Christ, they aren't heroes, they just want to have kids. Most partners can do that for free with no questions asked, adoption costs extreme amounts of money and invasive evaluation.

The system is quite obviously broken and this kind of human trafficking is a symptom of it. The parents aren't trying to steal babies though, put the blame where it belongs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


marsha56: The first bolded text above indicates that Jennifer Monahan was indeed complicit in continuing with the 'adoption' even after learning that the DNA results showed that Anyeli was not who the agency had said she was. BUT the second bolded text shows that Monahan might have also decided to go through with the 'adoption' because of fears of what would happen to Anyeli if the Monahans backed out.

I would find this infinitely more plausible as an excuse if Monahan had said something about it at the time. Afraid the adoption isn't on the up-and-up? Legitimate reason to believe the adoption agency is going to quietly dispose of the child if you don't take her? Fine, get her over here and out of danger. HOWEVER, you must go to the authorities once it is safe to do so! That's the difference between simply playing complicit long enough to protect the child and actually being complicit.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Basically all the justifications for not returning this child could be applied to American children kidnapped and raised for several years in Scandinavia. In practically any Scandinavian country these "adopted" children will receive proper medical care and better educations while being much less likely to live in poverty or exposed to violent crimes. I mean there's the winters, but as long as we're stealing children from the upper midwest, it's pretty much a wash as far as that goes.
posted by milarepa at 12:31 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Basically all the justifications for not returning this child could be applied to American children kidnapped and raised for several years in Scandinavia.

Absolutely, and as an American I totally see this: With the countries thus changed, I can see the repatriated American daughter who has been diagnosed with leukemia cursing her American birth mother to all the gods she can imagine for taking her back from a country where treatment for her condition is both state of the art and free to one where it is available but, because there are no jobs for her in the poor economy, it is impossible for her to afford.
posted by localroger at 1:15 PM on August 20, 2011


If I may step sideways for a moment, a bit of why as an American a bit of exceptionalism creeps into my thinking sometimes:

Birdwatching is my wife's big hobby. We're not rich people, but we have been fortunate to make some good decisions and have some flush periods and this is important to her, so she has some really state of the art birding gear, including a Swarovski scope and binoculars. (I get by when I'm with her with my Swift Audubons, because I can justify $500 for good binocs if I'm hiking off into the jungle, but not $3000.)

On one of our trips we had a really excellent guide who was actually an employee of the government run park. Tracking these birds was his life and work and he was very good, and he was paid well enough to take the occasional international sabbatical, share restaurant meals and drinks afterward with us, and he did not worry about fuel costs for his government supplied jeep. But he was very taken with my wife's optics, and kept pestering us as to how much they cost.

And we could not figure out how to answer the question, the honest answer to which was our binoculars and scope cost about what you make in four or five years, more than the house you live in cost to build in your country. Here was a person who was, and I have met a lot of bird people on these travels, at the top of his game, in any meritocracy he would have been entitled to the top prizes, and he was using a shitty Ohaus spotting scope because you can't take out a mortgage to buy a spotting scope or binoculars. We amateurs from a relatively poor state and working class income could, because it was important to us, afford the very best optics available.

Even though it was his job, much more important to him even than to my wife, and he was contributing actual research adding to mankind's knowledge of the species instead of just padding his life list, there was no way he would ever do anything but borrow a Swarovski scope.

That is a fundamental difference between the Third and First worlds. It is a single pixel in a large tapestry, but it is one that made me feel very awkward for a week or so several years ago. I wish it were not so, but there are certain dreams that are not available to you in some countries that are in others. To pretend otherwise is foolish.
posted by localroger at 1:35 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Addendum: As we were to that poor guy with binoculars and scopes, the Europeans who come over are to us with their camera equipment. So milarepa's take works in this side analogy too.
posted by localroger at 1:44 PM on August 20, 2011


And we could not figure out how to answer the question, the honest answer to which was our binoculars and scope cost about what you make in four or five years, more than the house you live in cost to build in your country....

localroger,
Beats me why you didn't just tell him what he wanted to know!

I imagine your Third World bird lover/tour guide had already met tons of other well-heeled American tourists with similarly fab. bird-spotting equipment - given the nature of his job!


He probably thought you were being incredibly peculiar and coy about the price of your stuff.

If birds - tracking 'em, protecting 'em, studying 'em, excelling in the knowledge of 'em - was indeed your local guide's whole "life and work" then it sounds to me like he was born in precisely the right country! Since he actually lives full time in the bird-lovers' destination - and you & your wife don't. You two only get to go there on holiday!

To be honest, your comment sounds exceptionally condescending.
(I understand this wasn't your intention.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:09 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jody, you do not know the birding world or its tools. There are people who say we live in a bird lover's paradise; I guess we do, but we take that for granted because we see those birds all the time. We have not taken it upon ourselves to devote our lives to studying them but we know people who have. We know people who have done that, in fact, in all of the countries we have visited.

Birds are small and they avoid you. Good optics are to you like a microscope is to a microbiologist. If you have never looked through a $3,000 scope after looking through one that cost $200, you just have no idea what I am talking about.

The poor man in Costa Rica who was middle class by the standards of his country could no more afford to buy a better scope, one that could make the difference in a hard species call in dim light, than I could afford a Lambourghini. But he would have a lot more use for the thing he wants but can't have.

Birds are small, mobile, and their markings are sometimes obscure. I have seen the dfference between crappy optics and good optics. If this is your dream, and you aren't from a first world country, you are cut off from it.
posted by localroger at 4:17 PM on August 20, 2011


localroger,

Fair enough - I don't know anything about the relative quality of optics in bird watching.

But in your latest comment you emphasize how obviously, seriously, unambiguously, professionally disadvantaged the Costa Rican guide was - because of his own shoddy spotting equipment.

Yet in your first comment, you say something quite different:

You insisted "he was contributing actual research adding to mankind's knowledge of the species" - because of his knowledge of birds. You described him at "the top of his game" - the game of bird watching. So it seemed to me that your guy had done pretty well, even without the super-duper optics!

(Also, even if you have the best equipment in the world, it won't help you spot a bird - if you don't have patience, detailed local knowledge, a good natural eye - and genuinely informed enthusiasm for the task! Also, I do know that Costa Rica IS one of the world's great bird watching locations. So the guide was definitely lucky in that respect!).
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:02 PM on August 20, 2011


Jody, for my wife it was a game. For our guide it was not. And you have probably never looked through a Swarovski scope. It is as different as sipping the $50/shot scotch. you just don't know.
posted by localroger at 6:10 PM on August 20, 2011


In America even the poorest families are eligible for food stamps, TANF, WIC, Medicare and so on. A family in South America? Even if they have a safety net, I doubt it is nearly as good.

As good as...what?! The US is a better place to raise a child because we have some federal assistance programs that are, by the way, at the mercy of highly partisan politics? Our much-admired higher standard of living comes with some big capitalist caveats, like the cost of housing, transportation, food, childcare, access to healthcare. (Also, Guatemala is in Central America.)

I'm perplexed at how many people are using the term "third world" in this thread, too, given that the world no longer fits into neat Cold War teams of Allies and Their Friends, Soviet/China Communist Menace and...uh, Countries Not Picked By the Team Captains.
posted by desuetude at 6:29 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


etaoin: "One of the last steps to finalize the process involved laying out more than $3,000 in cash in a hotel room while cops, soldiers and Chinese officials representing who knows what organizations stood by. This was supposedly the fee to the orphanage to reimburse them for the costs of caring for her. . . .
Here's an example of how things can go wrong: the child that I was supposed to adopt was under the control of a local agency. After I started paying, the equivalent of a federal agency stepped in and started the process all over again, twice. Meantime, the girl aged, and not by the calendar but by paperwork. The child, who was 4 when we started, was 6 a year later. The circumstances of her arrival at the orphanage changed. Then miraculously, so did her name. And her age kept rising, til she was suddenly 9.
"

etaoin, this is what I meant by the adoptive family having to know something was up. It doesn't mean they knew specifically that the girl had been kidnapped or that the parents were looking for her, but when things happen the way, frankly, you relate happened with your international adoption, you know that something isn't right about the process.

The problem is that of course you have become so emotionally invested at this point in the child you are trying to adopt that you overlook things like shady hotel room payoffs and paperwork that keeps changing the age of the child you are adopting.

How many people, do you think, complain about these situations once they have their adopted children? Very few, I'd wager. They don't want to lose their children. So human trafficking and all other kinds of lesser corruption and abuses of the system just keep going on, and this Guatemalan mother is one of the casualties of that.

I don't blame you personally for the way the Chinese adoption process went for you. I'm sure you wish it was much less confusing and straight forward, too. But I wonder, as someone asked above, did you ever go to anyone with influence--journalists, or the State Department--to bring any of it to light, or attempt to hold anyone accountable?
posted by misha at 7:02 PM on August 20, 2011


Jody, for my wife it was a game. For our guide it was not. And you have probably never looked through a Swarovski scope. It is as different as sipping the $50/shot scotch. you just don't know.

localroger,
Granted.

Yet the picture you have drawn is this: bird-watching American tourists on vacation in Costa Rica, festooned with their shiny top-of-the-range hobby scopes notice, in a fluster of guilt, that their bird-watching tour guide has a really crap load of equipment.

The tourists also marvel that, despite the obvious consumer deprivation, the local tour guide is actually incredibly accomplished, obviously someone who has found his dream job, and is making a real contribution to bird-watching scholarship.

And you originally claimed that the whole point of this story was to show: "a bit of why as an American a bit of exceptionalism creeps into my thinking sometimes".

I just don't think your story shows what you think it does.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:57 PM on August 20, 2011


localroger: Even though it was his job, much more important to him even than to my wife, and he was contributing actual research adding to mankind's knowledge of the species instead of just padding his life list, there was no way he would ever do anything but borrow a Swarovski scope.

From what I've seen, even in the US researchers don't usually use things like Swarovski scopes. Ultimately, the difference between a decent spotting scope and a top-of-the-line spotting scope is mostly in how pretty the image is, not what you can actually see with it. Researchers don't care about that little bit of chromatic abberation, they just want their equipment to be rugged and not eat up their funding. Plus, most of the equipment is handed off to technicians or graduate students.

For instance, I was once on a field technician job in Wyoming searching for black-footed ferrets in the wilderness. I used my personal binoculars ($80) because they were better than the ones they were issuing the field techs.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:12 PM on August 20, 2011


I don't think it should be taken into account that this girl was kidnapped. This girl is a person and not a piece of property. Unfortunately she is not old enough to make this decision, but I still think she should be asked and her opinion should be taken into account. All that should matter here is what is in the best interest of this child. I do not know what that is. I don't care how her biological mother feels or how her adoptive parents feel. I don't care about their rights. I'm sorry, but that shouldn't get a vote.

You can't return a kidnapped child the way you can return a stolen car that you unknowingly bought.

My vote would probably be for some sort of custody agreement where the child stays with her adoptive parents, but that she has extensive time with her biological mother in her home country. Such as spending summers there and then possibly a couple years going to middle or high school there when she gets older. And when she gets older, maybe around 12, she can decide how much time she wants to stay with her biological mother or if she wants to live with her full time. Taking a child away from the only mother and father she's ever known at the age of 6, short of situations involving abuse or neglect, seems unfathomable.
posted by whoaali at 9:43 PM on August 20, 2011


So basically as long as I raise my kidnapped child long enough I should be granted rights? You say returning a child is not like returning a car. Well I don't think the situation should be treated like a house that I've squatted in either. Being sold across international lines is abuse. This whole conversation is ridiculous and paternalistic. If it was your kid being raised in France you better believe you'd want her back and not just for the "summers" for the next 6 years before she's arbitrarily forced to decide. Absurd.
posted by milarepa at 9:54 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that Oprah should be able to steal babies if she wants. She can give them a better standard of living than pretty much anyone else.

Okay, I'm joking, that's silly...but if Oprah does steal the children and they aren't caught for a few years maybe we should just let her keep them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:55 PM on August 20, 2011


Of course I'd want my child back. That's only human. That's doesn't mean that's the best decision for the child. I don't think anyone "should be allowed to steal children," but taking a 6 year old away from the people she recognizes at her parents and putting her with herbioloigcal mother who she probably has no memory of does not right the wrong of human trafficking. If your first concern is a parent's "rights" to their biological children over the best interest of that child then you're treating that child like property that the parent owns.

And my opinion wouldn't change if her biological mother won the lottery tomorrow and decided to move to a nice suburb in Toronto. If the child had been with the adoptive parents for a few weeks or months then sending her back to her biological mother would likely not be too traumatic, but this child is 6 and she's been with her adoptive parents for years, hugely important formative years. Her biological mother is a stranger to her. A stranger who loves her and suffered an unforgivable crime, but a stranger to her nonetheless.
posted by whoaali at 10:11 PM on August 20, 2011


but taking a 6 year old away from the people she recognizes at her parents and putting her with herbioloigcal mother who she probably has no memory of does not right the wrong of human trafficking.

Uhh, that seems to be exactly what it does.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2011


Furiousxgeorge: I really don't understand this. If the person that was trafficked is further victimized how does it right the wrong?
posted by whoaali at 10:30 PM on August 20, 2011


Returning a kidnapping victim is not the same thing as victimizing them again. There are situations where it isn't easy, but that isn't the same thing at all.

The wrong here is that a human being was stolen from their family and sold, that is human trafficking, when you return them you have undone that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:37 PM on August 20, 2011


One thing you have to realize here, is that there is more than one victim. Denying parents their children because your foreign government thinks they know how to care for the child better, that's continuing victimization. That's kidnapping all over again.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:43 PM on August 20, 2011


I am a mother.

If Toddler Zizzle were taken from me, I wouldn't stop looking for him until I died. I would never give up. I'd fall down dead in the street from looking for him, and if I found him living with other people who were good to him, I'd probably at least be grateful for that. But I'd still do everything in my power to get him back. Because he's mine. I was the one who went through a hell a traumatic birth experience to have him. I was the one who was there taking him to the ER with the croup. I was the one he referred to when he first said, "Mommy."

Toddler Zizzle is two years old. I don't know how much of those two years he'll actually remember, but I know I have memories as a a really young child --- around two or three --- that are really very clear and if those memories didn't fit with what I knew of the rest of my life, I'd start to question a lot as an older child and a teenager. If I learned I had been kidnapped and that's why my earlier memories make no sense in conjunction with my current life or with what I had been told about my story, and then I learned that my biological family had been searching through me and exhausting every lead, every agency, and every resource at their disposal to do so, and on top of that I learned my adoptive family may have had some involvement in taking me away from biological family, I would never be able to trust those people again. The adoptive family would become strangers. My worldview would be shattered, and no matter how good my life was up until that point, I'd think it was all a lie and I'd no longer want anything to do with my adoptive family.

If I were to have adopted Toddler Zizzle, and I learned when he was six years old that he had been kidnapped and his biological mother spent all that time looking for him and would fall down in the street dead before giving up, I don't know how I could live with myself if I didn't return the child. I don't know how, as a mother, I could let another mother willingly suffer for the rest of her life because of the wrongdoing of others. My heart would, of course, be breaking every step of the way. But what happened to that other mother wouldn't have been right. What happened to me in being allowed to ever have that child wouldn't have been right. Knowing the fear, only the fear, of something like that happening to my child and learning someone else had gone through the fires of hell for that child would affect me so much that one of my first courses of actions would be so far from contacting a heavy duty PR firm in D.C. One of my first actions would be calling that mother and grieving with her and doing the right thing --- doing the only thing a mother could do.

The parable of King Solomon is still of some value. I would likely always think of that child as mine, but I'd have no choice in my heart but to make the sacrifice to return the child. I wouldn't be able, as a mother, to ignore, disregard, or put my own love for the child above the hell the biological mother had gone through.
posted by zizzle at 11:14 PM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Of course I'd want my child back. That's only human. That's doesn't mean that's the best decision for the child. I don't think anyone "should be allowed to steal children," but taking a 6 year old away from the people she recognizes at her parents and putting her with herbioloigcal mother who she probably has no memory of does not right the wrong of human trafficking. If your first concern is a parent's "rights" to their biological children over the best interest of that child then you're treating that child like property that the parent owns.

Why are you so sure she have no memory of her mother? How do you know this child recognizes the US couple as her parents? Why do you think it would be traumatic to return to Guatemala? Why is this hypothetical cross-cultural shared custody arrangement LESS traumatic than returning the small child to a stable routine with her own mother?

It isn't just about the feeeelings of her mother and the couple who adopted her, it's about who has the rightful responsibility to care for this child. And yes, it's rather universally understood that the person who creates the child, unless unwilling or unable, gets precedence.

Adoptive parents who go through legitimate channels have to fight an uphill battle all the time to establish that they're real parents. Let's not encourage the inclusion of pseudo-legitimized kidnapping into their FAQ, okay?
posted by desuetude at 12:59 AM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yes, it's rather universally understood that the person who creates the child, unless unwilling or unable, gets precedence.

Yeah. Look, there are some valid concerns about how this transition will effect the child, but guess who society has determined gets to make the decisions about the welfare of children?

The parents, yeah, unless they have willingly given up that right or lost it because of neglect or abuse of some kind.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:09 AM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


After discovering how opaque the process was, and the large amounts of money involved, did you have any doubts ethically about going forward with adoption, and if so, how did you resolve?

Sorry, I was away, taking said kid off to her first day of college.

No, I did not because I was assured repeatedly by both people who had adopted there previously, the US government and many adoption agencies here that the process was clean. The one-child rule, with its very documented abuses, is the underpinning of that belief.

Someone asked me why I hadn't adopted a white baby (didn't actually use "white," just mentioned several European countries as alternatives.) And the answer was that the process was cleaner and more open.

Also, someone above objected to my use of "damaged" referring to some kids in foster care. That was the term used most often even by those offering that route as a possibility. I agree, it's awful but then I feel damaged a bit myself some days, so it wasn't meant as a negative. If it is, I apologize.
posted by etaoin at 7:30 AM on August 21, 2011


Mitrovarr: From what I've seen, even in the US researchers don't usually use things like Swarovski scopes. Ultimately, the difference between a decent spotting scope and a top-of-the-line spotting scope is mostly in how pretty the image is, not what you can actually see with it. Researchers don't care about that little bit of chromatic abberation, they just want their equipment to be rugged and not eat up their funding.

I wouldn't want to be acused of another one-person derail, but this is wrong on many levels and its wrongness cuts to the heart of why so many people are squicked by the idea of sending the little girl back to Central America.

We have taken a number of birding tours with William S. "Bill" Clark, the man who identified the "River of Raptors" phenomenon over Cardel, Mexico and who invented the technique for identifying raptors at a distance by their flight habits. He funds his research partly by giving paid guided tours to amateurs like us. It is from him that my wife learned of the Swarovski optics; he won't use anything else. People do not spend $3,000 on a pair of binoculars so the image will look pretty. They spend it because in low light, or in a short sighting, they make the difference between getting the ID right and not getting the ID. For a researcher, that might make the difference between identifying an important new range or behavior and missing it. If you would like to see a pie fight that would make anything that has ever happened on the blue look like a calm discussion by comparison, I would invite you to introduce your cool theory on the non-importance of good optics to any group of experienced birders. Just give me time to get some popcorn first.

Our guide in Costa Rica would have bought better optics if he could have afforded them; they are the primary tool of his trade, and he knew he could do a better job if he had the tools we had brought with us. But neither he nor his government could afford to outfit him for his life's work with equipment we amateur Americans bought to pursue a hobby. That is a difference between America and Central America, and it requires a special dose of pigheadedness to refuse to see and acknowledge it. In America, there are some dreams that are in reach that aren't in reach from Central America.

Just as, from our relatively barbaric point of view, the fact that a European who feels poorly can simply go to the doctor without wondering if he has the money in the bank just seems like something amazing from a science fiction story. Should, as someone suggested upthread, the situation be reversed so that it was a Scandanavian adoptee being repatriated to the US, I would have to seriously wonder what to tell that child if she should get very sick one day and be unable to seek a treatment that would have been hers for the asking in the other country.
posted by localroger at 9:06 AM on August 21, 2011


That is a difference between America and Central America, and it requires a special dose of pigheadedness to refuse to see and acknowledge it. In America, there are some dreams that are in reach that aren't in reach from Central America.

localroger,
Then WHY did you say in your original comment about this guy that he was a technically brilliant bird watcher who was contributing critical scholarship in this area!

For fuck's sake, half the people who comment at this site have been jolted by wretched sights of genuine abject poverty on their travels. We've all seen kids who should be at school, panhandling for pennies so they can eat. (Fwiw, I've also been an eco tourist in gorgeous Costa Rica & done dawn jungle trips with local botany experts who probably couldn't have afforded the $80 river sandals I bought on Amazon. So I tipped them hugely - and our sons played football with their sons - and a splendid time was had by all.)

You even say of your Costa Rican guy with his broken dreams:
On one of our trips we had a really excellent guide who was actually an employee of the government run park. Tracking these birds was his life and work and he was very good, and he was paid well enough to take the occasional international sabbatical, share restaurant meals and drinks afterward with us, and he did not worry about fuel costs for his government supplied jeep. But he was very taken with my wife's optics, and kept pestering us as to how much they cost.

This does not even begin to describe a poor central American guy with broken dreams!

In fact, I'd like to nominate your entire anecdote as a marvel of fatuous, pigheadedness:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2011


But he was very taken with my wife's optics, and kept pestering us as to how much they cost.

This does not even begin to describe a poor central American guy with broken dreams!


You really cannot see that not being able to afford what you recognize are the best tools for the job you have made your life's work might be a problem?
posted by localroger at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2011


If he can't use the Hubble for birdwatching, what does that say about us? :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:42 AM on August 21, 2011


If Hubble was useful for birdwatching, no astronomy would ever get done with it.

Really, I understand the concept of not crapping on other cultures because they don't measure up to our standards, but it doesn't seem like "respect" when confronted with the story of someone who wanted something he could never have because he would have made good use of it and it would have enriched his life and his ability to increase our knowledge about the wildlife, and crap on his dreams by saying they aren't all that important because, hey, you've managed to make do with crappy substitutes anyway.
posted by localroger at 11:55 AM on August 21, 2011


it's high time people really called out this BS of americans being entitled and be treated as heroes for stealing babies in developing countries and calling it adoption.

Let's take this in two parts:

1) Americans aren't the only ones adopting children from other countries. You may also count Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Belgium, Denmark, UK, Germany, Canada, Spain, Norway, Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Ireland, and Iceland among those countries you can call out here. And while Americans had the most intercountry adoptions in 1997 (sorry, my numbers are old and I don't have time to update right now, I'll circle back later), the percentage of intercountry adoptions compared to the total country population was lower than a few other countries. For example, intercountry adoptions to France was 3.1% of the total population, and 2.8% of the total US population in 1997. So, you know, facts and all.

2) I would not make a generalization about "stealing babies," especially since there is a pretty large difference between cases of child trafficking and adopting actual orphans. In China, the one child policy is extremely messed up, especially in regards to baby girls. But options for many of those girls at one time was either infanticide or life in orphanages. It isn't contradictory to be against the One Child Policy that created this situation and for removing children from orphanages and getting them into homes at the same time. I have Ethiopian children in my circle of friends who watched their parents die before being sent to an orphanage. Should their parents have been provided with better nutrition, health care, etc.? Hell, yes. Should spend their time waiting in an orphanage for their society to improve the living situation for all citizens? I don't think that's right either.

Adoption can be a great thing, provided there is excellent oversight and agencies are held accountable for proving chain of custody for adoptable children. And even then there is the the potential for abuse. But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. This is something that requires systemic solutions, not just people throwing up their hands and declaring, "This isn't working. Let's just stop everything now."
posted by jeanmari at 11:55 AM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


...he would have made good use of it and it would have enriched his life and his ability to increase our knowledge about the wildlife...

So now this Costa Rican government park ranger, and expert bird watcher, this tour guide you just happened to meet on one of your hobby holidays is - what?

The next Einstein of the bird watching world -but for a single, superior item of equipment?

Why don't you SEND him a state of the art "scope" yourself then?
You're in the perfect position to do so -you know the guy, had restaurant meals with him, benefited from his expertise, came away in awe of his knowledge etc.

There are many of us - faced with the knowledge of our immensely privileged lives after we've met on our travels those not so fortunate from a material POV - who just donate to a specific charity. (There are a ton of environmental charities in Costa Rica, for example, just a google away!). But we're never sure how the money will be used.

But with this ONE gesture, you could really make a difference!

Not only to his life - but to world's knowledge of birds!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:24 PM on August 21, 2011


Jody, if he were from America himself he would not need my charity -- and if I were to give all the people we have met on our travels things they have admired of ours but cannot get themselves, I'd have nothing.

Your motivation is completely obvious here; it seems almost obscene to admit that not returning the little girl to her natural parents from whom she was stolen might be a better thing for her. But there it is. All I have been trying to do with this little anecdote is show that, if she is sent back, the first person who would very possibly want to condemn all the people responsible to hell for doing it might be the little girl herself.

Trying to suggest that my anecdote doesn't apply because people don't really need the tools that would make them better at their trade is kind of stupid, though.
posted by localroger at 12:35 PM on August 21, 2011


[It's not super clear what value an in-depth discussion of birdwatching equipment is bringing to the thread. Can we please not take the metaphor too far? ]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the point hasn't been made, it can't be made. I'm done.
posted by localroger at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2011


Your motivation is completely obvious here; it seems almost obscene to admit that not returning the little girl to her natural parents from whom she was stolen might be a better thing for her. But there it is. All I have been trying to do with this little anecdote is show that, if she is sent back, the first person who would very possibly want to condemn all the people responsible to hell for doing it might be the little girl herself.

Localroger,
Your motivation has been completely obvious to me too.
If you prefer, we have both been disingenuous.

You've been harping on the life-changing possibilities of material advantages (via the nutty bird watching anecdote!) because, I suspect, it's less contentious than your own dark, personal theories about parents and the pernicious power games they play in the name of "love".

In your 2nd thread comment, you wrote (I thought it was fascinating, if chilling):

"..there is a very, very high chance the child will grow up to hate everyone involved, and especially her birth mother, with the passion of a thousand suns for doing it."


As you explained at length in the recent thread about the kid whose parents had done silly stuff in his room while he was away at camp (you referenced that thread in this one, so I hope it's okay to do the same), you have some exceptionally strong views about natural/birth parents & the many ways they can abuse their power. You also have some singular theories about child development, related to your own awful experiences.

I don't think you're right that the child is almost certain to end up loathing her own mother for refusing to give up looking for her stolen child - and - hopefully- getting her back. And I don't believe you can show any evidence this has typically been the case under similar circumstances?

As Dr. Enormous wrote earlier: "We have a long, documented history on the trauma this kind of thing causes in places from the Arctic to Australia. Some countries are busy paying out "god, we're so sorry we fucked up an entire generation" money.
Plus, you know how many kids have some issues upon learning they were adopted? Now imagine learning you were stolen, and that your adoptive parents were at best willfully ignorant and at worst complicit, and that your mother's been trying to get you back all this time. That'll work out well."

posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:05 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I don't believe you can show any evidence this has typically been the case under similar circumstances?

Similar circumstances are, very fortunately, exceedingly rare. I think the only person in this thread who has been anywhere near similar circumstances is griphus, and he has weighed in.
posted by localroger at 3:27 PM on August 21, 2011


Similar circumstances are, very fortunately, exceedingly rare.

Isn't one point of this thread that such circumstances aren't "exceedingly rare" in countries without strong adoption regulations like Guatemala? Loyda Roderiguez was lucky enough to have access to adoption paperwork where she found a picture of her daughter. Other families were lucky in that the potential adoptive family became wary of the agency deceptions and put a stop to it.
posted by muddgirl at 3:34 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also note that I'm biased, as I grew up in a poor family and do not hate my parents for choosing to raise me despite our economic hardship, vs. giving me up for adoption to a wealthier family.
posted by muddgirl at 3:37 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: "Yeah. Look, there are some valid concerns about how this transition will effect the child, but guess who society has determined gets to make the decisions about the welfare of children?

The parents, yeah, unless they have willingly given up that right or lost it because of neglect or abuse of some kind.
"

Exactly. Not just the right, but the obligation. Child abandonment is a crime.
posted by desuetude at 3:47 PM on August 21, 2011


Lest anyone forget in the discussion of binoculars, I started out by saying that the only possible remotely just conclusion to this is for the girl to be returned to her birth mother.

I just don't think it will work out well.

The fault for that is with the kidnappers, and they are an excellent argument for bringing back breaking on the wheel as a criminal punishment.
posted by localroger at 4:28 PM on August 21, 2011


Similar circumstances are, very fortunately, exceedingly rare. I think the only person in this thread who has been anywhere near similar circumstances is griphus, and he has weighed in.

localroger,
Okay, so just ignore the anwer from Dr. Enormous which says exactly the opposite! Even though I've just pasted it in full!

As for griphus: yes, I also cloked the contributions from griphus - he did weigh in about his horror at the idea of being forced back to "Russia", to the land of his birth, after living happily in the US from the age of six.. As he put it:

'...if I was forced to the Soviet Union from a midwestern suburb? I'd want to choke the life out of whoever did that to me."

But his circumstances were not "anywhere near" similar at all.

Griphus wasn't kidnapped as a toddler.
Griphus wasn't suddenly grabbed from the family home with no warning.
Griphus wasn't then smuggled out of his country and sold to strangers in a new country.
Griphus wasn't then given a new identity as a legitimately adopted child.
Griphus didn't have a mother who spent the next five years searching for her stolen son...


It was Griphus' own mother who organized the emigration. His mother chose New York. She thought it was high time to leave the former Soviet Union to make a better life. The family emigrated together.

Griphus explained in further in another thread:
My family comes from the long tradition of Russians who emigrated to New York in the early 1990s because their nation was a crumbling piece of crap ruled by petty bureaucrats and thieves. New York has a large Russian population and my mother brought us here because nowhere else really offered both the opportunity of America, and the ability to enter it in the way we did. She was a trained artist, not a professional, and we couldn't exactly to go Wyoming City, Ohio for her to get a job as a computer programmer, which is what my cousin's family did. So we came to New York and she got a job as an off-license art therapist and moved her way up from there
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:38 PM on August 21, 2011


Jody, Dr. Enormous was not writing from a position of experience he was writing hypothetically. griphus was writing of personal experience. And your quoting of griphus doesn't make any sense; what the hell difference does it make why he came to the US? He made his feelings about going back under any circumstances quite clear.

I am not advocating a different result from you. The child needs to go back to Guatemala. What I am saying is that the horror of the situation is that there is a very good chance, I would say greater than 50%, that the child will hate everyone who caused that to happen and resent it for her entire life. It think it's quite likely she will end up doing the talk show circuit decrying the horror of what was done to her. That's likely in part because powerful forces here will want to help her tell that story, but the seed of it will be within her to tell.

You have attempted to mitigate my argument in this regard by making really stupid claims like it doesn't matter that she can't have things which are clearly available to Americans that aren't available to Guatemalans. Of course that matters. Suppose the little girl has decided it would be cool to be an astronaut? Try explaining what you did to that dream to her.

And you have consistently refused to acknowledge that I have said plainly that it works in the other direction too, that if the country she was sold from the US to Norway I would have serious qualms about repatriating her to a country where future serious health issues would result in bankruptcy and death instead of treatment. There are differences between countries. The US is neither the best (contrary to some claims) nor the worst (contrary to others), but there are clear areas where any sane person would admit being a US citizen has advantages over being Guatemalan.

The horror of this case is that it puts two very fundamental anchors of justice in diametric opposition to one another. You cannot do what is best for the child and what is best for the mother at the same time, and very possibly "what is best for the child" itself has been turned into an ouroboros. To pretend that the simple solution is to send the child back and it'll be all right and we can then sing Kum Ba Ya is naive in the extreme.
posted by localroger at 5:03 PM on August 21, 2011


I am not advocating a different result from you. The child needs to go back to Guatemala. What I am saying is that the horror of the situation is that there is a very good chance, I would say greater than 50%, that the child will hate everyone who caused that to happen and resent it for her entire life. It think it's quite likely she will end up doing the talk show circuit decrying the horror of what was done to her. That's likely in part because powerful forces here will want to help her tell that story, but the seed of it will be within her to tell.

Or you know, she could grow up super well adjusted and it could be something she feels makes her unique. Undoubtedly, the transition will be difficult, but you really can't predict how people react to their experiences. Many people cherish the difficulties in their life because they often define them more than the happy days. No one can really say for certain. Hell, people are making all these assumptions that she is perfectly happy with her adoptive parents in Missouri; it's just as possible that she hates being adopted and feels totally out of place there. No one really knows. That's why the system is set up to grant parents the rights unless they abuse or neglect their parents.
posted by milarepa at 5:44 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]



*their children... (obviously)
posted by milarepa at 5:45 PM on August 21, 2011


Dude, localroger. I don't even know where to begin with your comments. It's clear you consider material values well above that of a parent's love for a child. Dude.

What I can say is that I am married to Dr.Enormous. We have talked about this issue a lot. Let me elucidate a little further what he was referring to in his comment:

1. He is referring to the Native Americans taken from their tribes and placed with white families or in orphanages in order to be "civilized."
2. He is referring to the Aborignes of Australia whose children went through the very same thing.
3. I can't recall if it was the Inuit or the Aleutians this happened with in the artic, but it happened there too.

Entire generations of children were taken from their rightful homes and placed with families or in other situations that were supposedly better off than where they came from.

Except for the fact that they weren't.

And in all of those situations, governments are paying out to those peoples for their wrongdoings.

International adoption of a single child is a different matter altogether, but the principle stands the same that these children in those various tribes around the world were kidnapped. It doesn't matter that it was the government instead of individuals. They were kidnapped. And there are lots of books and other evidence that those children as grown adults were not happy about this --- despite supposedly being given a better life. They felt themselves robbed of culture, home, and ancestry.

How the little girl in this story will actually feel about any of what happend to her later on her in life remains to be seen, and that's if we ever hear that part of this story. And we never may. I can only speak to how I would feel were I to be that child at age 9 or 10. I'd feel betrayed by my adoptive parents, no matter how good they were to me. And I'd want my, for lack of a better word, real mother.

You apparently would be fine with the knowledge of having been a kidnapped child if it meant staying in the US instead of some other leser country. YMMV. But no one can presume to know how the child will feel in six, seven, or eight years. And it doesn't really matter. What really matters is justice and the right thing for all involved being done, despite the paternalism many people in this thread feel toward Central America.
posted by zizzle at 5:59 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


zizzle: I can only speak to how I would feel were I to be that child at age 9 or 10. I'd feel betrayed by my adoptive parents, no matter how good they were to me. And I'd want my, for lack of a better word, real mother.

Well I really don't know how to speak to this. I can't imagine -- literally can't imagine, and that's an unsmall thing for me -- being ripped out of a culture at a conscious age like 9 and planted in another with a strange language, parents who might be more genuine but who I'd never known, and so on.

You apparently would be fine with the knowledge of having been a kidnapped child if it meant staying in the US instead of some other leser country.

You could not put this in what amounts to quotes if you had read anything I had written. I have said, multiple times, that the child must be returned to Guatemala. My complaint is that she will be the one who comes back to tell us what a bad idea that was.
posted by localroger at 6:33 PM on August 21, 2011


and planted in another with a strange language

I've mentioned this several times, but she lived in Guatemala until she was 3-4. She undoubtedly speaks Spanish.

the child must be returned to Guatemala. My complaint is that she will be the one who comes back to tell us what a bad idea that was.

I can't even imagine what kind of cognitive dissonance this takes to support. If you think the girl would be better off in the US, then why state that she must be returned? Do you NOT think that we should do what's in the child's best interest? Because, as has been argued, that is the principle that courts and the two governments are nominally going to consider.
posted by muddgirl at 6:46 PM on August 21, 2011


My complaint is that she will be the one who comes back to tell us what a bad idea that was.

localroger, I think you are mistaking yourself for the girl.

You are not the girl.

You have no idea what she will think. She could hate being sent back, she could love being sent back, she could have mixed feelings about it.

Let me repeat this for clarity...you have no idea. You cannot predict it. Neither can the courts. Neither can the biological or adoptive parents. Kids are resilient. Kids remember things from a pretty early age. There are pockets of poverty in the US just like their are pockets of poverty in Guatamala, we don't know what the biological mother's socioeconomic status in Guatamala is, and it shouldn't matter because no one's socioeconomic status should justify taking kids unwillingly from their biological parents.
posted by jeanmari at 7:20 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My complaint is that she will be the one who comes back to tell us what a bad idea that was.

localroger,
Truly, I understand this is your opinion.
But there is no foundation for it. You can't prove it's right. It appears to be a product of tunnel vision.
I think it's really that simple.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:20 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But there is no foundation for it. You can't prove it's right. It appears to be a product of tunnel vision. I think it's really that simple.

And that's your right, and it's the difference between us. What you call tunnel vision I call being open to many possibilities. Do I have to say again the girl has to go back to Guatemala? I say only that, she may show up in this thread ten years from now barking a different onus than you are.
posted by localroger at 7:27 PM on August 21, 2011


localrog, you have bounced around between "she may, she will, 50% chance" which is what is making it all a bit unclear. I think we all get that this situation doesn't always end up in happiness.*



*This statement applies to all childhoods.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:30 PM on August 21, 2011


I have not done ay bouncing. The only possible outcome has been horrible from the get-go. The possibility that this ends up in happiness is about zero percent. This does not apply to all childhoods. Hers is extra special hell-baked.
posted by localroger at 7:32 PM on August 21, 2011


So...you are not open to another possibility?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:35 PM on August 21, 2011


I am not sure what you are even suggesting, furiousxgeorge. What other possibility is there? She either stays with her adoptive parents, which is awful in many ways, or she goes "home" which is awful in other ways. What is the alternative?
posted by localroger at 7:41 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


She might overcome adversity, cherish both parts of her upbringing, and live happily?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:43 PM on August 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


She might overcome adversity, cherish both parts of her upbringing, and live happily?

And unicorns. Seriously. This isn't going to happen.
posted by localroger at 7:46 PM on August 21, 2011


[Localroger, you've gotten pretty entrenched here. Maybe it's time to move on? ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:49 PM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you have made your opinion on this clear.

/e-hug.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:49 PM on August 21, 2011


hug accepted. I know I am damaged.

I do not see how this child emerges from this undamaged. It would please me greatly to think that this is possible, but I do not think it so.

Thank you all for putting up with me. Part of the damage thing is that sometimes I don't know when to stop.
posted by localroger at 7:54 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm just hardline here but all the talk of whether things are good enough in Guatemala to allow us to want the birth mom to get her child back sickens me. There's only a few comments scattered here and there saying point blank it doesn't make one iota of difference how well off the birth mom is or isn't; rich people don't get to steal poor people's children period, full stop. I'm adopted, international, and the degree some don't seem to get how wrong this is is disgusting.
posted by ifjuly at 5:51 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm just hardline here but all the talk of whether things are good enough in Guatemala to allow us to want the birth mom to get her child back sickens me.

Your hardline is my hardline and others' as well. Speaking for myself, I toned down my emotional reaction in order to try to make a more persuasive logical point about wrongness.
posted by desuetude at 10:49 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


More resources for parents considering international adoption on navigating agencies, ethics and holding agencies accountable for respecting human rights. AdoptingInternationally.org (related to this case from India), Adoption Agency Research Yahoo Group, and ETHICA.
posted by jeanmari at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2011


Also, Fleas Biting tracks international adoption abuse cases.
posted by jeanmari at 10:02 AM on September 6, 2011


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