mother searched 5 years for adopted girl
LARRY KAPLOW, Associated Press – Aug 5, 2011
CITY (AP) — Loyda Rodriguez Morales felt someone tug at her daughter
as she tried to enter her simple home with three young children in tow.
She turned to see a woman whisk the 2-year-old away in a waiting taxi.
nearly five years of searching, posting fliers, being turned away at
orphanages and even staging a hunger strike, Rodriguez now holds what's
believed to be an unprecedented Guatemalan court order declaring the
child stolen and ordering the U.S. couple who eventually adopted her to
give her back.
U.S. authorities intervene to return the child, now 6, as the Guatemalan
court has asked, it would be a first for any international adoption
case, experts say.
construction-paper sign taped Friday to the door of the girl's U.S.
address, a two-story suburban Kansas City home, read: "Please
respect our families (sic) privacy during this difficult and confusing
time. We ask that you not trespass on our property for the sake of our
children. Thank you."
U.S. State Department referred all questions about the court ruling to
the Justice Department, which would not comment on the case.
26, cried when she saw the July 29 court order made public this past
week. She's already planning how to fix up her daughter's bedroom.
want it with a lot of decorations. I'm going to buy dolls and clothes so
she's not lacking anything," she told The Associated Press.
"If she wants to sleep alone, she'll have her room. If not, she can
be with her brothers."
officials might simply try to ignore the order, said David Smolin, a law
professor at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and an
expert in international adoption.
Johnson, president and CEO of the Virginia-based National Council For
Adoption, said he has never heard of the U.S. carrying out a foreign
court order to return adopted children to their home country.
the leading advocate in the Guatemala case said the U.S. government is
obligated under international treaties to return victims of human
trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within five years.
girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records.
within the margin of time," said Norma Cruz, director of the
Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for
Rodriguez. "We don't have to contact the (adoption) family. The
judge's order says authorities have to find the child, wherever she
foundation doesn't allege the U.S. couple knew the girl they adopted had
been kidnapped, only that the girl was snatched by a child trafficking
ring and put up for adoption with a new name. The couple was identified
in the court ruling as Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn
Monahan of Liberty, Missouri.
quick adoptions once made this Central American nation of 13 million
people a top source of children for the U.S., leading or ranking second
only to China with about 4,000 adoptions a year. But the Guatemalan
government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of
fraud, including falsified paperwork, fake birth certificates and
charges of baby theft — though they still allowed many already in
International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, a U.N.-created
agency prosecuting organized crime cases in Guatemala, has reviewed more
than 3,000 adoptions completed or in process and found nearly 100 grave
U.S. still does not allow adoptions from Guatemala, though the State
Department is currently assisting with 397 children whose adoptions were
in process at the time of the ban.
court ruling signed by Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez canceled
the girl's passport and ordered her returned in two months, asking the
U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for help in locating the child. The court says
it will file an order with the international police agency, Interpol, if
she is not returned.
said this is the first case he knows of a foreign judge ordering an
American family to return an adopted child to her native country. He
adopted two children from India who he later discovered were stolen, a
situation he resolved by allowing the birth parents regular visits.
is the scenario that has made everybody afraid for years, the knock on
the door from the reporter or whoever," Smolin said.
Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez was born Oct. 1, 2004, the second child of
Rodriguez, a housewife, and her bricklayer husband, Dayner Orlando
Hernandez, who came as teenagers to Guatemala City looking for work. The
girl disappeared Nov. 3, 2006, as Rodriguez was distracted while opening
the door to their house in a working class suburb, San Miguel Petapa.
reported their daughter missing to various local and federal law
enforcement, including authorities in charge of human rights violations
and missing children, according to documents of the U.N.-backed
said she searched for more than a year on her own and was repeatedly
refused court permission to search foster homes where kids awaited
found Cruz and the Survivors Foundation through a court employee in
January 2008, and the two women staged a short hunger strike when they
were still denied access of government adoption records, Rodriguez said.
Once they were given access, it still took nearly a year to find the
child's photo at the National Adoptions Council, where Rodriguez sifted
through records with her brother for four straight days in March 2009.
felt like my heart was going to leap out. I knew it was her," she
submitted to a DNA test that established her as the mother, the
corruption commission says.
the girl was already in the United States, according to court records.
identity had been changed in early 2007 by Felicita Antonia Lopez
Garcia, a woman claiming to be her mother, who changed the child's name
to Karen Abigail and offered her for adoption, according to the court
order. Lopez left the girl with an adoption agency, the Spring
Association, several months later after she failed a DNA test, according
to the corruption commission. The adoption agency had the girl declared
abandoned and put her up for adoption in 2008.
office of Guatemala's solicitor general approved the adoption in July of
that year, despite the fact that it had already received a missing
person's report on the girl with photographs as early as February 2008,
according to the corruption commission.
December of that year, the girl left the country with the Monahans,
named in her Guatemalan passport as Karen Abigail Monahan Vanhorn and
listed as being born Jan. 14, 2005.
for the corruption commission used Rodriguez's case to bring charges
against lawyers and brokers with the Spring Association for alleged
human trafficking for illegal adoptions and for using false documents.
They include the lawyer who notarized the Monahans' adoption, according
to the court order.
said she has two other cases involving illegal international adoptions
in the works.
address given for the Monahans in the court order is a spacious house on
a large, wooded lot with a carriage driveway and an orange soccer ball
on the porch.
in the week, a woman came to the door and told an AP reporter she
couldn't talk because she was on the phone. No one answered repeated
calls for comment until the sign appeared Friday.
said she just wants her daughter back.
made a mistake taking my baby," Rodriguez said. "Perhaps they
didn't know she was stolen."
Press writer Larry Kaplow reported this story in Mexico City and Sonia
Perez D. reported in Guatemala City. AP writers Maria Sudekum Fisher and
Chris Clark in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.
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