Adoption dispute stretches from Guatemala to Liberty

The Kansas City Star
Posted on Sun, Aug. 07, 2011 11:04 PM

Besides the obvious, there is another shocking fact about the little Liberty girl who was adopted from Guatemala and ordered returned under the belief that she was stolen.

That she’s the only such case. Make that so far.

Sympathy is appropriate for all of the families involved, in our community and in Guatemala.

The 6-year-old is likely deeply bonded with her adoptive parents and possibly has few, if any, memories of her previous life.

A Guatemalan court believes she was snatched from her mother and declared abandoned after a woman posing as her mother failed a DNA test.

Pardon the term. But if ever there was a “poster child” for the possibility of fraudulent adoptions, it’s Guatemala. Widespread poverty, a social structure still impacted by a 36-year civil war, and lax checks and balances within government agencies all contribute.

In October, the U.S. Department of State backed out of participating in a new program of adoptions from Guatemala for older children, siblings and those with special needs. The U.S. didn’t feel enough had been done to correct problems that caused a halt to new adoptions from the country in 2007.

The girl’s adoption, according to court documents, appears to have been finalized as a grandfathered case, already in process before the U.S. refused to accept new ones.

Her Liberty parents, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan, have requested privacy and aren’t commenting. Their situation is heart-wrenching, although it is questionable whether the Guatemalan court will be able to enforce its decree internationally.

The court believes the little girl was snatched from her mother as a 2-year-old. The Monahans are not accused of wrongdoing.

Charges have been filed against nine people in Guatemala. It sounds like they had a toddler-trafficking ring.

That insinuates that this might not be a solitary case. The numbers tell a story.

In 2008, the year the little girl came to the U.S., she was one of 4,112 Guatemalan children adopted here, the vast majority under 1 year old.

By 2010, with the program shuttered, only 50 cases were granted, according to the State Department. Of those, none was under age 1.

Special angels must look out for these children.

Bringing an adopted child to the U.S. is often a joyous end to a complicated, financially costly and emotionally painful journey. It’s a process that often begins after years of trying to conceive unsuccessfully, sometimes through angst-ridden fertility treatments.

I’m stuck between being grateful that more such cases aren’t brought to light and worrying that it’s because they are never discovered.