|Written by Peep Reporter|
|Wednesday, 21 October 2009 00:00|
|All roads seem to lead back to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in the strange case of 29 children from Sierra Leone supposedly ‚adopted‘ by U.S agency MAPS (Maine Adoption and Placement Services) in 1997 with the active collaboration of HANCI (Help A Needy Child International – S.L).HANCI deny any wrongdoing in this affair. In a frantic response to our story published last Friday ‚American, Give Us Back Our Trafficked Children‚, HANCI sent us a copy of an earlier press release (HANCI Director Says Tabloid Report Not True – Torchlight July 6, 2009) published in a local paper and a profile of HANCI’s Executive Director, Dr. Roland Foday Kargbo.
Neither of these appeared to answer pertinent questions we raised. Neither did the visit of HANCI’s PRO who, basically, read us annotated responses of Dr. Roland Foday Kargbo.
It is true that back in 2004 or so, the Inspector General filed charges against the HANCI Executive Director and two others. INTERPOL, the international police agency, was even brought into the matter.
Although the cases were dismissed in 2005 not because the court found the ‚adopted‘ were ‚legal‘ but for lack of police prosecution – it now appears clear that elements of the Social Welfare Ministry were integral part of a CHILD TRAFFICKING SYNDICATE.
Despite HANCI’s strenuous objections they have not been able to produce a SINGLE SCRAP of paper with signatures of 29 poor Sierra Leoneans accepting they had agreed to adoption of their children by families in America. If they indeed had any, they would have produced them by now.
MAPS, the American ‚adoption‘ agents are hiding behind their fingers. They too refuse to disclose any information because of so called ‚confidentiality‘ laws. They ended their ‚programme‘ here in Sierra Leone in 2005. In an e-mail dated August 20, 2008 they claim they ‚forwarded all past placement reports and photos on children who were adopted through this programme to the Ministry of Social Welfare‘.
As we said earlier, all roads lead back to them… None of the parents whose children HANCI took into their ‚Special Child Orphanage‘ in Makeni in 1997 have received news of their children in the twelve years since then.
They have not signed any documents authorizing adoption of their children. If HANCI, MAPS or anyone else can produce them, we will apologize. From the extensive documentation available for us and background checks on the Net – this seems to have been the case…
In 1997 HANCI opened a Child Survival Centre in Makeni. This centre ’supposedly‘ was to ‚help‘ educate and maintain children of indigent families who were having difficulties feeding and educating their children.
According to the testimony given by Abubakar Kargbo, his little sister FATIMA (3 years) and brother MUSTAPHA (then 10) were placed in HANCI’s care. Let’s not forget the circumstances at the time, the AFRC-RUF had just massacred over 6,000 people in Freetown and were and would remain in effective control of Makeni for almost another two years.
Sierra Leoneans normally don’t look a Gift Horse in the mouth. Parents rushed to place their children in HANCI’s Child Survival Centre. Abubakar said they visited the two children and took sweets to them for several weeks until they ‚disappeared‘.
At No TIME did HANCI raise the question of adoption.
This is verified by the agreement signed with HANCI which we reproduced here as Document One. The specimen agreement (January 13,2009) basically notes that HANCI has ‚admitted‘ the kids into their Child Survival Centre and notes the names of two ‚Social Workers‘ HENRY ABU and JOHN GBLAA who could be contacted in case of ‚enquiries about your ward‘.
The document is signed by Dr. Roland F. Kargbo. If these children are missing – 12 years after HANCI accepted them – it is precisely Dr. Roland F. Kargbo who must account for their whereabouts – Pure and Simple.
What was unknown to these poor parents was that a Memorandum of Understanding had been signed between HANCI and MAPS. Dr. Kargbo, in fact later confessed that MAPS, not HANCI, had opened the Child Survival Centre and employed the two gentlemen Henry Abu and John Gblaa whom HANCI described as its ’social workers‘. We quote from MAPS letter to Theresa Vamboi; (Social Welfare) dated August 17, 2004. In the Fall of 1996, MAPS received a phone call from Dr. Roland Kargbo, Director of Help A Needy Child International (HANCI) in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He was looking for an American agency to collaborate with to save some of his country’s children. He told us that a 9 year civil war had created many thousands of displaced people, including many orphaned children.
In December of 1996, Jennifer Sylvester (Director) and I flew to Freetown. A good faith plan was developed to open a child survival center with HANCI. The Child Survival Center was established in Makeni in January 1997. MAPS paid HANCI personnel Henry Abu as Program Director and John Gbla as the Social Worker. We committed to finding families for 15 orphans, but the number soon swelled to 29. All copies of these 29 cases have sent DHL to Henry Abu along with photos and post placement reports.
So the parents of these children had not been ‚informed‘ of the agreement between MAPS and HANCI. This proposed M.O.U is dated March 13, 1997 and all we have is a poorly photocopied facsimile which will not reproduce too well here (we will make this available to relevant authorities when needed).
* A child placed for adoption is a gift and is treated by the adoptive family as though it were born to them.
* Adoption is a special way of providing a home and family for a child who does not have one.
* Children will only be placed with parents who have a home study approved and accepted by both the U.S and Sierra Leonean Embassy personnel designated for that purpose.
* Every 3 months for the first six months, a progress report will be supplied to HANCI with copies to the Ministry of Social Welfare of Sierra Leone.
* Sometime in the future the adoptive family, including the child, may visit Sierra Leone and meet with surviving relatives of the child as well as to become familiar with the native area of the child.
These first five clauses of the proposed M.O.U clearly prove that what Maine Adoption and Placement Services planned, in collaboration with HANCI, was a CHILD ADOPTION SERVICE from Makeni. Indeed it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that an ngo so-named would be primarily interested in ADOPTIONS.
Of course MAPS does not carry out its placements for free but we were unable to discover exactly how much it charges for its ’service‘.
And, as usual, Sierra Leoneans do not look a ‚Gift Horse‘ in the mouth. We do not have any concrete proof that MAPS paid cash money to facilitate the ‚adoption‘ of these 29 children. What we DO KNOW is that no CONSENT FORM was ever signed by any of these children’s parents.
According to the adoption laws of Sierra Leone any adoption processed must be APPROVED by the Ministry of Social Welfare – exactly how an adoption process NOT consented to by the parents was so ‚approved‘ are questions both HANCI and the Ministry need to answer to our satisfaction.
Following this ‚approval‘ a High Court can then rule on an application. The courts are supposed to satisfy themselves that the ‚moral interests‘ of the child will be served by adoption. But in mid 1997, with Makeni under rebel control, we doubt very much whether the courts stood on the letter of the law too much. Unfortunately the documents are all in custody of INTERPOL – otherwise we would Name and Shame judges and lawyers who involved themselves in this shameless and tardy procedure.
In Sierra Leone it appears that the only way a sole or surviving parent can irrevocably relinquish his or her parental rights to his or her child is at the Ministry of Social Welfare in the presence of either the Minister and/or the Chief Social Development Officer.
The U.S itself may argue that none of its laws were broken. The Hague Adoption Convention on Protection of Children was only domesticated into U.S Law on April 1, 2008 (11 years after these children were trafficked from Sierra Leone).
At present here we stand. These parents have not seen their children in over 12 years. Abubakar Kargbo, now in his twenties, has a little sister Fatima, who is now about 17. Is she materially better off than she would be in Sierra Leone? Perhaps – but this is not the point.
These children have been abruptly separated from their biological parents. God only knows what they have been told by their adoptive parents is the fate of their biological parents.
How a Little African Child adjusts to being placed in an alien environment (Maine is one of the most Lily White of all U.S States) with no contact with their homes or roots is a mystery.
In July last year, Abubakar Kargbo found out that MPAS had initiated the adoption process without parental consent. He e-mailed MAPS and got the following reply.
Dear Mr. Kargbo,
Due to confidentiality, MAPS is unable to disclose any information about individuals who may or may not have been assisted by MAPS in some form. As such, we regret that we are unable to address your request.
We want to reassure you, however, that MAPS consistently makes its best efforts to adhere to all applicable standards and laws governing intercountry adoptions.
Additionally, we help ensure that children adjust well after their adoptions through post placement supervision and referral guidance to support services, if needed.
Kind regards, MAPS Staff
Yes, this is how we leave our children to the tender mercies of strangers!
I’m sure MAPS is making its ‚best efforts‘, ‚but this does not address the initial fraud and deceit involved in the fake ‚adoptions‘. It may be difficult, at this time, to reunite the children with their biological parents. But can anyone tell me why they should continue to languish without news of their children? Or why those involved in this shameful Trafficking Scam should not be PUNISHED?