How Sylvia and Jocelyn became Amaya Grace Webb
Former IVC football coach and his wife discover path to adoption includes confrontation
THE JOURNAL STAR
The summer of 2004 was anything but routine for Illinois Valley Central football coach Troy Webb.
As other coaches in the Mid-Illini Conference were presiding over offseason conditioning programs and preparing for 7-on-7 passing camps, Webb was in Guatemala, accompanied only by a 10-month-old child now in his care.
On May 11, 2004, Troy and Lisa Webb learned the Guatemalan child they thought they were adopting, Sylvia, was not the baby they now had, Jocelyn. Living in a rented apartment in the city of Antigua, Webb said he and baby Jocelyn made the 40-minute trip to Guatemala City almost every day. He was on his own fact-finding mission, determined to find out where Sylvia was and to whom Jocelyn belonged.
Webb also cut off communication with the Minnesota adoption agency he and his wife used. He claimed the agency tried to discourage any action toward their attorney, Blanca Martinez. The agency did lots of business with Martinez, who was banned by the U.S. Embassy from conducting any further international adoptions.
Webb also claimed the Minnesota company asked him not to tell his story, for fear of exposing the potential for corruption in international adoptions.
"I didn't trust anybody at that point," he said. "I got every bit as dirty as they did. I lied and did whatever I had to do to find out what was going on."
By now, Lisa Webb was out of school and had joined her husband in Antigua. They again contacted "G," a young woman initially passed off as Sylvia's foster mother but who in fact was a secretary employed by Martinez. It was "G" who told the Webbs that Jocelyn was not Sylvia and had given them other information about their case, but this time she refused to talk.
"She stuck her neck out for us," Troy Webb said. "But she got scared and told us her life had been threatened."
Undaunted, the Webbs forged forward, determined to find out if anyone was looking for the baby they had or if she was even adoptable.
"We needed to know the facts," Troy Webb said.
A high-rise showdown
After being dodged for more than two weeks, the Webbs were able to get a meeting with Martinez at her office.
Accompanied by their facilitator (a woman from Florida who was an extension of the Minnesota agency), their translator (a Canadian named Colleen) and holding Jocelyn, the Webbs walked in to confront their future on May 27. The office was in downtown Guatemala City, in what the Webbs described as a nice building seven or eight stories tall. Martinez was located on one of the top floors.
"When we walked in, you could hear a pin drop," Lisa Webb said of the hush that fell over the office workers, many of whom had become familiar with the case.
Things didn't stay quiet for long. Voices were raised and emotions bubbled over. In one final move of deception, Martinez had attempted to falsify a scheduled DNA test for the baby, but Webb said phone calls he made to the only places that conduct such tests turned up no appointment.
The Webbs said the attorney began to make phone calls and hastily gave cash to an office worker, who disappeared.
"There were threats, lies and denials," Troy Webb said of Martinez's response to the ambush in her office.
But the meeting produced what the Webbs hoped it would: accurate information as to whom they had, where the case was in the court system and a timetable on how long it would take to bring home this baby.
"Fourteen months after we accepted her referral, we could finally start the adoption," Lisa Webb said.
Not quite yet
Still, there was another hurdle. There are two kind of international-adoption cases. Sylvia was a relinquishment case, in which the birth mother gives her consent and gives up the child for adoption willfully.
But Jocelyn was an abandonment case, which meant her birth mother could not be found. These cases are treated differently in court, a setback the Webbs hadn't anticipated.
"We were back at ground zero," Troy Webb said.
A search was conducted for Jocelyn's birth mother, to no avail. But it did turn up her grandmother, who said she hadn't seen her daughter in more than six months and presumed she was dead or had gone to the United States.
August was nearing, which meant the Webbs would have to return to Chillicothe without the baby they thought they would bring home months earlier. After missing a lucrative carnival and county-fair season with the concession trailer they operated, the Webbs' finances almost were exhausted. But neither wanted to leave without Baby Jocelyn.
"Her last stop was going to be with us, no matter what," Troy Webb said of the child they decided to name Amaya Grace. "We looked into teaching down there. We were prepared to move to Guatemala if we couldn't bring her home with us."
Troy Webb returned to Chillicothe just days before the start of football practice for the 2004 season. This time, his wife stayed - alone, opting to take a half-year of unpaid leave from her job as a business and accounting teacher at IVC.
"People picked up extra classes," IVC superintendent Dave Kinney said. "There were times we had to get short-term substitutes, but people helped cover for them because (the Webbs) are two wonderful people who were going through a struggle."
Troy Webb had help as well. He was grateful assistant coaches Bob Prout, Jason Kilmer, Matt Russell and Steve Garrison kept the program going in his absence, but he also admitted he wasn't looking forward to the season.
"I just wasn't into it," Webb said. "I had actually considered resigning when I was down there over the summer, but I didn't think that was fair to the players or the school and I didn't know if that would give them enough time to find another coach."
But the team began to show signs of improvement, signs the four-year plan of starting a freshman quarterback in a pass-first offense was taking root.
IVC won its first game, 19-10 over Princeton to snap an 18-game losing streak. The team was competitive in the M-I opener, which it lost 28-21 at Washington, but a 42-7 loss to Canton followed by a 59-14 pummeling from league-heavyweight Metamora sent the Grey Ghosts on a downward spiral. Their conference losing streak reached 27 games.
The pressure mounted, magnified by the helplessness and loneliness Webb surely felt while his wife and daughter were more than 2,000 miles away.
"It affected my teaching, my coaching, everything," Webb said of the case that now consumed him. "It was the only thing on my mind. Everything else was pretty superficial. I became a little more confrontational because my patience was shot."
Resigned, no resignation
IVC's 1-8 football season came to an unmerciful ending Oct. 22, a 29-7 loss to Hall. Webb had known long before that moment it would be his last game as head football coach. He quietly tendered his resignation, which was formally accepted at a school-board meeting in December.
"Getting football off my shoulders was big, because now I could concentrate on this," he said. "One of the biggest reasons I resigned was I had no idea when this would end."
Thanksgiving approached, and Troy Webb flew to see Lisa and Amaya over the five-day break. He also returned at Christmas, which meant he and his wife spent every major holiday in 2004 together in Guatemala with the child they now were confident would become Amaya Grace Webb.
Still, there was one final hurdle to clear.
"(Martinez) knew we were getting close to coming home and tried to extort more money from us," Troy Webb said.
Having lost their referral, the banned attorney attempted to impede the resolution to the case. But Martinez eventually backed off when she realized her efforts would lead to further investigation of her initial mishandling of the case. By now, the Webbs had another attorney, Feliciano Carrillo, and the case was quickly proceeding through the Guatemalan court system.
"From that point, it was like this," Troy Webb said as he snapped his fingers in rapid succession.
After the holidays, Lisa Webb stayed behind and extended her unpaid leave. Her husband returned to Chillicothe but headed to Guatemala for the fifth and final time on Feb. 5, 2005.
This time, he was bringing his family home.
One more grandchild
On Feb. 10, almost 23 months after they started this journey that would change their lives forever, the Webbs flew into Lambert-St. Louis International Airport with a baby girl.
Their first stop was Lisa Webb's parents' house in Pleasant Hill. Her parents, Bob and Sue Webster, already had 19 grandchildren, and their house was where the extended family often met for holidays and other occasions.
But this day was much, much different. Grandchild No. 20 was here.
"It was a surreal feeling," Lisa Webb said of being surrounded by her husband's parents, her parents, her brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. "We've always been around all those kids, but now I had a daughter of my own."