Adoption process likely OK'd Union pair
Adoption process likely OK'd Union pair
5/24/2008 6:11:35 AM
By Emily Le Coz
NEW ALBANY - It's still unclear how the parents arrested in the death of their adopted daughter Monday obtained custody of the 2-year-old and her six adopted siblings.
Union County investigators would not release the name of the family's adoption agency or agencies.
What is clear is that Janet and Ramon Barreto of Union County would have had to pass a grueling series of home visits, questionnaires and background checks before being able to legally adopt the Guatemalan-born children.
They also likely would have paid between $25,000 and $35,000 for each child – the going rate for that country, said Tom Velie, executive director of Tupelo-based adoption agency New Beginnings.
"It's pretty in-depth," he said of the adoption process.
The Barretos, who also have two biological children, have been charged with seven counts of child endangerment in connection with the girl's death and care of her siblings. Law enforcement officials expect other charges, but they aren’t providing specifics yet.
Enna Barreto, 2, died Monday at a Memphis hospital from a blow to the head, according to an autopsy. The family claims the girl fell from a shopping cart Sunday, but doctors who treated her at LeBonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis suspected child abuse.
The other children are now in protective custody.
Since the girl’s death, many have questioned how the Barretos were allowed to adopt so many children - especially considering reports that the rural family home was filthy, the parents did not have traditional employment, and they bred more than 200 pets in a backyard puppy mill.
To legally secure the children, Velie said, the Barretos would have had to go through the typical channels: hire an adoption agency, submit to the home visits, prepare a dossier and travel to Guatemala.
New Beginnings conducts home-site visits for international adoptions, but when asked if it had worked the Barreto case - or if Velie knew which other agency did - he declined to comment.
"Because a possible criminal investigation is going on, I feel it would be better not to respond to that question at this time," he said.
Also declining to comment on that question were spokeswomen for the Mississippi Children’s Home in Oxford and Bethany Christian Services of Columbus, which both perform international adoptions or home-site visits for international adoptions. They said their agencies' client lists are confidential.
A spokeswoman for another agency, Harden House Adoption of Tupelo, could not provide information because the director was unavailable.
Two other Northeast Mississippi adoption agencies contacted do not handle international adoptions or home-site visits.
International adoptions typically "involve four visits where we’ll talk about your motivation to adopt, your past experience with adoption or international adoption in particular, a family history and marital history, background on each individual in the family," said Velie, adding that they ask questions like "What was your childhood like? What was your relationship with your parents? What activities did you participate in?"
It also involves a medical evaluation, criminal background check, home inspection and income verification, he said.
But, somehow, adoption officials missed signs of the Barreto’s large-scale pet breeding operation in the backyard, where hundreds of dogs and cats were kept in cramped, dirty cages surrounded by feces and flies.
Velie said after the visits are completed, the report goes to the state Department of Human Services, which reviews it and sends it to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. That bureau can approve or deny the adoption request.
After the child is adopted, it is considered part of the parents' family, Velie said, and the state of Mississippi does not require follow-up visits.
"As an adoptive father of two Korean-American daughters who we raised, and knowing so many wonderful adoptive families who truly love and care for their children," Velie said, "it saddens me that situations like this occur, bringing adoption and international adoption into question."
Contact Daily Journal reporter Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.