Stolen child 'OK to stay in Queensland'

By:  Scott Carney

August 30, 2008

November 11th, 1998, was like any other day in Chennai: hot and humid. Fatima, a young housewife with three children left her house for a grocery run across the street while two of her children, Zabeen, 2, and Sadaam Hussein, 4, played in an alley.

A three-wheel auto rickshaw pulled up at the alley entrance and the children peeped inside. A woman reached down and grabbed Zabeen and Sadaam and dragged them into the back of the rickshaw. The driver, a man, sped away, but Sadaam managed to break free, running home to an empty house and cowering under a small wooden bed. He was so shaken he was unable to tell his mother immediately that his sister had been stolen.

"I can still remember their faces," says Sadaam, now 14, of the kidnappers. He dreams of one day reuniting with his sister.

While his parents searched the neighbourhood, the kidnappers were meeting with the owners of Malaysian Social Services (MSS), an orphanage and adoption agency.

Police records indicate that the orphanage admitted Zabeen under the name Suji and claimed that her mother had abandoned her and another child.

"The documents were obviously forged," says D. Geetha, a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Network who is representing Zabeen's family. "The woman who signed it wasn't a relative, it was her kidnapper."

According to court documents, the kidnappers sold the children for 10,000 rupees ($280) each. Since 1991, the agency has sent almost 300 children abroad to Australia, the Netherlands and the United States.

The orphanage charged high fees disguised as donations to manage the international adoptions and collected almost $250,000 for the children. Zabeen was sent to Queensland under her new name.

"They took my child because she was beautiful," says Fatima.

Conventional Indian orphanages are often overcrowded, and one view is that genuine orphans may not be as attractive to foreigners as healthy children raised in their parents' homes.

For Fatima, the next five years were the stuff of nightmares. She and her husband, Salia, filed a report with the local police, but were discouraged by the response.

"They barely looked at the report, it wasn't a priority for them. There were no detectives, nothing," says Salia.

Instead, the couple bankrupted themselves financing their own investigation. They stopped working and spent their days scouring the city asking everyone they met for news of their daughter.

Then, in 2005, as news reports of adoption scandals rolled across India, a police officer asked Salia to pick out Zabeen from a list of photos of young children. He identified his daughter immediately.

The police officer told him that his daughter was safe in Australia, but that it would be difficult to bring her back. "Every day I searched the streets for some sign of her. I had gone mad. But once the police told me that she was okay, I began to feel better. I could sleep again," says Fatima.

Now after almost 10 years, what they want most is news of their child.

"If I could only see her and know that she is in a good place, getting a good education that is enough for me. She can stay in Australia but we should still give her a choice to come back to her family," says Fatima.


Is it really "OK"?

I have a very difficult time reading about this kidnapping/trafficking situation.  It seems the only reason why it would be ok for a child to stay in another country is if that child becomes a "success story".  [Given the difference between India and Australia, I think it's safe to assume even an average local Down Under will have a better life-style than one in an average town in India.  What decent parent wouldn't want "a better  future" for their child?]

Is this the mentality that keeps child trafficking alive?  [I'm trying very hard to see how others can justify the selling of children through an orphanage as being a "humanitarian effort", versus the quick-cash scheme it typically reads to me.]

Does the humanitarian version of this story read a little like this:  "If we can get these kids to become a big success, they will come back and help other less fortunate families."?

I can't quite understand how the ends justify the means, knowing there are more and more cases proving the following:

"An industry has grown up around adoption in which profit rather than the best interests of the child takes the centre stage," said Gillian Mellsop, chief of UNICEF in Nepal. 

"Appropriate legal safeguards and a functioning alternative care to parental care can prevent abuse and allow intercountry adoption to continue for those who need it."  [From:  Nepal urged to focus on child rights in adoption",]

If a country's government was doing its job protecting their most vulnerable, would there really be a strong need for international adoption?

What I see

What I see is that this mother wants to give a choice to her 12 year-old to go back to her family.
Is there any adoptive parent or adoption agency giving the choice to a child to stay in their family first?

I'm sure this mother is thinking that it will be hard for her daughter to adapt/readapt to their culture and language.
Is there any AP (of a child adopted at older age)  who have ever think how it could be difficult for a child to adapt to a new culture, before the adoption?

Until now, when such situation happened, what I have heard from the adopter's side or the receiving country's side, is that considering it's age, the child would be better off  with it's adoptive family than going back to it's birth country with it's birth family. Knowing that some children are taken from their birth country at 10, 12,13, or even 14  years old to be adopted abroad by complete strangers, their argument  doesn't hold.

Birth parents seek to see their 'stolen' daughter after seven ye


September 03, 2008
Sean Parnell

THE Indian birth parents of a nine-year-old girl allegedly stolen by child-traffickers before being adopted by an unwitting Queensland couple have now asked to see her.

Seven years after the girl was allegedly sold to an Indian adoption agency, a lawyer for the birth parents has contacted Queensland's Department of Child Safety asking for help to resolve the case.

The Australian obtained a copy of the letter yesterday as federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland promised tougher scrutiny on inter-country adoptions and revealed other applications had been frozen pending further investigation. The letter states that the birth parents want to see the girl, in Australia or India, to bring an end to their "emotional pain".

"My clients' child was stolen by anti-social elements, who had kidnapped her in a running vehicle, when she was playing on the road, in front of (her mother) Fathima's eyes," the letter states.

"Since then, Fathima's had lost her peace (sic) and looking forward to see her child some day. My clients came to know from the local police that their child is placed in adoption to a couple at Queensland, Australia.

"My clients are eager to know about the wellbeing of their child, to have one look at the child. It has been explained to my clients, that she will not be speaking their language. But still they would like to see that their child is fine and is being taken care by the adoptive parents."

The adoptive parents could not be contacted for comment yesterday, but they are understood to have requested privacy.

It was unclear last night whether the department had received the letter.

Queensland Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech -- whose department is still looking into the case -- has met with the adoptive parents.

"My heart goes out to them and I'm impressed by the strength and courage they are showing," Ms Keech said.

"My thoughts are also with the family in India, who has lost a child. They have suffered a terrible loss and yet, according to their reported comments, their only thoughts are of what is best for their child.

"It must be remembered these are still only allegations but both families are in a very difficult situation and are handling themselves with dignity and grace. As a mother myself, I feel for all the parents involved in this tragic case."

Mr McClelland has sought assurances from the Indian authorities that any future inter-country adoptions would be legitimate.

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