Warning on suspect Indian adoption agency ignored

Date: 2008-10-03

Warning on suspect Indian adoption agency ignored

October 3, 2008
Michael McKenna

THE Goss government ignored a warning about an Indian adoption agency five years before it sent a young girl to an unwitting Queensland couple after she had allegedly been stolen away from her parents.

The Bligh Government yesterday released a 1995 letter to Queensland's then Department of Family Services which raised serious allegations against the agency, now suspected of involvement in child trafficking.

Despite the warnings from Indian welfare authorities, which included allegations of falsifying the records of children, subsequent Queensland governments allowed two more children to be brought to the state for adoption.

One of those children, now a nine-year-old girl adopted by a Queensland couple, is alleged to have been kidnapped in 2000 and sold to the adoption agency, Malaysian Social Services.

The couple adopted the girl through MSS with the approval of Indian, Australian and state authorities, including the department headed by now Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

They learned only last year of the allegations of her kidnapping after Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade alerted Queensland's Department of Child Safety.

The Rudd Government is conducting an audit of the Indian agencies involved in processing adoptions to Australia.

Queensland's Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech yesterday told The Australian there was no evidence that any action was taken after the letter was sent about MSS. She said a search of government archives had failed to find any "follow-up" to the letter.

"It is a mystery, given that there are clear directions (written on the letter) about a follow-up," Ms Keech said.

Her office redacted the name of the author of the letter, but it is believed to have come from the Indian Council for Child welfare, which is charged by the Indian courts with overseeing inter-country adoptions.

In the letter, the Queensland government is warned an MSS director had made threats against Indian investigators and he had previously doctored the records of children handled by the agency. "He has a history of misrepresentation and falsification of records concerning children in his custody, threatening relations of children and litigation against appropriate authorities," the letter said. "Is this man a fit person to have custody and control over innocent and abandoned children?

"It is in this connection that we are bringing this serious matter to the attention of concerned appropriate authorities, so that the right of such children to protection and safe care is ensured."

The MSS director, who was the subject of the letter, is understood to have later died in an Indian jail. Last month, The Australian revealed that the Indian birth parents of the nine-year-old girl have now asked to see her. Indian authorities are still investigating the circumstances of her adoption.

A lawyer representing the family wrote to the Child Safety Department saying 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 (sic) had lost her peace and looking forward to see her child some day."

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