Couple involved in adoption scandal win guardianship of girl

from: sltrib.com

February 15, 2008
Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune

LOGAN - A 1st District judge today granted guardianship of a 3-year-old girl to Scott and Karen Banks of Wellsville, ruling that a Kansas City-area couple who originally adopted her in China had abandoned the child.

In his ruling, issued at the end of a four-day trial, Judge Stanton Taylor declined to grant an adoption to the Bankses while federal criminal charges are pending against them. The two, along with their now-defunct Focus on Children adoption agency and FOC workers, are accused in a 135-count indictment of illegally taking children from their parents in Samoa.

But Taylor said if the Bankses are acquitted or the charges are dropped, they can file an affidavit with the court and the adoption will be granted.

If they are convicted, a hearing will be held to determine what is in the girl's best interest - being adopted by the Bankses or by another family. Curry and Mary Frances Kirkpatrick of Overland Park, Kan., who had been fighting for the girl, could be candidates.

Taylor said his decision was influenced by expert testimony on how removing children from a home after they have bonded with the family can cause emotional trauma. The judge noted the girl has already been moved twice, once from an orphanage in China and then from her Kansas home, and has become attached to the Banks family after living with them for 20 months.

The judge, who described the dispute as a "close case," encouraged the Bankses to allow visitation by the Kirkpatricks but did not issue an order requiring it. Mary Frances Kirkpatrick visited the girl in Utah more than 30 times since last summer.

Marlin Grant, the Bankses' attorney, said he and his clients have no animosity toward the Kirkpatricks and would discuss the request. 

The Kirkpatricks left the courtroom quickly without commenting.

The Bankses said they are happy with the decision. Karen Banks added she is grateful that the Kirkpatricks brought the girl, whom they call Amanda Mei, from China.

The adoption of the girl, called Ameyla Frances by the Kirkpatricks, was arranged for the Kansas couple by FOC.

Soon after the then-14-month-old came into their household in December 2005, she began biting and hitting the Kirkpatricks' twin infants. With Mary Frances Kirkpatricks suffering from postpartum depression, the Kirkpatricks said they asked the Bankses in June 2006 to arrange respite care.

When they tried to revoke the arrangement a few weeks later, they contend the Bankses refused. The Utah pair, who had brought the child to their home, claimed the Kirkpatricks abandoned her and had no contact with the girl for a year.

In closing arguments before Taylor handed down his decision, Roger Baron, a lawyer appointed to protect the child's interests, said he normally would recommend that the girl stay with the Bankses. However, with criminal charges pending against the couple, he said placement with the Kirkpatricks would be best.

The Bankses have pleaded not guilty and their trial is pending. 
pmanson@sltrib.com

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