Wellsville couple retain custody of toddler

Date: 2008-05-01

Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT)
Author: Pamela Manson The Salt Lake Tribune

This story was first published in May 2008

LOGAN - A 1st District judge has declined to reopen a case that gave custody of a toddler from China to Scott and Karen Banks, of Wellsville.

A lawyer for a Kansas couple who want to adopt the 3 1/2 -year-old girl and an attorney appointed to protect her interests both argued to Judge Stanton Taylor that newly discovered evidence - recent claims by a teacher that an adopted son of the Bankses had been neglected - called for another look at what would be the best placement for the child.

Both attorneys said a teacher contacted them after reading about Taylor's decision at the end of a February trial to award custody to the Utah pair. The woman contended that a boy with cerebral palsy who had been adopted years ago by the Bankses had teeth in such bad condition that he cried when he tried to eat, according to the lawyers.

In addition, Steven Kuhnhausen, who represents Curry and Mary Frances Kirkpatrick, of Overland Park, Kan., said the teacher told him that she had learned the boy was fed table scraps at home.

Marlin Grant, the Bankses' attorney, denied the allegations and said an investigation by the Division of Child and Family Services in 2002 found that a report by the boy's teachers of possible neglect was unsubstantiated.

Taylor cited that finding in his rejection of the request to reopen the case. The adoption of the girl - called Amanda Mei by the Bankses and Ameyla Frances by the Kirkpatricks - was arranged for the Kansas couple by Focus on Children, an agency operated by the Bankses.

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 suffering from postpartum depression, the Kirkpatricks said they asked the Bankses in June 2006 to arrange respite care.

They contend they tried to revoke the arrangement a few weeks later, but the Bankses refused. The Bankses, who had brought the child to their home, claim the Kirkpatricks abandoned her and filed a petition to adopt.

At the trial, Kuhnhausen argued that criminal charges pending against the Utahns could send them to prison and leave the girl without her caretakers.

Taylor declined to grant an adoption to the Bankses while criminal charges are pending against them but instead gave them custody. The judge said that if they are acquitted or the charges are dropped, they can file an affidavit with the court and the adoption will be granted.

Wellsville residents Scott and Karen Banks were the operators of Focus on Children, an adoption agency at the heart of a 2007 federal indictmentalleging fraud and immigration violations. The indictment alleges that the Bankses, the agency and employees tricked and coerced Samoan birth parents into giving their children to the agency for adoption, then falsely told adoptive parents that the youngsters were orphans. The defendants have pleaded not guilty and are free pending trial. The agency ceased operations in Utah last summer.

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