Couple on probation in Samoan adoption case adopt child

Date: 2010-03-04
Source: sltrib.com

Placement dispute » Kansas couple also wanted the girl.

By Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune

A judge has granted a couple behind an international adoption scandal involving the placement of Samoan children with U.S. families leave to adopt a 5-year-old girl from China.

Scott and Karen Banks are on probation for several misdemeanors. But 1st District Judge Thomas Willmore ruled it is in the girl's best interest to be adopted by the couple, who have cared for her over the past four years, according to court documents.

Curry and Mary Frances Kirkpatrick of Kansas had argued they adopted the girl first through Focus on Children, a now-defunct agency operated by the Bankses. But after placing the girl temporarily with the Bankses in June 2006, the Utah couple refused to return her, they said.

First District Judge Stanton Taylor granted guardianship in 2008 to the Bankses but declined to allow them to adopt while they were awaiting trial on charges that they tricked Samoan parents into placing children for adoption. The pair pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and were placed on five years' probation in 2009. They then petitioned to officially adopt the girl, who they named Amanda Mei.

In granting their request, Willmore said evidence presented in the case -- including a post-placement adoption report, testimony by the Bankses and a recommendation by attorneys appointed to represent the children -- show "there is a great deal of bonding, attachment, love and concern that exists in this family and that Amanda is the center of attention."
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The judge did express concern that the Bankses had adopted two Romanian babies but then sent them about 10 years later to live with a family in American Samoa. The couple alleged the children had developed severe attachment disorders. The judge said the pair should have explored other options.

"The court merely cautions that should any problems arise with Amanda that the Banks parents must treat her as their own child, not give up on her and give her what she needs to succeed," Willmore wrote in his Feb. 11 order.

The Bankses, who have moved to Nevada, and their adoption attorney could not be reached for comment. Rebecca Skordas, a Salt Lake City attorney who represented Karen Banks in the Samoan adoption case, said the judge make a good call in granting the adoption.

"This little girl was once shy and withdrawn and wouldn't meet your gaze," Skordas said. "The last time I saw her she was healthy and vibrant."

The two Romanian children, Auriel and Ethan Banks, are now adults. Auriel Banks alleges that Scott Banks has refused to give them their birth certificates, making it impossible for the two to get passports needed to leave the island.

In an affidavit submitted in the adoption case, the young woman claimed she and Ethan never received any love from the Bankses.

PEAR, a Pennsylvania-based group, says the Bankses should not have been allowed to adopt the girl because of the misdemeanor convictions and their placement of Auriel and Ethan with friends. The organization has set up an online petition calling for Gov. Gary Herbert to open an investigation into the adoption.

Skordas described the effort as a "witch hunt."

"I find it ironic that an organization that purports to be working in the best interest of a child would try to undo an adoption," she said.

pmanson@sltrib.com

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