Guatemalan judge orders US couple to return adopted young girl to her birth mother

Associated Press

August 3, 2011 / The Washington Post

A Guatemalan judge has ordered a U.S. couple to return their adopted daughter to her birth mother, siding with a human rights group that says the girl was stolen by a child trafficking ring and put up for adoption.

Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez confirmed Wednesday that she ruled in favor of the mother, who is represented by the Survivors’ Foundation.

The rights group, which released a copy of the ruling Tuesday night, claims the girl was kidnapped in 2006 and taken out of the country under a new name two years later and was last known to be living in Missouri.

Tellez’s ruling also says Guatemala’s government must cancel the passport used to take the girl out of the country. It further orders that if the girl is not returned within two months, Guatemalan authorities should solicit help locating the girl from Interpol, the international police organization.

Nine Guatemalans, including a judge, have been charged in the case. The foundation doesn’t allege the U.S. couple knew the girl had been kidnapped.

The court identified the couple as Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn Monahan of Liberty, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City.

Attempts to reach the couple for comment were unsuccessful. An unidentified woman answering the door at the address listed by the court said she couldn’t talk with an Associated Press reporter because she was on the phone. No one answered the door on a second attempt to reach the couple.

The ruling says the U.S. parents can appeal the ruling in Guatemalan courts and asks the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to help locate the girl.

The embassy referred questions to the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, which had not responded to a request for comment by Wednesday evening.

Guatemala’s adoption system once sent more than 4,000 children to the United States each year. But adoptions were suspended in 2007 amid widespread claims of kidnapping and fraud by suspect adoption brokers. Guatemala started a small, reformed program of international adoptions later but the United States has declined to participate.

Norma Cruz, of the Survivors’ Foundation, said she believes this is the first time a Guatemalan court has ordered a child to be returned on the grounds that an adoption was fraudulent.

“We’re working on two other cases and we hope for the same result,” she said.

Cruz said the girl was born Oct. 1, 2004, and was stolen from outside the family’s house in the town of San Miguel Petapa near the Guatemalan capital on Nov. 3, 2006. According to the foundation, the girl was then adopted in Guatemala and taken to the United States using a passport under a new name on Dec. 9, 2008.


How will the adopters respond?

Typically when we read stories about adoption fraud or adoption scams we read about a situation where an adoption agency or adoption lawyer promised to deliver a baby to a couple who agreed to pay all the required fees for that child, only to find out later, there was no child, there was no pregnant mother, there was only a person or two scamming others out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Sympathy almost always goes towards those who basically had their money stolen from a liar.

In this case of adoption fraud, a child was stolen so the promise made to deliver a child would be honored.  The participating scam-artists must have known there would be no scam to report to the authorities if both parties got what they wanted.

However, we must not forget, a child was kidnapped from outside the parent's home for the sake of an adoption plan!

Doesn't this enrage people?

I hope all members of the adoption community are watching and following this event, especially those who are considering a foreign adoption.

In this day and age, after all that is posted on the internet about baby brokers, child trafficking, illegal adoptions, money-hungry orphanage directors, and corrupt government officials, anyone entering a foreign adoption plan must do so with the knowledge that there is a very good chance that something may be wrong, or at the very least, something about the child will not be as it is first presented.  Adopters no longer have the luxury of saying, "But we didn't know" or "we trusted our agency to do the investigating".   

Whether these adopters knew the child was kidnapped or not, that is academic. The true test of their moral character will be seen in the way in which they respond to the judge's request.

Will they return the kidnapped child, or will they fight a mother who was a victim of perhaps one of the worst crimes one can do against a mother?

Will the APs face charges?

Kerry, by reading all the documented information, it is interesting to note that the APs knew before they left Guatemala with the child, that she was kidnapped. They had a negative DNA, wouldn't that give rise to suspicion in the first place? Why did they pursue the adoption? Norma Cruz made attempts to contact the APs in the U.S. and tried to make a gentle transition for the child back to the mother, but the APs refused and refused to do a DNA test, then the mother in Guatemala was left no choice but to file for an annullment of the adoption in 2008.

Just wondering, if this is so and the APs by all indications have known for a long time that the child was kidnapped, will that make them complicit to the crime and thus accessories after the fact? Could they face charges?


I myself am still skimming through the information related to this case (kudos to Erin Siegal for her work!), so I really don't feel comfortable offering a definitive answer to more detailed questions about the individuals involved.  However, I can render a personal opinion about parents who would refuse to consent to a DNA test for the sake of a mother looking for her kidnapped child:  refusing consent to a DNA test shows there is a desire to live in denial, and that itself is not helping anybody, especially the child.

From a legal perspective, I have no idea if the AP's could face charges related to "accessories to a crime"... to my knowledge this a first for a case that involves a stolen child for adoption.  Keep in mind, before this particular case, the vast majority of stolen children came from hospitals/maternity centers, where the mothers/parents were told the infant they delivered was dead.  Had any of those cases taken this same path, one has to wonder how many AP's would have come forward to return the children they obtained through adoption, and how many would claim regardless of the crime committed, the adoptive home is still best for the child.

Sadly, if this were not an adoption case, I believe many would quickly vilify the couple keeping a kidnapped child from her rightful parents, but because this is an adoptive situation, many are sympathetic to the AP's in question and even suggest the kidnapped child should remain with them.

It's as if normally smart people suddenly believe there is a statute of limitations to parental rights.

There is no statute of limitation to biology.... and kidnapping by no means should terminate a mother's parental right to have her child returned, pronto!

Anyone worth their salt

Anyone worth their salt would have already begun the process of carefully and gently returning the child to the mother. A few AP's have done this when the truth became known, unfortunately though, not many.

Pound Pup Legacy