Missouri Couple Silent on Order to Return Adopted Daughter to Guatemala
By RESHMA KIRPALANI and CHRISTINA NG
A Guatemalan judge has ordered an American couple in Missouri to return their 6-year-old adopted daughter to her birth mother in San Miguel Petapa, Guatemala.
There are major questions about whether the judge's ruling is enforceable in the U.S. and whether the couple who adopted the girl, Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn Monahan of Liberty, Mo., will complly or simply ignore it.
The Missouri couple have remained silent since the judge's ruling.
Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez ruled on Monday in favor of the child's birth mother, Loyda Rodriguez, who is represented by the Guatemalan human rights group, Survivors' Foundation. The foundation claims that the child was kidnapped from her mother in 2006 and was illegally put up for adoption by traffickers who financially benefited when the child was adopted by the Missouri couple in 2008.
The foundation does not allege that the U.S. couple knew the girl had been kidnapped, according to the Associated Press.
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Court documents released by the Survivors' Foundation lists the adoptive parents as Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn Monahan of
Calls to Monahan, an orthopedic surgeon, were not immediately returned to ABCNews.com.
Hernandez ordered the cancellation of the child's passport, made out to Karen Abigail Monahan Vanhorn when she was adopted out of the country.
The court order says that the American Embassy should coordinate efforts with local agencies in Guatemala to help locate the child in the U.S. and return her to Rodriguez. If she is not returned within two months, Interpol will be solicited to help locate and and return her, the court stated.
Nine Guatemalans, including a judge, have been charged in the case.
Survivors' Foundation said in a statement, "The resolution is considered historical and it's a light of hope for all the Guatemalans, because the justice in Guatemala, despite all of the obstacles, is changing not with giant steps but hopefully case by case."
In 2008, Loyda Rodriguez told ABCNews.com, "My daughter... was kidnapped as I was entering my home. A woman appeared in my backyard and grabbed her out of my arms. There was nothing I could do."
At the time, the child was known as Anyelí Liseth Hernández Rodríguez. Her birth mother said that local police were indifferent to her case and offered virtually no help in finding the kidnappers.
The foundation said that Rodriguez and other mothers whose children have been victims of rampant trafficking have endured "fear" and "desperation" in their constant search of their children for the last five years.
But time is not on the side of the birth mother, according to attorney Kendall Coffey.
Coffey, who was part of the defense team for the Miami relatives in the Elian Gonzalez case, said that the Guatemalan court order requiring Anyeli to be returned to her birth mother would not be enforceable within the U.S.
For the order to have any merit, Coffee said, "An interested party, presumably the alleged birth mother of the child, would need to have judicial proceedings undertaken in the U.S. which would prompt a battle over the question whether the Guatemalan order should be enforced here."
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"At the same time, the child may have U.S. citizenship because when U.S. parents adopt a child and bring that child to the U.S., that affects U.S. citizenship automatically. So among other things the citizenship would have to be judicially attacked, as well as the underlying adoption."
He also said that Interpol would not have jurisdiction over this case.
"Interpol is not going to go to the U.S. and detain this child and return the child to Guatemala," he said. "Any non-U.S. law enforcement agent would not have jurisdiction to execute laws in the U.S."
Coffey said that child custody battles like this cost many thousands of dollars to play out in court and can take months, but more typically years.
"With each month that passes, any effort to separate the girl from the couple that believed they properly adopted her and provided a home within this country becomes more damaging to the child, and certainly U.S. court is not going to ignore the wellbeing of the child," he said.
Guatemala's Corrupt History of Adoption
At a peak in 2007, the U.S. adopted 4,726 children from Guatemala, according to the U.S. Department of State.
That year, in the raid of the Casa Quivira orphanage, 46 children intended for American families were seized by Guatemalan government officials, and at least five women were found who had been issued false identities to obscure their true relationship to the children they delivered to the orphanage. Amid concerns about widespread corruption and fraud in adoptions, Guatemala suspended new international adoptions.
In November of 2009, Guatemala announced plans for a pilot adoption program. Initially, the U.S. submitted letters of interest in the program, but it later withdrew its interest over concerns that previous corruption linked to Guatemala's adoptions had yet to be addressed.