Bankses' parenting challenged

Date: 2008-02-15

Bankses' parenting challenged
Wellsville couple being sued for custody of girl, 3, adopted from China

By Pamela Manson
The Salt Lake Tribune

Published February 15, 2008 2:32 pm

LOGAN - A trial that has spotlighted the parenting abilities of Scott and Karen Banks has produced opposing pictures of the couple.
The pair adopted six foreign-born children, some with special needs, who joined their two biological children. Through their agency, Focus on Children, they say they put orphans into loving American homes.

"They're committed to their children," licensed clinical social worker Jennifer Mowery, who conducted a home study of the couple, told a judge Thursday.

But opponents point out two of their adopted children, born in Romania, were sent at a young age to live with a friend in American Samoa in 2000, and the Bankses have not seen them since. A third child, a boy also born in Romania who has cerebral palsy, was placed in an Orem care facility when he was 12.

And hanging over their heads is a federal indictment accusing them of tricking parents in Samoa into placing their children for adoption.

The information about the Wellsville couple has unfolded in a bench trial this week before 1st District Judge Stanton Taylor. The case centers on who should get to adopt a 3-year-old girl from China - the Bankses or Mary Frances and Curry Kirkpatrick of Overland Park, Kan.

The Kirkpatricks arranged to adopt the girl, who they call Amelya, through the Bankses' adoption agency in December 2005. Soon after the then-14-month-old arrived, she began biting and attacking their infant twins, they say.

With Mary Frances suffering from postpartum depression, the Kirkpatricks said, they asked the Bankses to arrange respite care for the girl.

A few weeks later, they contend, they tried to revoke the arrangement, but the Bankses refused.

The Bankses claim the Kirkpatricks abandoned the girl, whom they call Amanda, and had no contact with her for a year. The Bankses filed a petition to adopt the girl.

The federal criminal case is unrelated to the adoption dispute, but the Kirkpatricks' lawyer, Steven Kuhnhausen, told the judge it raises concerns about the Bankses' character and who would care for the girl if the two were convicted and sent to prison.

Kuhnhausen and Roger Baron, an attorney representing the girl, also had questions about the removal to American Samoa of the Romanian children. Scott and Karen Banks testified Thursday the boy and girl, who are 18 now, had an attachment disorder.

"We were naive in thinking love would take care of all their problems," Scott Banks said.

Karen Banks said she has not visited the two because she does not want to interfere with their parenting. "I still care for them deeply," she said.

The girl from China has lived with the Bankses and four other children - one of their biological sons and three adopted children from Russia - since June 2006. The Kirkpatricks have had visitation since July 2007.

Curry Kirkpatrick testified Thursday that his wife has recovered. "We just want our daughter back," he said.

Mary Frances Kirkpatrick is scheduled to testify when the trial resumes today.

pmanson@sltrib.com

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