exposing the dark side of adoption
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Couple agree to end parental rights to girl Action could help local family adopt child


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

Author: MARY ZAHN; Staff Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A major hurdle in the path to adoption for Martha — the 2-year-old girl who was orphaned in Guatemala, adopted in Pennsylvania and then tossed from family to family — was cleared Tuesday as the foster family that wants to give her a permanent home watched from a bench in the back of a courtroom.

Milwaukee County Children’s Court Judge Thomas Donegan was told that Martha’s adoptive parents in Pennsylvania have agreed to have their parental rights terminated after changing their minds twice about whether they wanted to keep her. During this time, Martha ended up in a Milwaukee-area foster home, where she was severely injured. After that incident, the Pennsylvania couple said they wanted her back.

Carol Gapen, who represents the adoptive mother, said Tuesday that the Pennsylvania couple decided to terminate their rights to Martha after speaking with her current foster parents and after "a lot of thinking."

Court records show that the couple’s attorney was notified last week that Pennsylvania’s child welfare agency would oppose the girl’s return to the couple and would seek to involuntarily end their rights to her if they did not do so voluntarily.

"The actions of your clients . . . have caused significant trauma to this child," the letter states. "The parents’ indecision and ping-pong ball approach to child rearing can not be condoned. The child is in a safe, secure and permanent environment and she deserves for once in her young life to remain in this situation."

Moves began in 2004

Martha’s moves from family to family began in August 2004, about five months after the Pennsylvania couple adopted her from Guatemala. The couple decided to put Martha up for adoption, and she ended up with the Milwaukee-area foster parents. She was placed there by

Evangelical Child & Family Agency,

a private adoption agency in New Berlin.

About three weeks later, the Pennsylvania couple changed their minds, and Martha was sent back to them. In January, they filed papers in Pennsylvania indicating they were terminating their parental rights, and Martha was sent back to the Milwaukee-area couple. The papers terminating parental rights were never finalized by Pennsylvania courts, authorities said.

In August, Martha was removed from the Milwaukee-area foster home after suffering a skull fracture, wrist fractures and other injuries. Jeff Greipp, an assistant district attorney, confirmed Tuesday that a John Doe investigation has been called to determine whether a crime was committed in this case. He declined to comment further.

Donegan said he expects a written order terminating the couple’s parental rights from the Pennsylvania courts within the next several months, which would free Martha for adoption. The next hearing in the case is set for Dec. 6.

2005 Oct 20