Guatemalan Court Order Rattles Foreign Adoption Community

A Guatemalan mother has been reunited with her daughter who was kidnapped and adopted in the U.S.

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The story about a young, missing Guatemalan girl whose mother searched for her for five years and eventually found she had been adopted by a couple in Missouri has been floating around for a couple of years now. But the latest news is that the mother, Loyda Rodriguez Morales, has essentially won her case. CNN reported on Monday  that the Guatemalan government had ordered the girl returned, and that because it was considered a case of human trafficking, would call Interpol to enforce the order if the adoptive parents didn't comply. According to Erin Siegal, a fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University who's been covering the case closely, that's an unprecedented move in the world of international adoptions.

And as Metafilter noted, the case has been "rocking the adoption world." On forums such as, members have been debating the case for years. On Thursday, a screed from a user named LauraLyn blasted the way the Monahans had handled the case.

They were offered mediation, and this could have happened in Guatemala or in Liberty. Instead they dug in their heels to hold on to 'their daughter', refused communication, and forced a torturous court process. They claim to want 'to protect' 'Karen Abagail' from 'further trauma'. This is so hard to believe when they have traumatically turned the lives of so many people upside down to keep what does not belong to them. Perhaps other adopted children from Guatemala today are asking: Are my adoptive parents like the Monahans?

But another, Grey, was quick to defend the Monahans' right to privacy and due process.

They have been branded as complicit in fraud, without (to my eyes, at least) facts and evidence. They were faced with a very uncertain situation, and a clear threat (via email) that the little girl they were seeking to adopt could be harmed if they did not continue with the process. Labeling them as accomplices to human trafficking given the nature of their situation is more that unfair; it’s slander.

As an Aug. 12 report in the Houston Chronicle pointed out, "SURVIVORS Foundation, the human rights group representing the birth mother, does not allege the Monahans knew anything about a kidnapping."

On the site Poundpuplegacy, one commenter named Kerry pointed to the power imbalance between birth mother and the adoptive parents.

Let's pretend the mother whose child was kidnapped was a white American.  Let's pretend the person who adopted through corrupt adoption facilitators were dark foreigners, and the adoption agency was not affiliated with any agency within the USA.  What sort of media attention would this case get, then?  What would public outcry sound like after more got news of the story?

Color and economics aside, this is a woman's issue.  The adoption industry is slowly but surely pitting woman against woman and as far as I'm concerned educated women who know a thing or two about the plights of (other) women treated like sub-humans need to  stand up and NOT TURN THEIR BACKS to the corruption that takes place within the child placement industry.

At the very least, the case seems to be a shocking reminder within the adoption community that while the end goal of adoption is to create loving families, it sometimes begins with tearing other families apart. Unsurprisingly, many comments focused on the benefit the child would have growing up in America, versus returning to Guatemala. Kerry's response was thoughtful: "Have we entered an era where those who support adoption believe no original mother living in a poor region is fit to parent her own child chosen by corrupt child brokers?"

Adoption has been a tumultuous issue for the U.S. and Guatemala ove the last few years. Guatemala closed its doors to U.S. adoptions in 2008 because of rampant fraud. They were reopened in 2009, but not without controversy. According to an Aug. 6 Associated Press story, that's what happened with the girl, who was adopted under the name Karen Abigail López García, but whose real name is Anyeli Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez, according to a website set up to help search for her. Her mother claims she was snatched from her arms in 2006. The court ordered the PGN, the Guatemalan equivalent of the attorney general's office, to work with the U.S. embassy on retrieving the girl, who has been living with Timothy and Jennifer Monahan in Missouri since 2007. The Monahans have two months from the July 29 order to return the girl, under the latest order from the Guatemalen court.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.