Forever: family or child?

If you hang out in the online adoption community, you have undoubtedly heard of the story of Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez, the little girl from Guatemala who was kidnapped from her mother at the age of 2, adopted by a Missouri couple and now is at the center of a legal battle that will ultimately decide her future.

The link above is one of a gazillion, most of which are followed by comments either demanding her immediate return to her first mother or urging that she remain with her adoptive parents to avoid trauma.

No one involved in this situation will come out of it intact, least of all little Anyeli. One would think that her helplessness and the emotional trauma she faces would elicit reactions that are sensitive to her needs, but no. It is amazing how many of the comments, from the adoption savvy and adoption ignorant, treat everyone concerned as a party to a business transaction, and Anyeli as an object of barter.

Adoption is a business transaction, whether you accept the fact or not.  Money in adoption, even when justified in terms of fees rather than price, leads to situations like Anyeli’s. But the ultimate resolution for her, her mother and her adoptive parents lies far from the purview of chattel law.

Right now, everyone is hurting in this situation except Anyeli. Young as she is, she is probably unaware of the nightmare on her horizon. If the decisions made on her behalf are reached based on an analysis of who legally “owns” her, she is doomed to suffer.

I think the only thing that will help Anyeli live through her future intact is for the adults involved to put aside their feelings of “ownership” and look to Anyeli’s needs. I honestly believe that if they do that, they will come to the conclusion that Anyeli’s place is with the mother who gave birth to her, but only following a careful transition, and with her adoptive parents present throughout her life.

Everyone will need to sacrifice.

Anyeli’s mother must recognize that, horrific as the crime against Anyeli and her may be, it happened. Anyeli calls two other people Mom and Dad, and somehow their role in her life must be acknowledged, respected and continued as long as Anyeli wants it to be.

Anyeli’s adoptive parents must recognize that a legal adoption doesn’t “entitle” them to this child.  They have the hard task of accepting that they have been victimized by a broken system, but separating Anyeli’s needs from their own desires.

Everyone needs to recognize that a transition from one family to the other will take time, attention to Anyeli’s ability to understand what has happened and will happen to her, her emotional needs, the challenge of language and more.

It has taken me a long time to write this post because I honestly don’t know how I would have reacted or what I would have done, had I learned that one of my children had been kidnapped from parents seeking his or her return. Would I have staked my claim and vowed that I’d protect my child at any cost? Would I have been able to step back and look at the situation objectively and rationally?

I’m honestly not sure. When I think back to when my children were Anyeli’s age, I don’t know if I would have had the strength to let them go, even if my head told me it was the right thing to do. The possibility simply never entered my mind.

Adoption disruption happens, but the vast majority of adoptive parents receive no preparation for it. Agencies aren’t likely to provide it, because to do so would be to admit the possibility of failure or flawed practices. Adoptive parent post-adoption groups and organizations focus on parenting, and are also unlikely to address it.

The impact of adoption disruption on children in cases like Anyeli’s should be a part of every adoptive parent’s preparation. We may debate the frequency of its causes (from coerced surrender to kidnapping and trafficking) but it happens, and when it does, the victimized child has to be the primary focus. Yet thousands of adoptions happen every year from countries known for corruption, with adoptive parents completely unprepared for the possibility. (This, of course, begs the question why we allow adoptions from countries known for risky adoptions, but that's another debate and another post.)

In Anyeli’s case, I hope everyone involved is focused on her. I hope everyone can get beyond the myth of the "forever family" to focus on the needs of the actual child. What is really forever are the outcomes of today's actions on Anyeli's behalf, which she will take with her into the future, forever. Her ability to live a strong, healthy life depends on it.

Note 5/30/12: In reading online today, I found the a series of posts about the Anyeli Rodriguez case on the website of Erin Siegal, author of Finding Fernanda. Ms. Siegal states the following:
The Monahans’ adoption was a slow, tangled process that began in 2006. By July 2007, a failed DNA test revealed that a fake birth mother had relinquished “Karen Abigail.” According to emails the Monahans sent to Guatemalan private investigators, they were distressed and confused. They’d already waited seven months for the adoption to move forward, with almost no progress.[i] On August 1st, Jennifer Monahan wrote in her personal timeline of the adoption that agency head Sue Hedberg had planned to ask LabCorp, the primary DNA testing facility in the US used for adoptions, to “bury” the results of the mismatched test. But “LabCorp can’t do that anymore,” Monahan noted, because of newly tightened regulations. She’d grown suspicious about what was unfolding in the adoption, and took careful notes of everything that transpired, including, her notes say, recording conversations with Sue Hedberg.  When Monahan asked Hedberg what could be done after the child’s failed DNA test, aparently seeking alternative ways to push the adoption through, Hedberg responded that Marvin might bring the child to an orphanage, where she might eventually become declared abandoned. Or, Hedberg said, Bran might dump the girl “somewhere where nobody could find her.” In subsequent emails, Monahan said she was “terrified.
This fact wasn't in the CNN article that prompted this post. That article instead says the following:
Guatemalan authorities say the adoption agency falsified documents to make the girl eligible for adoption, something that the adoptive parents in Missouri apparently didn't know.
Rodriguez says she now hopes to go to court in Missouri to get her daughter back.

The adoptive parents were unavailable for comment, referring CNN to their lawyer in Washington, who declined to comment.

Last year a family representative said the adoptive parents would "continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child. They remain committed to protecting their daughter from additional traumas as they pursue the truth of her past through appropriate legal channels. 
If the comments on Erin Siegal's website are in fact true, it puts a different spin on the Monahans' role in this adoption, and to a lay person appears to be something that could ultimately render it illegal and would be a chargeable offense.

It doesn't, unfortunately, change the fact that right now, in the midst of this crisis, Anyeli sees them as her parents. Her separation from them remains a challenge I hope those who assist with her return to her family in Guatemala handle with care.

Comments

Kris said…
Absolutely agree Margie. Most of the comments I have read focus mostly on the first mother or the adoptive parents, not so much on the little girl herself. There is much righteous indignation one way or the other. The fact of the matter is, the crime DID occur and as a result, Anyeli now has 2 families. This may not be right, but it is what it is. As an objective observer, I believe she should be returned to her mother. However, to pretend there is no "real" relationship between this little girl and her adoptive parents is not not realistic. She will need to grieve the loss of her adoptive parents.

There is no perfect outcome. However, I believe a thoughtful careful return of Anyeli to her mother is the best that can be done. I also think her adoptive parents should have a place in her life for as long as she wants them to. The adults are going to have to put aside their pain and anguish to do what is best for the little girl. A child always belongs with his or her mother if possible. In my opinion, there is really no exception to this.

As an AP, it is hard to imagine what I would do if I were put in this situation. I would like to say with 100% certainty that I would do the right thing but I can't imagine how difficult it would be. It is something, like the death of a child, that is really hard to think about. So perhaps this makes it all the more important to prepare APs for this possibility BEFORE they bring home their child and fall in love. APs must never forget that their child also belongs to someone else, no matter what the circumstances. It is just part of being an adoptive parent. No legal proceeding or business transaction can trump a child's need to be with his/her mother.
LilySea said…
Yes, Margie. We could call it "open adoption-disruption," perhaps. Mary Shandley is a philosopher who believes "best interest" should be changed to "child's rights." Best interest is too easily muddied with culture and class biases, but the child's right is to have all parts of her self and all people who matter to her respected.

But I do think this case should be a rallying cry to stop adoptions from programs and/or countries with records of trafficking children. APs tend to downplay the examples, suggesting they are the exception. But who cares? I don't even want there to be a small chance a child gets kidnapped for an adoption market that is profit driven.
Anonymous said…
"Anyeli’s mother must recognize that, horrific as the crime against Anyeli and her may be, it happened. Anyeli calls two other people Mom and Dad, and somehow their role in her life must be acknowledged, respected and continued as long as Anyeli wants it to be."

You are joking, right? This child was kidnapped and "adopted" so she calls other people mom and dad now and that's just the way is has to be? What kind of society do we live in that say's this is okay? Oh, that's right, the land of the entitled adopters.
Margie said…
Anonymous, I think you need to read the post.

"Right now, everyone is hurting in this situation except Anyeli. Young as she is, she is probably unaware of the nightmare on her horizon. If the decisions made on her behalf are reached based on an analysis of who legally “owns” her, she is doomed to suffer.

I think the only thing that will help Anyeli live through her future intact is for the adults involved to put aside their feelings of “ownership” and look to Anyeli’s needs. I honestly believe that if they do that, they will come to the conclusion that Anyeli’s place is with the mother who gave birth to her, but only following a careful transition, and with her adoptive parents present throughout her life."

I also add in another paragraph that Anyeli should make the decision about how long she wants the APs in her life.
Margie said…
"But I do think this case should be a rallying cry to stop adoptions from programs and/or countries with records of trafficking children. APs tend to downplay the examples, suggesting they are the exception. But who cares? I don't even want there to be a small chance a child gets kidnapped for an adoption market that is profit driven."

Exactly.
Anonymous said…
Why do they have to be "present throughout her life"? Her mother never agreed to have her daughter adopted. They have no business in any of their lives, aside from a possible occasional update. They should have returned this child as soon as they discovered she was kidnapped. They chose not to do this and STILL garner public AND government sympathy. This is astonishing to me and speaks volumes about entitlement because one party is perceived as being "better" or "wealthier" than the family in Guatemala who have been victims of this crime against humanity. Their daughter has as well.
AquaticNote said…
However, I believe a thoughtful careful return of Anyeli to her mother is the best that can be done. I also think her adoptive parents should have a place in her life for as long as she wants them to.


But how would this work? An adopted child can never have two legal sets of parents. If both sets of parents are in her life, one set would end up being a "visit" but not intimately involved as if they were living in the same household as the child in question.

Also, I've seen many comments saying that legal guardianship (as opposed to parenting) could never, ever work.
AquaticNote said…
If the decisions made on her behalf are reached based on an analysis of who legally “owns” her, she is doomed to suffer.


What do you mean?
Margie said…
"Why do they have to be "present throughout her life"? Her mother never agreed to have her daughter adopted. They have no business in any of their lives, aside from a possible occasional update. They should have returned this child as soon as they discovered she was kidnapped. They chose not to do this and STILL garner public AND government sympathy. This is astonishing to me and speaks volumes about entitlement because one party is perceived as being "better" or "wealthier" than the family in Guatemala who have been victims of this crime against humanity. Their daughter has as well."

Anonymous, I agree with you that the adoptive parents should have, immediately upon verifying Loyda Rodriquez's claim, begun working toward returning Anyeli to her mother. That's exactly what I mean when I say this:

"Anyeli’s adoptive parents must recognize that a legal adoption doesn’t “entitle” them to this child. They have the hard task of accepting that they have been victimized by a broken system, but separating Anyeli’s needs from their own desires."

They have been largely silent on this issue, apart from continuous claims that their adoption was legal. Although the adoption may be legal in their state, it is certainly not moral in the court of human justice.

Please don't misinterpret my belief that carefully considered action to protect Anyeli from as much additional trauma as possible means I support the adoptive parents' claim to her. I do not. I simply recognize that the connections Anyeli has to them now at the age of eight are strong, and that simply removing her from the home she knows in the name of a justice based on chattel, i.e. property, law, which is the basis of much of our law pertaining to children, will create a second trauma from which she should be protected.

To do that will take the cooperation of all of the adults in this situation: Loyda, the adoptive parents (who are victims of this corrupt adoption as well), legal authorities in whatever jurisdiction the case is presented or heard, mental health professionals - everyone.

They absolutely must find the strength and humility to recognize what is right and just here (returning Anyeli to her family) and carrying this out in a way that protects this little girl from another experience of being pulled from her family, which is exactly what going back to her first family will be to her.

Also: I have said nothing here about the relative wealth of Loyda Rodriquez and the adoptive parents, nor do I believe it should be a factor here or anywhere in adoption.
Margie said…
AquaticNote, I'm going to respond to your comments and questions in a separate post. They're important, and need more space than here.
Anonymous said…
I realize YOU personally never said anything about that wealth of any of the parties; but society does and that is the basis of all of this, IMO. Our society society believes that someone is "better off" with the more affluent, Anglo adopters, even though the means of that child coming into this family were a crime against humanity. If society is NOT saying this, where is the outcry by our citizens and our government at how this came to be and played out? If it were a child born to American parents who was kidnapped and living with some Guatemalan couple who "adopted" her, "unbeknownst" to them she was kidnapped, that child would have been removed from the foreign country and foreign parents in a nanosecond and our people and government would have seen to it. There would have been an outcry and criminal charges would have been filed against SOMEONE.

I am not attacking you or your blog personally but this case truly disgusts me to the core, for the reasons I have listed.
Myst said…
Yes, that caught my eye too...
Myst said…
Kidnapping is a crime. Purely and Simply. Anyeli should be returned ASAP to her mother and her adopters have to get over it. This happens all the time in adoption - and in some cases it is done by the state itself. This story infuriates me and the fact those people kept her - for that they are just as guilty as those who kidnapped the child and should be treated as such. Far too many adopters get away with crimes and I am sick of it.
Margie said…
"This child was kidnapped and "adopted" so she calls other people mom and dad now and that's just the way is has to be? What kind of society do we live in that say's this is okay? Oh, that's right, the land of the entitled adopters."

I also said this:

"Anyeli’s adoptive parents must recognize that a legal adoption doesn’t “entitle” them to this child. They have the hard task of accepting that they have been victimized by a broken system, but separating Anyeli’s needs from their own desires."

Before anyone goes nuts about the reference to a "legal" adoption, please remember: right now, until someone is able to tie their participation in fraud to this adoption in a court of law, it's legal. I'm sure - or at least I hope - Loyda's attorneys are pursuing this.

I will honestly say that I was unaware when I wrote this post that they proceeded with the adoption knowing that the child's DNA test was falsified, a point which I have now added above. That fact isn't present in the news stories I have read; I found it today on Erin Siegal's website and reference it in the next post.

If this is indeed the case, their actions are morally reprehensible and they should be charged as appropriate.

For Anyeli, however, that will be irrelevant. These people are still the parents she knows, and she deserves support through her separation from them.

There is no question that Loyda Rodriguez is this child's rightful parent. How she is returned is the point I'm trying to make. Your comment on the other post today says it exactly.
Margie said…
No offense taken. I really haven't done a good job getting my point across, plus it's unfortunately a shade of gray that most people just can't fathom.

I'm disgusted, too, but as much by the fact that people are willing to put this child through another trauma as I am by the fact that others honestly believe it's right for her to stay with the Monahans.

Neither should happen, nor does it have to.
AquaticNote said…
@ Myst: Yes, kidnapping is a crime. But the focus here isn't solely on the mother whose child was stolen from her. The attachment Anyeli has to her adopters has to be taken into consideration.

Because of her adopters' attachment to her? No. Because of *Anyeli* herself.
Anonymous said…
This and many of the posts here truly astonish me in their cruelty to this child and her family. Would anyone be willing to allow their child to stay with a couple that knowingly was complicit in child kidnapping and international child trafficking to satisfy their own selfish wanting? Do you believe that people who illegally traffic in children have in any way the child's best interests or rights in mind, let alone that of a mother and family.

Shame shame shame on the adoption community to justify the theft of a child and those who would knowingly keep a stolen child for years and years from the ones who love her.

Who really believes that that family in Liberty, Missouri, really loves Anyeli? Is this the kind of love adoptive parents should have for their legally and ethically adopted children.

We have adoptive children from Guatemala in our family. I am ashamed to see the horrible justification of criminal adoptive parenting on this site.
Margie said…
Whoa, Anonymous, you missed the point of this post and are reading into to it opinions that I do not share.

I do not suggest here that Anyeli should stay with the Monahans, nor do I condone any wrongful actions on their part.

What I do suggest is that Anyeli's attachment to her adoptive parents (not theirs to her, an important distinction) be considered during any transition back to her first family, and that adoptive parent preparation should include preparation for the just and rightful return of a child to his or her first family should such a situation arise.

Outrage and indignation are dead easy to conjure up, as you have here. But where this outrage may pay lip service to our sense of justice, it doesn't do a damn thing to help the victims or to prevent future crimes.

Do you think Anyeli is aware of the terrible injustice that led her to Missouri? As angry as it may make you because it somehow validates the adoptive parents' relationship with her, this child is emotionally connected to them. That connection must be acknowledged during her transition back to her first family, which at the moment has been stopped by the U.S. court with jurisdiction - and yes, I believe that ruling is wrong.

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