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.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.
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.
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.