February 8, 2008

"For the Love of Anna Mae" ~ Another Look at "Contested" Adoptions

This article highlights yet another example of unethical adoption laws, especially regarding "failed" adoption custody battles. If the best interest of the child (rather than the prospective adoptive parents) was truly upheld, the "contested adoption" laws would be written to protect the child from a long drawn-out court battle. It seems in today's adoption code world, the unspoken goal is keeping the child in the adoptive home (through delays in the court process) just long enough to pop out the "best interest" argument for the child to stay with "the only family they have ever known."

No...if the child's rights and best interest was respected, the court system would not be allowed by law to post-pone and delay court hearings for years and years, and give the "professionals" this excuse....I have personally seen and heard adoption professionals in their meetings talking about passing legislation in their states to ensure this "best interest" custody hearing will trump any "failed" adoption ruling....this is just wrong. Anna Mae could have been reunited with her family years earlier, as well as many others who have been in this same situation.

> http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=4250114&page=1
> Watch the story Friday on '20/20' at 10 p.m. ET
> For the Love of Anna Mae
> Two Families Come Together After Custody Battle, Only to Be Torn
> At first glance, Anna Mae He is a typical American 9-year-old girl.
> She thinks Hannah Montana is cool (but can't tell you why); she
> around on retractable roller skate shoes, and at every opportunity
> pulls out her Game Boy. She likes to read, is a straight-A student
> wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.
> But behind her shy smile and expressive eyes, there's a little girl
> who is torn between two families, two cultures and two countries.
> centerpiece in a bitter custody battle, Anna Mae saw her world
> upside down last July when the Tennessee Supreme Court, in a
> decision, ruled that she had to leave the family who raised her and
> live instead with a family she barely knew.
> On Jan. 28, 1999, Anna Mae was born to Jack and Casey He, a young
> Chinese couple who had recently come to the United States so that
> could pursue a doctorate at the University of Memphis in Tennessee.
> Several months before Anna Mae's birth, a female student accused
> He of sexually assaulting her on campus. Although later acquitted of
> the charges, Jack He lost his position at the university and his
> student visa was revoked. The couple's income dropped to about $400
> month.
> When Anna Mae was born a month premature, the Hes worried that they
> could not pay her medical bills. They needed help and sought a
> who could care for their daughter while they tried to resolve their
> financial and legal difficulties.
> The Hes contacted Mid-South Christian Services, an adoption and
> services agency who introduced them to Jerry and Louise Baker, a
> Christian, middle-class family raising children of their own in the
> Memphis suburbs.
> The Bakers agreed to care for Anna Mae for 90 days, but when the
> still facing financial hardships, weren't ready to take her back,
> agreed to sign a consent order awarding custody to the Bakers.
> According to the Hes, it was a temporary arrangement so that Anna
> could have health insurance. According to the Bakers, both families
> had agreed that the Bakers would raise Anna Mae through adolescence.
> The Hes' weekly visits to see Anna Mae became more and more tense.
> "When [Anna Mae] was having her second birthday, we went to visit
> at [the] Bakers' house," said Jack He. "We had agreement to take her
> to [a photo] studio for picture taking. The Bakers refused. The
> called the police to remove us.... Ever since then we could not see
> child."
> But according to the Bakers, the Hes were creating a disturbance in
> their home and the police simply escorted them outside. "We never
> them not to come back, and that policeman never told them not to
> back," said Jerry Baker.
> A month later, the Hes tried to reclaim custody of Anna Mae, hoping
> send her to China to stay with relatives until they were able to
> for her themselves.
> The Bakers were convinced they could offer Anna Mae a better life in
> Memphis, so they filed a petition to adopt her. It was the beginning
> of a battle that would last more than six years.
> "We had [the] American dream before we came here," Jack He said. "We
> thought that America is a country of freedom, human rights,
> We thought equality -- everybody the same, equally treated. In our
> family the American dream was broken by this story. Crushed --
> dream."
> The case moved through the courts, and in 2004, Tennessee Circuit
> Judge Robert Childers delivered a devastating blow to the Hes.
> Childers found that Anna Mae was "in a strongly bonded, deep-seated,
> healthy relationship with the Baker family." He said that breaking
> bond with the Bakers would cause Anna Mae substantial harm. Childers
> ordered that the Hes' parental rights be terminated and gave full
> custody to the Bakers.
> "Jerry sat down and cried, and I started jumping up and down," said
> Louise Baker.
> But the Hes had quite a different reaction. "We could not believe
> said Jack He. "We were shocked.... This is just the beginning of the
> battle.... We are determined to fight one year, two year, three
> until justice comes."
> It took more three more years, years in which Anna Mae bonded even
> more closely with Bakers, and the Hes worried that they might never
> see their daughter again. Finally, on Jan. 23, 2007, just five days
> before Anna Mae's eighth birthday, the Tennessee Supreme Court
> a stunning decision. It determined that the lower courts had erred
> that Anna Mae belonged with her biological family.
> "I [will] always remember that day," said Jack He "I said justice
> prevails. Justice prevails."
> "We were unprepared, which is foolish, but we were," said Jerry
> "We just knew that no one could ever remove this child from our
> and we were wrong."
> The Bakers struggled with how best to tell Anna Mae that she would
> have to leave her home to go live with a family she barely
knew. "The
> night that we told her ... she crawled up in my arms," recalled
> Baker. "And she said, 'Hold me like a baby, Mommy.' And I put her in
> my arms and held her, and I said, 'I love you, Anna.' She looked up
> me and smiled. She said 'I love you, too.' And tears just started
> rolling down her face."
> "When the decision was made to move Anna ... she was inconsolable,
> because she had no control, she had lost every bit of control in her
> life," said Debbie Grabarkiewcz, a child advocacy specialist with A
> Child's Best Interest, who has worked with Anna for the past three
> years. "And that's what these courts do to these kids .... Anna will
> the greatest price."
> In July of 2007, Anna Mae was reunited with her biological parents
> her little brother, Andy, and sister Avita. It was a transition that
> both the Hes and the Bakers found heartwrenching.
> At first, Anna Mae seemed angry and withdrawn, refusing to eat,
> or sleep in her bed. She said she was afraid her birth parents were
> going to poison her. She also told the Hes that she was afraid of
> going to China. "She used to think that China was a remote, foreign
> weird country," said Jack He.
> But then, a turning point. According to the Hes, Anna Mae had
> drawn a picture of two little girls holding hands, standing in a bed
> of flowers. It was a picture of Anna Mae and the Bakers' youngest
> daughter, Aimee, who had been Anna Mae's closest friend and
> for most of her life.
> When the Hes found the picture, they had a talk with Anna Mae. "We
> love you.... We want to make you happy," said Jack He. "You want to
> Aimee? If you miss Aimee...we encourage that. We understand that. So
> are going to make arrangements for you to see Aimee."
> Aimee was invited for a visit and then sleepovers, and from that
> on, say the Hes, Anna Mae began to trust them and to open up.
> "[Anna Mae] came to me while I was eating my dinner.... She asked me
> to say 'mommy' in Chinese and 'daddy' in Chinese," said Jack He. "I
> said, 'In Chinese, daddy, we say, baba, baba. Mommy is mama.' And in
> couple of days after that, she began to address us as Baba and Mama.
> And I think that's the most amazing moment."
> Jack He realized that instead of maintaining the wall that existed
> so long between his family and the Bakers, it was important to open
> window so that both families could love Anna Mae and she would no
> longer feel torn between them.
> "I think for the best interest of a child," Jack He said. "You know,
> Anna loves the Bakers. And if I say something or do something
> about the Bakers, it means I'm holding [back] Anna. And I don't want
> to do that. We just move on and take care of the child."
> Last month, the Hes extended an invitation to the Bakers to help
> celebrate Anna Mae's ninth birthday, even though the Hes had not
> celebrated a birthday with Anna Mae since she was a year old. They
> asked only that the Bakers try to contain their emotions, and not to
> refer to themselves as mommy and daddy, but rather respect the Hes'
> parental rights. The Bakers agreed.
> "What's happened in the past is in the past," said Jerry Baker.
> very grateful to the Hes for allowing us the opportunity to start a
> dialogue with them."
> But even as Anna Mae was experiencing the love of both families for
> the first time, she was facing another dramatic change. The Hes, who
> had been granted temporary permission to stay in the country until
> custody hearings were completed, were facing deportation back to
> China. Instead of waiting to be deported, they decided to leave the
> U.S. voluntarily.
> For the Bakers, it was as if they were reliving a nightmare: Having
> just reunited with Anna, they were about to lose her again. The Hes
> are planning to leave for China on Feb. 9, and once out of the
> country, there's no guarantee when, or even if, they can return.
> "What we're hoping is that ... American people might step up and the
> should be allowed to remain in the United States," said Jerry Baker.
> "They should be allowed to earn a decent living.... Our hope is that
> they will be allowed to return."
> The Bakers, who once fought to have the Hes deported, are now asking
> the government to find a way to let them stay.
> "I truly do believe that you have two mothers that love the same
> child," said Jerry Baker. "I truly do."

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