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Couple Ordered to Return Adopted Child — 3 Years Later

By Meredith Carroll |

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Court ruling or no, how do you give up your child — even if it is to her birth mother?

My heart goes out today to a little girl and her parents — all three of them.

A Guatemalan girl was apparently kidnapped in 2006 and smuggled of her native country by a child trafficking ring under a new name and adopted by a couple in the United States. It was reportedly unbeknownst to the U.S. couple that the little girl was wrongfully taken from her mother.

Five years after the girl was snatched, a judge in Guatemala is ordering the couple to return their adopted daughter to her birth mother, who is represented by the human rights group, the Survivors’ Foundation.

But no matter how happy I might be for the child’s birth mother to be reunited to be with the baby who was kidnapped, how do parents ever get over having to give back the child they raised for three years?

According to the court ruling, if the girl is not returned within two months, the international police organization Interpol must intervene.

The couple – Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn Monahan of Liberty, Missouri – are allowed to appeal the ruling.

More than 4,000 children used to be adopted into the United States annually from Guatemala, but the adoptions were suspended in 2007 amid claims of fraud and kidnapping by alleged adoption brokers. This case is believed to be the first in which a Guatemalan court has ordered a child returned, but they are hoping for more results in similar cases.

The girl in this case was born in October 2004, stolen in November 2006 and then adopted in December 2008.

It’s hard not to be happy — ecstatic, actually — for the little girl’s birth mother to be reunited with the child who was taken for her, and at the same time it’s hard not to experience a broken heart on behalf of the adoptive parents who are losing the little girl they have raised as their own.

No matter who wins this case, it seems that everyone has lost — and not just by a little.


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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Couple Ordered to Return Adopted Child — 3 Years Later

  1. Jenna says:

    So sad. No one wins in this situation, do they?

  2. Childrens Haircut Salon says:

    Organized content is the best way to display or post an article, thank you for making it easy to digest your post.

  3. one world says:

    Some facts that are not shared in this article:

    1. The adoptive parents (the Monahans of MO) knew the adoption case was fraudulent while it was still in process in Guatemala, yet pushed ahead with it regardless

    2. The Monahans were told by Guatemalan authorities shortly after their return to the US with the child (in Dec 08) that the child was stolen, but they did nothing.

    3. The Monahans were contacted repeatedly by the Guatemalan human rights group (Survivor’s Foundation) to work out an arrangement for the child so the group would not have to go the “legal route”. The Monahans declined any such arrangement, forcing the group and the mother to seek legal remedy, something they did not want to do because of the child’s trauma.

    4. The legal process took almost 2 years to come to this legal conclusion of annulling the adoption and passport. The Monahans were aware this was going on from day one.

    5. The Monahans are a wealthy family (father is a medical doctor) who told Guatemalan authorities that they would “fight until their last breath and last penny” to keep the (stolen) child under their roof

    6. The child was kidnapped when she was almost 3. She lived in Guatemala in orphanages for 2 years while the Monahans and their attorney pushed and paid their way through the system to complete the adoption

    7. The Guatemalan attorney that the Monahans hired, Susana Luarca, has been in prison for about 6 months for this case and others. The Monahans surely are aware of this, yet they continued to do nothing

    8. The US agency that the Monahans first hired was Celebrate Children Int’l of Florida, run by Sue Hedberg, who first had the referral of the stolen child. CCI has had numerous complaints, yet they continue to operate despite this, with a flourishing business in Ethiopia and now Congo.

    9. This story has been around the adoption message boards and websites for 3 years or more …. it is not new in adoption circles. The child’s real name is ANYELI

    10. The mother in Guatemala is an educated, middle class woman with two other children who attend school and who are happy and healthy, they live in a fine neighborhood and she and her husband are great parents.

    More facts behind this story at by journalist Erin Siegal

  4. sara says:

    It definitely would be hardest to the biological parents, even more so than the child him/herself. I mean, imagine your child was lost and you don’t know what happened to your child, you don’t how the new parents are treating your child, or if they converted your child to a different religion. I think a part of me would die if that happened, I don’t even want to imagine it. I feel sad for the adoptive parents, but American children should not be neglected. It’s always best for children to be adopted by people from their own country, especially to preserve the child’s cultural and ethnic religious beliefs.

  5. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    No one wins? How about the biological parents getting their child back? This is a child, not a puppy, and it’s not a case of finders keepers. It’s because of “consumers” like these parents that create a “demand” for traffickers to fulfill. I don’t feel the least bit sorry for the adoptive parents. You think they went through normal adoption proceedings and just accidentally ended up with a stolen child?

  6. Jenna says:

    I meant that the bio parent had the heartache of their child being kidnapped and will have to live with it for the rest of their lives even if they get the child back, and the adoptive parents will be heartbroken by having the child taken away from them. Not to mention the child leaving the only parents she has ever known. I don’t think it’s a case of “finders keepers”, and I know it’s a child “not a puppy”. And in all honesty, we don’t know the situation surrounding the adoption. Papers and IDs can be faked. They might have really believed the child was an orphan or voluntarily given up. I don’t think we can judge the adoptive parents without knowing all of the facts. My heart aches for all three parties involved.

  7. Andrea says:

    If the little girl was born in October 2004 and stolen in November 2006, then she was with her real mother for over two years. And she was not adopted until 2008 – so where did those two years go? I agree that this is tragic, but it’s tragic for the little girl and the mother from whom she was stolen. The adoptive parents get no sympathy from me. I have a hard time believing there was not at least SOME sign that something was fishy.

  8. alison says:

    The more I read about this case, the more I think the adoptive parents should also be punished for knowingly aiding and abetting the kidnapping of this child.

  9. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Thanks, One World, for posting the facts of the case. I don’t know how the author missed the pertinent info in favor of the “we should feel for all parties” tone of this post.

  10. Sanriobaby =^.^= says:

    @One World
    I also want to thank you as well for posting the REAL facts of this case. I don’t why the author of this article failed to mention any of these facts about this particular case and just chose to gloss over the story. And you are so right when you say that this case is well known in adoption forums, so I can’t understand why the most important information was left out of this article. Reading this w/o THESE INPORTANT DETAILS leads many to beleive that the adoptive family were just victims of a courrupt system. It’s “half true” stories like these that are thrown out to the media and they just scare away prospective parents from the idea of international adoption. In this particular case, the family chose to ignore the truth for thier own selfish or ultruristic ideas. The Monohan’s then continued to use their money and power in the belief that they were somehow above the law. Those actions can not be tollerated on any level by any gov’t- period.

    As a person who suffered w/infertility for over 5yrs, my husband and I looked into adoption, domestic, international, private, and open. The process is beyond time consuming, emotionally draining, and very expensive. I deeply understand the desire to want to be a parent, for me, I wanted it more than food, water, or even air…. But there are laws in place for this very reason. The Monohan’s decisions were both morally and criminally wrong and they should be also be charged with international kidnapping as far as I’m concerned. In my case, I was fortunate enough to get pregnant and as of now, I’m in my second trimester. I’m grateful for my little miricle but my husband and I have vowed to also adopt a child someday b/c we believe in it so strongly. I can’t have any sympathy for the Monohan’s b/c stealing a child who who had a family, a nice one who loved and cared for her at that, is not right no matter what the excuse or intention behind it. These disgusting people are no better than the criminals who actually took her to begin with. I hope this child is reunited w/her real parents and that she gets some therapy b/c she’s gonna need it.

  11. Meredith Carroll says:

    Y’all can take it up with the Associated Press, which was the source for this story that was covered similarly by every major and reputable news outlet available, who wrote: “The foundation doesn’t allege the U.S. couple knew the girl had been kidnapped.”

  12. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Meredith, I hope you get paid a nice rate for the half baked crap you post here and then take no responsibility for. There’s this thing called Google, I suggest you make occasional use of it. You’re commentary might raise itself from “less than useless” to “marginally informed.”

  13. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Mistress – As always, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  14. anon says:

    I’m not familiar enough with this case to comment. But I would like to say that if Strollerderby is going to pass off the BLAME for items they didn’t report to an organization such as the AP, then it should make every effort to fully CREDIT that organization with the reporting in the first place. For example, a sentence containing the words “as reported by the Associated Press Tuesday” with a direct link to the AP article. Without credit, it’s just really stealing someone else’s work – whether that work is good or bad.

  15. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Anon — Stealing? Good grief. There is a clear link in the piece above to the source. Regardless, please go ahead Google the story and you’ll see there literally not a shred of news to be found about the parents knowing the child was stolen, and yet there are more than 300 other sites/news sources with the exact same Associated Press information that I have, which is that the organization representing the real mom says they don’t believe the adoptive parents knew she was taken – and that is what was written above. I assume you are also posting nasty comments about what you have decided is inaccurate information about the facts of the case on the sites of ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC, The New York Times, etc.? Or is it just here that you’re spewing your vitriol? Because nothing in this story is actually not about me, much as you bizarrely would appear to like it to be.

  16. anon says:

    Please reread my comment. I am not talking about the facts of this case – inaccurate or otherwise. I am saying that if you want ANYONE to take the blame or credit for what you wrote, you need to be clear in the first place that YOU are not the reporter. Some journalist somewhere worked hard (or maybe not hard enough? I literally have NO IDEAS about that) to report those facts. Some news organization somewhere (AP, ABC, CBS, MSNBC) either paid for original reporting themselves or paid AP for it, as a member of the AP cooperative that has a RIGHT to republish AP work. You, on the other hand, simply re-typed that reporting and presumably are getting paid for it WITHOUT EVEN MENTIONING THAT IT IS SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK. Until, that is, you were criticized for not providing enough facts. Then it’s ALL on somebody else. Does that seem ethical to you?
    Here’s a direct link for you:

  17. Janice Konstantinidis says:

    I am so happy for the child and her parents are reunited. How dare anyone take a child that is not their own. I have no sympathy what so ever for the immoral thieves who did this.

  18. Kathleen says:

    From a legal perspective the Guatemalan court order is not automatically enforceable in the U.S. so no matter what the human rights group claims they will have to through the court system here to get it enforced.

  19. Laura says:

    Meredith, thank you for exposing the shame and cruelty going on here in Liberty. Here on Woodbury Lane we are all shocked to learn about the behavior of our neighbors, Dr. and Mrs. Monahan (Tim and Jennifer). Our street is now on a public court order as a place where a stolen child, Anyeli, is being held captive thousands of miles from the mother, father, and family that love her. We are only now learning the sordid details of her kidnapping, trafficking across international borders, and being introduced to our community under an alias name. We feel ashamed that this child abuse is not directly addressed by the authorities. Tim and Jennifer knew for a long time, 2 years even, before ‘adopting’ Anyeli (they told us her name was ‘Karen Abigail’) that this child was kidnapped and they still proceeded to traffic this child further from her family and the love she knew. The heartless and callous manner by which Tim and Jennifer have treated this child (which they consider ‘bought and paid for’) and her mother causes us enormous distress. We wonder if the Missouri Division of Family Services will intervene to ensure the safety of all the children held in the Monahans’ house and carry out DNA tests to have them returned to their true parents. God will hold the Monahans accountable; the law should too. We pray for Anyeli’s immediate and safe return to the loving arms of her mother and family in Guatemala.

  20. Kaycee says:

    This is a Meredith Carroll article- are you surprised?

  21. Mirah Riben says:

    Because the news did not report the facts as stated here does not make them any less true.

    ONE WORLD and others I know of personally have worked directly with Norma Cruz on this and three other similar cases. I myself have been in Guatemala to speak with Norma Cruz about these situations and met with one of the mothers who was lucky enough to retrieve her child, taken at gunpoint, and on her way to be adopted in the US. DNA papers had been falsified. I saw myself how it is done! Several of us have seen the papers first hand.

    ***This story has been around the adoption message boards and websites for 3 years or more …. it is not new in adoption circles.***

    The website has been up posting the truth. There is NO WAY this family has not known since at least 2009, a year after they brought Aneyli into their home.

    The certainly know now and what are they doing? Digging their heels in, hiring lawyers and a high profile PR firm – prepared to fight to the death to keep this kidnapped child from her RIGHTFUL family! Who does that? I understand this is difficult for all, but there is also right and wrong.

    You do not harbor a kidnap victim no matter how attached you have become to that child! Attachment is not a justification, nor is their not knowing initially.

    The Monhans will not give up voluntarily. They’ve made very clear. The have to be FORCED by IInterpol and/or the Stte dept who so far are doing nothing and saying nothing.

    But in the end, if they keep this child, the child will know the truth and how will she feel? Will she be “grateful” for them for the material things they provide her that her REAL mother can’t? Will she be grateful ENOUGH to overcome her feelings of betrayal when she learns how they kept her from a family who never gave her away and wanted her back???

    In any other type of kidnapping, including infants taken from hospitals by those who cared well for them as their own, and even in parental kidnappings – the children are always returned. Just because this FELONY KIDNAPPING was laundered through an adoption agency does not change the reality and erase the truth or make any of this right by any logic.

    Mirah Ruben, author, THE STORK MARKET: America’s multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

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