Mo. couple seeks to protect adopted daughter

AP News
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Posted: Aug 12, 2011 6:18 PM
Mo. couple seeks to protect adopted daughter

A Missouri couple involved in an international adoption dispute said they are seeking information about their adopted child's past and want to protect her from "additional trauma," a statement released from them Friday said.

A Guatemala judge ordered Timothy J. Monahan and his wife, Jennifer Monahan, of Liberty to return their 6-year-old adopted daughter to her birth mother, amid claims the girl was kidnapped in 2006 and put up for adoption. SURVIVORS Foundation, the human rights group representing the birth mother, does not allege the Monahans knew anything about a kidnapping.

The Monahans have refused to discuss the case and have not commented publicly how they came to adopt the child or whether they were represented in the proceedings in Guatemala. But a statement released by a public relations firm they hired said they "will continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child."

"They remain committed to protecting their daughter from additional trauma as they pursue the truth of her past through appropriate legal channels," the statement from Peter Mirijanian Public Affairs said.

In the July 29 ruling made public last week, Guatemala Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez said Guatemala's government must cancel the passport used to take the girl out of the country when the Monahans adopted her in 2008. The judge further ordered that if the girl is not returned within two months, Guatemalan authorities should solicit help locating the girl from Interpol, the international police organization.

Interpol said in an email this week it could not comment on whether the agency had been contacted about the case.

The U.S. State Department referred questions about the court ruling and its repercussions to the Justice Department, which also declined comment.

Also Friday, Guatemala police briefly detained a judge on charges he fraudulently assisted the adoption of another girl. But he was released for lack of evidence.

Human rights activist Norma Cruz and a U.N.-created agency that investigates adoptions both said the judge, Mario Peralta Castaneda, helped process the Monahan adoption, among others.

Last week after media showed up at the Monahans' home, a sign was taped to their front door asking for privacy during "this difficult and confusing time."

Peter Mirijanian, whose Washington, D.C., firm released the statement, said the family hired his company to handle all inquiries.

"The family is going through a lot and is getting deluged by requests, and I'm here to help," Mirijanian said Friday.

Mirijanian has had some high profile clients, including former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman, actor Steven Seagal and Discovery Channel International, according to the company website.

Heidi Cox, a lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas, who handles international adoptions, said there may be little the Monahans can do.

"I just have to hope that the two governments are communicating, and in the end that they're all looking at what's best," Cox said. "They're really going to have to rely on their government."

Lesley Harmoning of Red Lake Falls, Minn., said she adopted a child from Guatemala about the same time as the Monahans, but she was not concerned about the legality of her adoption. She said she knows the Monahans and the child's birth mother are in a "devastating" situation.

"On the one hand you feel for the mother in Guatemala. She should have her child. And on the other hand, I can't imagine if I were in that situation. It would be like a death," Harmoning said. "I would pay my life away to move the birth mother up here before I would let my child go. She's my baby."

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Associated Press Writer Sonya Perez D. contributed to this story from Guatemala City.