Balia Kamara's mother sent her to a center in northern Sierra Leone so the 5-year-old could receive an education and food, and stay out of harm's way during the West African country's brutal civil war.Many of these children are now teens or young adults. I wonder if they -- or their adoptive parents -- know about these birth parents' attempts to learn about the childrens' fates? The U.S. adoption agency involved says:
The mother visited Balia at the Help A Needy Child International center, known as HANCI, regularly for two years until 1998, when the children there were taken to Sierra Leone's capital for medical examinations. They never returned.
Parents of about 30 children at the center say they only later learned that the children had been adopted by Americans and sent abroad without permission.
"We were reluctant to hand over the child," recalled Balia's mother, Mariama Jabbie, in an interview with The Associated Press. "When they told us that they were going to educate her up to college level, we decided to hand her over. That was how they were able to entice us to do so."
In 2004, the center's director and two of his employees were arrested and charged with conspiracy to violate adoption laws. Those charges against them though ultimately were dropped and the case disbanded, according to court records.
Now more than a decade after the children disappeared, Sierra Leone's government said late Wednesday it is setting up a national commission of inquiry to re-examine the case of the HANCI children following years of pressure from their biological parents.
Mitchell said MAPS has been diligent in sending annual post-placement reports, along with photos of the adopted kids, to authorities in Sierra Leone as required.The agency seems to be missing the fact that many of these children are now adults. Do you think the agency should bypass the adoptive parents and contact the adult children directly? Do you think the agency should be informing adoptive parents right now? What would you do as an adoptive parent if the agency contacted you with this information?
"We can produce copies of those," she said. "We've been very rigorous."
While Sierra Leone is opening a national commission of inquiry, it is highly unlikely to bring the closure the birth parents are seeking. Mitchell said if the government requests contact be established between the adoptive families and birthfamilies: "I think they would have the right to say no."