A Child’s Uncertain Identity

Erin Siegal McIntyre tells the gripping story of a child caught between two sets of parents, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Missouri, who adopted her from Guatemala, and Loyda Rodríguez and Dayner Hernández, who say she was abducted from their home when she was a toddler. Though Guatemalan officials have ordered that the girl, known as Karen to her American parents, be returned to her Guatemalan family, she remains in the US. From McIntyre’s recounting of the legal quagmires surrounding the case:

The Monahans made it clear that they didn’t believe the results of the DNA test that showed a match between Karen and Loyda Rodríguez. They implied that the little girl in their home wasn’t the same child whose DNA had been tested in 2007. In Guatemala, Jennifer Monahan said, “DNA is sort of viewed as a title, and we strongly feel that Karen isn’t property.” … [The Monahan’s lawyer Jared] Genser … declared that the Guatemalan court ruling had no jurisdiction in the US.

Yet the original issuance of Karen’s orphan immigrant visa, necessary to enter the US, and her American citizenship both depended on the authenticity of certain identifying documents—the same documents that had been voided by the Guatemalan judge. Essentially, US citizenship had been granted to a girl whose identity was in dispute.

When asked what they would do “if it is proven that Karen is Mrs. Rodríguez’s daughter,” Timothy Monahan answered, “It’s really very difficult to say.” He added that they’d been “trying to work with authorities all through this process.” But Guatemalan authorities said they’d never been contacted by the Monahans.

The same day the Monahans made their TV appearance, thousands of miles south, two women intimately involved in Karen’s adoption were sentenced in court for human trafficking, document fraud, and criminal enterprise related to the buying and selling of the child. [Guatemalan adoption lawyer Susana] Luarca’s nursery director and the lawyer who facilitated Karen’s adoption were both found guilty of all charges, and were sentenced, respectively, to sixteen and twenty-one years in prison.

Keep reading about the case here.