October 23, 2007

The Family Speaks Out

After reading this site and seeing how many readers want to better understand what happened in this case, the family involved in the Mary Bonn arrest has decided to break their silence with a Guatadopt exclusive.

Below you can download their statement, which is basically what the adoptive father read in the courtroom during Mary's sentencing. It is worth noting that to my knowledge, Mary does not dispute this accounting of what happened.

Some groundrules.... We allow all viewpoints and if Mary wants to send us something, we'll post it. BUT, our rules about not allowing personal attacks on the family stands. Feel free to question if you think they made the right decisions, but I will not tolerate anyone turning them into villains. Call that unfair if you like, it's our blog and we make the rules! Our loyal readers know just how much we do not censor comments.

I will add one thought for everyone to consider as they read this 20+ page document. None of us were there at the time. There is old saying about don't judge until you walk a mile in someone's mocassins. It is very easy for all of us to say "I'd have done..." when we were not faced in the situation these folks found themselves in. In addition, let's not confuse the fact that the mother left Guatemala without her daughter with what happened after that.

Some will accuse me of just not letting this thing go. You can accuse me of anything you like. I'll just say that this family is now dear to me and they asked me to post this as part of their healing process. Thus far, they have remained quiet, reading all of the third person perspectives on this case and seeing Mary play the story with the media. The family knows darn well that they could go to any traditional media outlet and have a sympathetic media blast this to the masses. But instead, they chose Guatadopt because what's more important to them is not the publicity, it is that the adoptive community of which they are members understand what happened.

Here is the statement: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 11:00 PM

October 10, 2007

Mary Bonn Sentenced

After eight months since her arrest and the various firestorms that have followed it, the Mary Bonn saga comes to an end. In a long sentencing hearing that went on for hours, she was sentenced to 366 days in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, and fines and restitution of $10,000. The court was filled with Mary's supporters, families who had happlily adopted through her. And the adoptive father in the case she was charged for appeared before the judge as well. We'll get more info on what happened, the judges comments, etc. soon.

Click on more for updates Oct 10

While this may be the end of the saga for Mary, she will have a legacy full of disparate thoughts. She helped create hundreds of families successfully. There are many who sing her praises based on their experience working with her. There are also many who have broken hearts from their experience, some still struggling today to get out of the mess of adoptions started throgh Mary. There are those, like the family in this case, whose description to their kids of how they came to join their family is not as simple as the one I'll tell mine.

Updated Wed afternoon:

I have received a report from what went on in the courtroom. Mary had about 20-30 folks there to support her. The prosecution attempted some sort of additional charge for violating a position of trust but the judge refused it. Mary had many suupporters testify. I will not name any any adoptive families as I don't think that would be appropriate. But the following adoption service provders did testify in her defense:
1.) Sue Hedberg of Celebrate Children International
2.) Tamara Hillstrom of A Family Journey -
3.) Tracy Bonn of International Adoption Service
4.) Felciano Carrillo of Hogar Nuevo Amanecer
5.) Javier Villatoro - Guatemalan attorney

The adoptive father was on the stand for an hour or so.

In the end the judge said that it was not his job to decide who said what when or to whom, it was his job to follow the law. He said that Mary's actions of deceit, forgery, etc was not excusable and unbelievable.

Here is the document with the sentencing: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 07:25 AM

July 10, 2007

Mary Bonn Case Update

On July 2 Mary Bonn agreed to a plea of guilty. It was made official yesterday in front of a judge.

It is certainly debatable whether justice has truly been served in this case. On one hand, she had to admit that she knowingly had a child that was not hers in the country illegally without any regard for the law. On the other hand, the charge of Harboring does not begin to describe what occured in this case.

It is worth remembering that the largest crime in this case is the fact that this poor innocent child did not receive proper nutrition, nurturing, or medical care during the adoption process. It is worth remembering that Mary repeatedly told the adoptive parents, who were concerned about the child's health, that she had seen the child and the child was healthy. She would not take the child to a doctor as the family requested. It is worth remembering that the adoptive parents were lied to and told that the child had been returned to the biological family when in fact the child had been smuggled into the United States and was living in Mary's home. It is also worth noting that there are still many families today who have yet to recover from the aftermath and web of Mary's actions and that there are children who will likely never be able to join a permanent family.

There are some people in this world who believe they are above the law. At times they become reckless and sloppy. It is ironic that Mary did herself in. Not only was she obviously responsible for her actions, it was her own recklessness that ultimately got her caught. I remember the first time I spoke with the adoptive mother in this case, who at the time was on a mission to find out what had really happened to her daughter. She described a picture she had received from Mary months after the child had supposedly been returned to the biological family. In this picture, which did subsequently appear on Guatadopt but has been removed, the child was outside, dressed up nicely, ears pierced, and barefoot. I immediately told the mother "that child is not in Guatemala". After all, the child did not appear to be impoverished and middle class Guatemalans don't let their kids run around barefoot. Yes, a generality and stereotype, but it was my gut feeling. The mom had a feeling that Mary had the child and I told her that despite the fact that I did not believe Mary to be an ethical provider based on my knowledge of her past practices, I could not fathom that Mary could possibly have kidnapped her child. I guess there is something to a mother's intuition because she was right, she knew what had happened. It was the background of that picture which ultimately proved to be Mary's home that provided the link authorities needed to obtain a search warrant. Yes, Mary's own recklessness did her in.

Last week we received an e-mail from the child's pre-teen brother. It was very well written for a child his age and I hope that maybe he'll write something up for Guatadopt about the experience. He wished to thank our readers for all of the kind comments on the site and to let you all know that his sister is doing fine.

So is Harboring of an Illegal Alien really the appropriate charge? That can be debated. Will Mary ultimately be punished to a degree appropriate for her actions? We shall see when she is sentenced. It seems to me that this poor family went through eight months without their daughter, suffering beyond belief in concern. Prior to that the child was abused for eight months with improper foster care. Does it make sense that Mary will most likely serve less time than the hard time this child and family were forced to serve? I personally can only hope the judge involved in the sentencing looks at it this way.

On the other hand, Mary has many children - innocent children. All reports I know of are that her family is a strong one, she keeps a good home. Is it fair for them to suffer because of their mother's recklessness and disregard for basic morality? While I clearly have strong opinions on this case, I would once again like to offer my sympathies to them and the pain that all of this has caused them.

Below you can download the documents in relation to the plea bargain. You will notice that a couple parts are blacked out and a few pages are missing. That was done to respect the anonymity the victims still wish to keep. And let me state once again that while everyone is free to comment on this, Guatadopt will not approve comments critical of the victims.

Plea agreement: Download file

Magistrate recommendation: Download file

Posted by Kevin at 10:25 PM

March 01, 2007

The Story Behind the Mary Bonn Case

Ever since the Mary Bonn arrest was initially posted, Guatadopt has been scrutinized for not being impartial. In reality, in official postings, we have not really stated much about the case, instead only posting the basic allegations. While admittedly we've had a very strong knowledge of what occurred in this case, we haven't revealed much about it. The one thing we did do, securely based on this knowledge, was not to allow the parents to be attacked despite what certainly appears to be an intentional PR campaign to demonize them as a way to justify what Mary has been accused of.

Over the course of the past almost two weeks, it is clear that “Mary’s side of the story” has been communicated and spread. Or to rephrase this, it is clear that people close to Mary have spoken to her and heard her version or explanation of events. In recent stories, this explanation successfully made its way into the free press. As a marketing professional who also handles public relations, admittedly I question the objective value of those stories. In one account, Mary and/or her attorney had the audacity to provide a picture of the child and the media outlet lacked the scruples not to respect the family’s privacy.

Out of the need to describe what I believe to be a more accurate description, it now seems inevitable to divulge more of the story. Keep in mind that there is an ongoing investigation and so there are some things I am not comfortable revealing. I assure you that there is more to it all and that it would only lead logical minds to further realize the wrong that occurred.

Before getting into what happened on the gotcha trip, it is important to know what happened before that. For months this family was receiving reports from Mary showing that the child had not gained any weight. The family kept asking for their child, at their expense, to be taken to a different doctor and observed – it is not normal for a child this age not to gain weight! Mary declined, telling the family that she had personally seen their child many times and that the child was fine. Month after month the same thing telling the parents the child is fine and offering excuses to the effect of “maybe she wiggled on the scale”, “the doctors don’t calibrate the scales” and other such explanations. The family had little recourse but to trust Mary, after all, she did say that she had personally seen the child. Mary has been seeing children for many years, surely she could tell if a child was not healthy. And surely if she knew something was wrong she wouldn’t ignore it and deceive the family.

Mary’s defense claims that the family went to Guatemala for the “gotcha trip” and decided they didn’t want their child because the child was just kind of small and not as developmentally advanced as they would have liked. As a starter, the adoptive father was not on the trip. The adoptive mom and her teenage daughter made the trip alone. This is relevant in understanding that the couple was not together to be able to go through this experience together. As you will read, this had implications at the embassy.

The mother was at the embassy. Like all of us who have completed an adoption, her file was presented and she waited the couple of hours for her interview. During this time, she could tell the child was tiny and did not have the physical or mental aptitude normal for an adoptive child. But she had no cold feet. She waited patiently for her turn. When she was called for her interview, when we swear under oath that we plan to parent this child, she was never given that chance. The embassy doctor had not approved the child. Had that not been the case, she would have brought her child home on that trip. She would have had no problem bringing home a small, delayed child! The staff at the embassy could clearly see that she had not been told of the child’s medical issues and they told her that her file was safe, she needed to understand what was wrong with her child. This was the advice that the US government gave her! The medical waiver a parent needs to sign can, as I understand things, only be accepted of the adoptive parents are aware of the child’s problems. The embassy person could tell that she had been told nothing.

I’ve been actively involved in Guatemalan adoptions for a number of years. I communicate with new adoptive families virtually every day. Never once have I heard of a child not passing the embassy doctor’s exam. I asked my daughter’s former foster mom, who cared wonderfully for children for about seven years, and it had never happened to her, despite the fact that she was the attorney’s choice to care for premature, challenged children. I don’t claim it never happens that the doctor doesn’t approve the visa, but it sure as heck is not common.

The adoptive mother went to the embassy doctor who told her that he could not diagnose the child’s problem, but that the child was literally off-the-charts tiny and developmentally delayed. He said it could be any one of a number of things – post natal care, neurological, genetic, etc. She then took the child to a doctor well known by the adoptive community who told her basically the same thing, stating that the child should see specialists. This doctor also added some other physical ailments to the list that were not really relevant to the parents. Nonetheless, they did not know what was wrong with their child..

At this point the adoptive mom was pressured by Mary to just bring the child to the US. It was suggested to her that she bring the child to the US with the intention to relinquish the child. Not only is this illegal (remember the statement under oath for the visa) and not only was it ludicrous considering the adoptive father works in law enforcement, but it also just seemed odd and concerning to someone who absolutely wanted her child.

She did leave Guatemala after being told the child could return to the foster mother. The family requested that the child be placed with a new foster mom because they didn’t know if the child’s problems were foster care related. They immediately began to consult an array of specialists in the US, attempting to have them be in discussion with specialists in Guatemala. That never really came to fruition.

According to people who have apparently spoken to Mary, right around this point in time Mary was caring for the child in her hotel room in Guatemala. Let me state that it does appear the child only suffered from malnutrition and neglect while in foster care. It sickens me to be using the term “only” in that sentence! But Mary does deserve credit in one thing -- she did nurture the child back to health, given that it now appears these were the health issues.

Nonetheless, at this time Mary had the child and yet the family could not get medical communication and analysis moving between countries. Mary even refused to provide them with a video of the child so that medical specialists could do an observation. Mary’s excuse was that she doesn’t provide videos once the adoption is complete. Yet she did manage to find the time to have the child’s ears pierced and hair cut during this period. Might she have already decided what course of action she was to take?

A few weeks passed and I think all parties knew enough was enough. The family was given a deadline to make a decision or else the child was apparently going to be placed in a non-private hogar. The family gave up on a diagnosis and made arrangements to pick up their child. They communicated this before the stated deadline. Initially they were told the child was already in a hogar but then that changed and they were told the child had been returned to the biological family. Yes, the family was going to bring their legal child home, even had bought plane tickets I believe. They were told their child had been returned to the biological family when in fact their child was with Mary. Shortly after is this the child was brought illegally to the US and lived for nine months in Mary’s home.

During this nine months, the family, skeptical to believe what they had been told, asked for proof that it was true. They wanted to know the child was okay and that they were no longer the legal parents. They would not want to adopt a child that had a home with the biological family. Because they could never be provided with ample proof, they did not give up on their child. They spoke to many people, including Guatadopt, and eventually had enough reason to suspect Mary might have their child to go to the extreme measure of hiring a private investigator in Florida. This investigator was able to gather enough evidence to get the Dept. of Homeland Security I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to look into it. The I.C.E. investigation led to a search warrant at which time Mary did not deny what had occurred. The child was placed in protective custody and is now home safe with the legal family.

The key thing here is that the family NEVER abandoned their child. They NEVER said they didn’t want their child. And any concerns they had were not because the child was “less than perfect”.

Click here for some commentary posted in my Writer's Corner as "There's Something About Mary".

Posted by Kevin at 05:40 PM

February 09, 2007

Mary Bonn Arrested

Guatemalan adoption facilitator Mary Bonn was arrested earlier this week on the charge of Harboring of an Illegal Alien. The charge does stem from the case of a LEGAL adoption that was completed in Guatemala. Rather than joining the adoptive parents, the child was allegedly illegally brought to the United States under a different name and had been living with Mary for approx. 9 months.

Guatadopt is receiving some scrutiny for not allowing anything into comments that we feel further victimizes the family involved. All I can say is “sorry”, that WILL remain a steadfast rule on this site and, yes, we get to decide what crosses the line. You are welcome to call that censorship if you like, but it doesn't change what our policy will be.

Guatadopt is not passing judgment on this case. Mary is innocent until proven guilty and will have her day in court, which she like anyone accused of a crime deserves. So let’s review the allegations and facts that are relevant:

1.) A US family legally completed the adoption of a child in Guatemala. The child’s birth certificate has that family’s name on it.
2.) That child, without the knowledge or consent of the child’s legal parents, was allegedly brought to the United States illegally under false pretence by a Guatemalan woman using a visitor’s visa with a name different than the child’s legal name.
3.) That child is alleged to have been living in Mary’s home for many months without the knowledge or consent of the child’s legal parents.
4.) To our knowledge, none of the adoption service providers working with Mary have been involved in this, charged with a crime, or had any knowledge of what is alleged to have occurred.

Mary may very well have believed that she was doing the right thing. She may have had reasons in her mind that make her feel justified in her alleged involvement. That does not change the reality behind the allegations.

If and when this story is picked up by the media, they will undoubtedly not cover it accurately so let me say it loud and clear: THIS IS NOT A CASE OF A CROOKED ADOPTION. THIS IS A CASE OF A PERSON WHO ALLEGEDLY TOOK A CHILD THAT WAS NOT HERS AND SMUGGLED THE CHILD INTO THE UNITED STATES OUTSIDE OF ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH ADOPTION ON A TOURIST VISA, NOT AN IR3 OR IR4.

The family involved is attempting to recover from the ordeal they have been through. Guatadopt is intentionally not saying too much about the case in order to respect their privacy. What I will say is that these are good people who have been put through a living hell trying to find their child.

There will be more to this story as it develops and it goes without saying that there are plans in the works to help families impacted. We will communicate those plans as they occur and will do our best to answer questions you may have, keeping in mind that much of the details are only the business of the victims.

Our Guatadopt team has volunteered to create a "Guatadopt Support Team" and assist parents who have RAI or Mary Bonn cases. We will be posting some forms (hopefully today) for those families to fill out in order to be assisted by our team or participate in a private support forum. We will not be able to assist families without this information, so please reframe from requesting anonymous information.

REQUEST FOR SUPPORT FORM

We will keep updated information on these cases in our Resource Center

Click here to read a statement from Focus On Adoption

UPDATE MON FEB 12:The State Department has issued a statment on the arrest. Click here to view it.

UPDATE TUES FEB 13: JCICS sent an e-mail to its members about Mary's arrest. Nothng in it is new except for that it does state that the investigation includes four other children wo were living in Mary's home, "none of whom were her biological or adoopitve children". It does of course state that JCICS deplores the events surrounding the case and is fully cooperatig with authorities.

Posted by Kevin at 03:41 PM