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3814Evanston couple battling 2 countries over adoption

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  • Sunny Jo
    Jan 12, 2013
      Evanston couple battling 2 countries over adoption
      Court to decide whether South Korean baby will be deported

      By Lisa Black and Bonnie Miller Rubin, Chicago Tribune reporters

      January 13, 2013

      Increasingly desperate, Christopher Duquet paced a Chicago courthouse
      hallway Friday, hoping his lawyers could somehow still persuade
      authorities from two countries to allow him and his wife to keep the
      baby they brought home from South Korea seven months ago to adopt.

      A legal guardian appointed to advocate for the girl agreed with Duquet
      in one respect: that if the child is forcibly removed from the
      Evanston home where she'd spent almost all her life, she should not be
      moved more than once.

      "If she is moved now, she will be moved again, and possibly again,"
      said Maria Woltjen, director of the University of Chicago's Young
      Center for Immigrant Children's Rights, adding later: "Multiple moves
      are very traumatizing to children."

      Using a last-minute maneuver as their legal options seemed to be
      running out, Duquet and his wife, Jinshil, filed a new petition in
      Cook County Circuit Court this week asking to formally adopt the baby,
      whom they named Sehwa.

      Though a judge agreed to set a hearing for Thursday on that request,
      by then the question could be moot: Yet another judge, this one in
      federal court, could rule as early as Monday on whether the couple
      will have to hand Sehwa over to U.S. immigration officials — a step
      toward her possible deportation.

      The Duquets say they thought they were entering into a legal private
      adoption in Korea when bringing the baby home in June but relied on
      bad advice from a Korean lawyer. The baby's birth mother and
      grandparents relinquished parental rights to the Duquets and do not
      want the child back, officials agree.

      But Korean officials say the couple circumvented Korean laws by
      failing to go through a licensed adoption agency.

      "One of the reasons for Korea's intense interest in this case is there
      are 200 loving families … waiting to adopt a child just like this one
      here," said Sarane Siewerth, a lawyer representing South Korea. "Sehwa
      was taken out of Korea improperly."

      The Duquets argue that, despite their mistakes, it is in Sehwa's best
      interests to remain with them.

      Immigration officials already removed her for 10 days in November,
      saying she did not enter the country with a proper visa. But a federal
      judge ordered that the girl be returned to the couple while her status
      was considered in Cook County court.

      South Korea and other countries have in recent years tightened laws on
      foreign adoptions to prevent trafficking and abuse, and the Korean
      government has provided new incentives for domestic adoptions. But
      experts say many Korean children remain in orphanages because of a
      cultural stigma against adoption and unwed motherhood.

      "They represented that there are all these people waiting in Korea for
      this baby," Christopher Duquet said. "That is just not true. They have
      a dysfunctional system there where these babies aren't being adopted.
      That is why this birth mother asked us to take care of Sehwa."

      Russia imposed an adoption ban last month in a move widely seen as
      retaliation for a new American law punishing Russians accused of human
      rights abuses. Meanwhile, more than 650,000 Russian children remain in
      orphanages and foster care, according to news reports.

      On Thursday, Kremlin officials announced the ban would not take effect
      until 2014.

      Still, one North Side woman trying to adopt a child from Russia said
      she is not optimistic, despite the new development. After a five-year
      journey of infertility and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, she and
      her husband were set to travel to Russia next month to adopt a girl.

      "The glimmer of hope was short-lived, unfortunately," said the woman,
      who hoped to bring home a sister for her school-age daughter.

      Her emotional roller-coaster continued Friday when she said she was on
      a call with the State Department for prospective parents in the
      process. Even people who had court dates in Russia as soon as Monday
      were still unsure of the status of their adoptions.

      Julie Tye, president of The Cradle, an Evanston adoption agency,
      offered words of warning to families who want to adopt a child from
      another country.

      "If you find a way to do an adoption in a way that no one else seems
      to have done, you have to ask yourself this question: 'Do I know
      something that nobody else knows, or do they know something that I
      don't know?'

      "When it comes to adoption, especially international adoption, the
      path less traveled is probably the one to be avoided," Tye said.