Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where Should Little Amy Grow Up?

Do you remember the story of little Elian Gonzalez... the five-year-old Cuban boy who, in 1999, was found clinging to a life boat in the ocean. His mother had been attempting to sneak him out of Cuba, in order to find what she thought would be a better life for him in the United States. The world fell in love with little Elian, who quickly found a home with relatives. But then it became clear that Elian had a father, back in Cuba, who was missing his son. In a time where custody battles between mothers and fathers, between parents and relatives, and between parents and the state, had become the norm, this was the biggest custody battle of all... Should Elian stay with his relatives in the United States, where he was safe and happy by American standards, or should he return to Cuba, where he had previously been very close to his father? Just about everyone in the USA... and other countries as well... had an opinion about this. In the end, Elian was reunited with his father in Cuba.
Now, there may be a similar case happening in Miami, with another custody battle brewing between Cuba and the USA. This story, though, is a little different. For one thing, four-year-old "Amy" didn't wash ashore in the United States on a life boat. Her mother came to the United States legally three years ago, after winning a lottery in Cuba that allowed her to do so. Amy's mother, whose two kids had two different fathers, had to get permission from both fathers in order to bring the children to the USA. She did get that permission.
But the land of opportunity didn't pan out the way Amy's mother had hoped. The little family faced many hardships, trying to survive in Miami. One night in 2005, Amy's mother lost all hope. She attempted suicide.
Unfortunately, after this, the state stepped in and declared Amy's mother to be mentally ill and unfit to raise the children. Amy and her older brother "Josh" were taken into foster care. They soon became very close to their new foster parents, two Cuban-Americans. The foster father happened to be somewhat famous, because he used to make a living helping Cuban baseball players who came to the USA to play for American teams. In fact, the foster parents expressed an interest in adopting Amy and JOsh. The children's mother, and Josh's birth father, gave permission for Josh to be adopted by the foster family. But Amy's birth father, still in Cuba, refused to give that permission.
Hence, the custody battle!
Amy's father says that he gave his permission for Amy to go to the United States with her mother, not to be adopted by someone else. If she is not with her mother, according to him, she should be with her birth father. The father is married, and Amy has a 7-year-old half-sister there in Cuba.
But Amy's guardian ad litem (a court-appointed guardian whose job it is to represent a child's best interests) says Amy has grown attached to her foster parents, enjoys her life in the United States, and does not really know her birth father or his family. Apparently the little girl has expressed that she wants to stay in the United States with her brother and foster parents. She's had the chance to visit with her birth father, stepmother, and half sister, but has not seemed to bond with her father.
The state of Florida suggests that perhaps Amy's father wasn't very attentive to Amy's needs in the first place, when he allowed her to leave the country with a mother who had a mental illness and would have trouble caring for the children.
And the foster parents point out that, through all of this chaos, the one person who has remained steady in Amy's life is her older brother Josh. The children were together before they came to America, they traveled overseas together, they lived together with their mother, and they have been living together with the foster family. Josh is nine years older than Amy and is a protective and loving big brother to her. The foster parents wonder why these two children should be separated now.
Will this be another situation where everyone in the world takes a side? Maybe or maybe not. Elian made headlines across the world, in the first place, because he was found floating in the ocean. But Amy is a ward of the state, and the foster care system tends to keep these cases pretty quiet.
Basically though, its the age-old question... the same question we faced when we read about the custody battles involving "Baby Jessica" and "Baby Richard", children who were placed for adoption by their birth mothers, adopted by families, and then returned, years later, to their birth fathers who appealed the adoption. Who has the "right" to the child? The birth parent, or the people who've been raising the child?
In this case, If I was the judge, I'd say, leave Amy in the United States for a while longer. along with her brother. Keeping her with her brother is better for her than trying to decide whether her birth father has the "right" to bring her back to Cuba. Here's a few things to think about... Amy's birth father was already married to someone else, and had a toddler daughter with that person, when he had a relationship with Amy's mother and sired Amy. Amy never lived with her father and never saw him on a regular basis. After Amy's mother took Amy to Cuba, Amy had no contact with her father. In fact, it was through third parties that Amy's father even found out that Amy's mother had attempted suicide. Only when he learned that Amy might be adopted by another couple in the USA did he take an interest in bringing her back to Cuba, to live with him and his wife and other daughter.
To me, that's too little, too late.
What do you think about this case?

Where should Amy grow up?
What should happen in the case of little Amy?
She should stay in the United States and be adopted by her foster parents.
She should return to Cuba with her birth father.
I am not sure.
I don't care.

1 comment:

mom2amara said...

No matter what the situation, it's sad to think that any child would be ripped away from any constant that they know and thrive from. Amy's brother is that constant. She needs him.