Court Sends Foster Child Back To China

Anna Mae was left in the United States by her Chinese parents when she was just 2 years old. Since then, she has lived with foster parents in Tennessee and is about to turn 8.

After a long legal battle, the Tennessee Supreme Court cleared the way for her to be reunited with her biological parents, Shaoqiang and Qin Luo He.

The Hes left Anna Mae with the Bakers after her father, a student at the University of Memphis, lost a scholarship and student stipend over a sexual assault charge for which he was ultimately acquitted.

The Bakers refused to give Anna Mae up and have been trying to adopt her over her parents' objections. They are not alone in their struggle: 29 percent of adopters had at least one failed adoption before successfully adopting. There are 1.6 million adopted children in the United States.

"The prolonged litigation as reported in your piece is really tragic," Lee Allen, policy director with the National Council for Adoption, told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "Unfortunately, it's not that unusual. There are about 500,000 children living in temporary care across America who cannot wait for courts to make decisions."

Even though she looks different than her Caucasian foster parents, the Bakers said she is an integral part of their family.

"She knows she's Chinese girl and has a Chinese mom and dad," Anna's foster father Jerry Baker said.

Three years ago, The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman met with the Bakers, who said that it would be traumatic for everyone to remove Anna from their home.

"We think of it all the time, just putting her in that car seat for the last time and telling her bye, that she's never coming back. Yeah, that's very heart wrenching to even think about," Louise Baker said then.

"She's gonna ask, 'Well, where am I going?' " Jerry Baker said. "And you're gonna say, 'Well, you've, you've got to go to, um, China.' "

The Bakers have said Anna Mae has no connection to her biological parents, and contend she would have a better life in the United States than in China. In 2003, Chancery Court Judge Robert Childers of Memphis took away her biological parents' parental rights, ruling that they had abandoned Anna Mae.

But Tennessee Supreme Court overruled and said "the only evidence of substantial harm arises from the delay caused by protracted litigation and the failure of the court system to protect the parent-child relationship."

Allen said that decisions like this are usually best left to parents, but despite all the trauma and the years Anna Mae spent living in limbo, it appears that she will be going from one loving home to another.

"But, also, her story is not that uncommon," he said. "About 20,000 children experience this kind of a cultural transfer every year when they come to America from other countries, through international adoption. And the children overwhelmingly do very well.

"So it's going to be very interesting to see how Anna together with her parents face these challenges. Hopefully they will get professional help along the way."

Anna Mae will not be leaving the Bakers right away. Both families will be back in court to finalize the transfer of custody.
  • Caitlin Johnson

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