Children From Todee Were ‘Stolen & Trafficked’ DCI Asserts, But…

In a sharp position to the adoption allegation in    Todee, rural Montserrado County, where scores of disenchanted and aggrieved parents have accused the West Africa Children Support Network (WACSN) and Madam Janet Grant of the CLG Mission, Defence for Children International Liberia (DCI), an organization that monitors and advocates for children’s rights, has reaffirmed the claims that WACSN “stole and trafficked” several Liberian children under the pretext of its so-called adoption program.

According to DCI, the children were taken out of Liberia by WACSN without proper documentations from the relevant Liberian authorities.

Attorney Foday M. Kawah, Executive Director of DCI explains a key requirement for any Inter-Country Adoption program is that it must be in the best interest of the child, and that people who give out their children in adoption should show prior consent after the adoption process is clearly explained to them.

He disclosed that contrary to those processes associated with any legal adoption worldwide, the indigent parents of the children from Todee were not only manipulated, but also misled by those involved in the so-called adoption program as the entire process was not done in a transparent manner.

 He maintains that the taking away of the children from Todee was characterized by fraud and deception. “These children were not adopted, but stolen and trafficked,” he told THE IMAGES magazine in a recent interview in Monrovia.

According to Kawah, DCI-Liberia is also conscious of how the children in question were taken from Liberia to the Diasporas and how can it help the parents to trace their innocent children.

DCI made it clear that it is not against adoption, but it is more concerned with how adoption is done in line with international best practices, considering the illegitimacy of the process leading to taking away those children from Liberia by WASCN.

Atty. Kawah clarified that in Inter-country adoption, article 1 of the law calls for creating assistance in the best interest of the child, and creating cooperation among intrastate (meaning from state to state).

Referencing Article 3 of the Inter-Country Adoption, the Liberian Lawyer said, it only applies to a child under 18 years of age, which means a person above 18 cannot be adopted.

According to the DCI-Liberia Executive Director, adoption is a very serious issue that takes time and processes especially for any parents giving out their children to foster parents abroad.

 “It has to be done with caution and care in order to establish all the facts about it,” he emphasized.

According to the Liberian child rights advocate, it takes people from the Ministry of Gender and Social Development at least a week to clearly explain to any consenting parent  to understand that the child that you are giving out is no longer your child; meaning you are waiving all of your right to owning that child, and the child will be able to live in a  country he/ she is going permanently, not partially.”

 He further pointed out the parents of the children from Todee were not made to understand the meaning of Inter-Country adoption.

The lawyer explained that “when people are coerced through deception and fraud to take their children from them, it is tantamount to trafficking of children.”

Stating the categories of people to be adopted, Kawah named abandoned children under 18, orphans of deceased parents, and a child whose parents have consented and willfully waived their rights. 

Fees for Inter-Country Adoption, according to him, is US$ 1,500 while Domestic Adoption is US$ 250.00.

Kawah further indicated that in order to have a transparent adoption process free of fraud and deception, there must be new birth certificates made and the adopting parents must file in for visas.

According to the DCI-Liberia Executive Director, the Liberian law for adoption requires the agency responsible to do pre and post placement investigations, which he said, WACSN never did in the case of the children from Todee, rural Montserrado County.

In the case of purported the photographs of the alleged trafficked children sent to the parents earlier, the Liberian lawyer said they were post-placement photos and not pre-placement ones that should enlighten them first about where they were going.

Defending his argument about a syndicate in the case of the children from Todee, Cllr. Kawah said WACSN did not go to the Probate Court at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill in Monrovia, but put the parents under the impression that their children were going to a mission to attend school, but they were later taken away from Liberia.

DCI-Liberia, having investigated and come out with its own findings on the matter concerning the children, has also recommended that the Liberian government should seek mutual legal assistance from other governments where these children are believed to be.

He suggested that GOL should investigate at the level of the Probate Court to ascertain whether or not the biological parents of these children gave any prior consent for their adoption as it is being insinuated by WACSN.

 He further recommended that the Government of Liberia should conduct a probe at the level of the Probate Court to ascertain whether or not these children were adopted with their known names and that the state party should take urgent measures to abolish informal adoptions and to expedite the enactment of the Adoption Bill, and to ratify the 1993 Hague Convention No. 33 which borders on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Inter-country Adoption.

He also recommended the need for sustainable public awareness and sensitization among community dwellers, local stakeholders on child trafficking and child protection.

  DCI-Liberia also suggested that there should be improved collaboration between joint security forces and the community dwellers at border points across the country. 

What, by all accounts, seems to be a major child trafficking scandal has been uncovered in Todee, rural Montserrado County, with multiple claims of illegal recruitments and transfer of dozens of indigent children from Liberia to foreign parts including the United States and Canada.

Several aggrieved mothers and fathers who are also residents of various villages and towns in Todee sadly disclosed to THE IMAGES magazine recently that the teenagers including boys and girls whose ages, at the time, ranged from three to ten years were between 2004- 2008 recruited by a woman identified as Janet Grant to attend the mission school.

According to the aggrieved parents, their children were later enrolled into a mission school operated under the umbrella of “The House of God Pillar and Ground of the Truth Church.”   

They further disclosed that while on the mission, the children were later taken away secretly to the Diasporas under the pretext that they were to be given advanced educational opportunities that they never had in Liberia.

The parents of the children were reportedly told by Madam Grant that after they shall have successfully acquired education abroad and subsequently returned home, they would not only use such education to liberate themselves and their families from poverty, but also contribute effectively to societal development.

 According to the parents, Madam Janet Grant, who was also head of the Mission, facilitated the abrupt departure of the children from the mission here to the USA and other parts of the world through an illegal adoption program.

It was also alleged that such questionable adoption program was being implemented by Madam Janet Grant with acquiesces of a purported humanitarian group, named and styled: West African Children Support Network (WACSN), headed in Liberia by Maria Luyken.

Hawa Morris, 37, said, “Janet Grant came and told us that some people came to help poor people and we should give our children to her for them to go to school at her mission school. Aunty Janet told us that we, parents of the children were suffering in the bush to burn coal before eating.  After carrying our children, she came later to tell us that some white people came and took our children to town (Monrovia) to go to school there.  After some time, she came again and told us that our children have traveled. Since they went in 2008, only one time we received an album of some photos, but from that time, we cannot hear from them and do not know their whereabouts.  Janet can only tell us to pray so things can be better one day. When we tell Janet Grant to allow us talk to our children, she would say she does not have their numbers.”

Bindu Konah shedding tears also said:  “Janet met us and said a program was here to help poor people and I should give her my daughter, but I never agreed because my daughter was the first and the only one I had at the time.  She told me that people were looking for opportunity for their children and I had nothing to do besides burning coal. Other people talked to me about it and I agreed to give my daughter to Janet Grant for her to go to school.  After three months, Sister Janet came and told us that people came to carry my daughter to America, and I asked her why she said that.  When we went to the place the children were, Sister Janet did not even want us to go near the people until they carried our children.  Since they went, it was one time they sent pictures, but since that time we can’t hear from them.  When we ask Sister Janet for their numbers, she will tell us that she does not have numbers, but we must pray to God.”

Jenneh Konah also explained her ordeal in tears:  “One day Janet Grant came with words of encouragement that people came to help we the poor people and so I should give her my daughter to go to school.  I was pregnant when my daughter’s father left me and my mother did everything for me.  It was because there was no help I was encouraged to give my daughter to her.  So one day Janet Grant came and said people will take my daughter, Siatta Konah, to America and after two years they will send me photos of her and they will be bring her for me to see. But since they went, only one time they sent photos.  From that time, no other pictures have been sent. We don’t know where my daughter is right now and I am getting sick with heart problem for this reason”  

Joe Morris, husband of Hawa Morris called on the Liberian government to come to their aid to trace their children because they cannot find any way out to know where their children are right now. We were told that before a child was taken away, the parents were to be informed about his/her location. Mr. Morris said his child was taken away in 2006.

According to Mr. Morris, initially, the local mission where the children were enrolled was doing well with children academically and otherwise, but to their surprise and disapproval, they were taken away to the Diasporas. 

He disclosed that one reason why Madam Janet Grant has not been taken to court to account for her alleged actions on this matter is that, he does not have money to take the necessary legal action. “I don’t have money to pay lawyers to support me in court.”  

Amos Brown whose son was also taken away said:  “Janet Grant will always tell us to pray.  We are not denying the existence of God, but when you pray, there must be action.  We have prayed with our kneels peeling.  Let the Government and other humanitarian organizations come to our aid to find our children wherever they are.”       

       Evelyn Kona also told THE IMAGES magazine: “My sister, Sata Kona, who was born in 2004 was taken away by a woman named Janet Grant.”

“Aunty Janet came here and told my mother that it was important for her children to go to school. Aunty Janet also said our mother was too poor and as such, she (our mother) could not afford sending her children to school,” Evelyn explained.

She quoted Janet Grant as further saying to their mother (Jenneh Konah)  “without education, you and your children will remain in poverty and you will have no good benefit. So give me some of these children to put them in school.”

“That is how my mother said to Aunty Janet some of the children, their fathers have abandoned them. I will be happy when you put them on your program, so that they will go to school,” Evelyn further explained.

According to Evelyn, Aunty Janet asserted that she primarily wanted children who can’t talk well as they would have been put to school upon their arrival in the USA.

“She convinced my mother who later said it was a good opportunity. I was there when they were talking that day on the issue, but I did not see them signing any adoption paper or agreement. But few days later, I saw my mother packing my sister Sata’s clothes to leave, saying “all of you just wasting on me,” Evelyn added.

“I later heard that Sata was sent to America, but since then we have not seen or heard from her. This is worrying all of us every time and my mother has gotten sick because of this,” Evelyn pointed out. 

She, however, explained that in 2010, they received a purported photograph of Sata Konah, through Janet Grant, indicating that she was in America doing well. 

But since she was carried away from Liberia, none of us (family members) including my mother had ever spoken with Sata to know where exactly she is located in America and how she is coming on with life there.

Anytime we ask Aunty Janet Grant about my sister Sata Kona’s contact address, she often said she does not have it.

However, a photograph of Sata Kona, dated June 2010, and reportedly from an alleged foster family, identified as “Dan & Jackie Edwards” from North Carolinas, USA, had an inscription which reads: “Sara is growing in stature and wisdom. She is interested in learning to write her letters and names. She is gifted in memorizing. She loves to investigate and play. She is an awesome mother to her baby dolls. The sand box is probably her favorite activity physically. She is healthy. With a strong immune system, you are a hero in my eyes. Thank you for allowing us to love your daughter.”

Another parent whose four children including Garmai Lewis, Patricia Lewis, Yungor Lewis were allegedly taken away in 2008 was Sunday Lewis. “I am feeling bad since my children were taken away,” he told THE IMAGES magazine. He called on the appropriate authorities from the central government to intervene, aimed at addressing the situation.

The Janet Grant Factor

However, speaking to THE IMAGES magazine, Madam Janet Grant admitted that she indeed recruited some indigent children from their parents in Todee, rural Montserrado County.

 She explained that the children were put into the mission school operated by the House of God Pillar and Ground of the Truth Church.

Madam Grant however insisted that her action to send the children to the Diasporas was not criminal. “It was not done with any criminal motives,” she said.

She expressed optimism that those children who had been sent abroad will, through God’s grace return home one day. Janet insisted that the adoption program was carried out with good intension.

Asked by THE IMAGES whether she had an official permit from the Liberian government to conduct said adoption program through which the children were sent away, Janet responded in the negative.

Asked whether she had the contact addresses of all the children who were sent away, she responded in the affirmative. Janet Grant further narrated that some of the parents and relatives of the children have already established contacts with their children and they have been talking with them without her knowledge.

She mentioned that her own daughter was among those sent abroad via the adoption program and that her daughter is in good health and in constant communication with her.

She also confirmed that through the West African Children Support Network (WACSN), head in Liberia Maria Luyken, the foster parents of the adopted children have been sending things to Liberia and that some of the children’s parents in Liberia have been receiving those things. Janet did not however say exactly the things that the concerned parents have received from the foster parents through WACSN.

She also confirmed that the program through which the children were sent abroad has, since been closed down by the Liberian government, through the Ministry of Health. 

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