Saturday, February 14, 2009
Focus On Children - Sentencing scheduled for February 19
Sentencing for Focus on Children's Karen and Scott Banks, Dan Wakefield, Coleen Bartlett and Karalee Thornock is scheduled for February 19, 2009. In January, they pleaded guilty to counts of aiding and abetting the improper entry of an alien for putting false information on immigration forms during the performance of adoption services relating to FOC's Samoa program. Although the plea agreements have a recommendation for probation, U.S. District Judge David Sam may impose up to six months on each count and a $5,000 fine.
Transparency, honesty and full disclosure during the adoption process are vital to the integrity of adoptive families. Conduct such as that displayed by Focus on Children cannot be tolerated. The families and children involved in this case deserve justice.
For more information on this case please see:
Adoption Scandal Has Prompted Only Minor Changes
Focus on Children Defendants in the case likely to get probation.
By Pamela Manson, The Salt Lake Tribune, Posted: 02/14/2009 02:29:00 PM MST
If you would like to express your opinions on the sentencing of Focus on Children defendants, please send letters to:
The Hon. Judge David Sam
United States Court for the District of Utah
350 South Main Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Below is a letter sent to Judge Sam by PEAR board member Barbara McArtney:
Dear Judge Sam,
I am writing you concerning the sentencing of Karen and Scott Banks and the proposed plea deal. I was stunned to hear that anything other than a prison sentence was proposed and hope that you will see justice is done in this case.
I am an adoption provider, parent of internationally adopted children and an adoptee. Adoption is an activity that should be motivated by humanitarian interests not greed. Providers have a legal and moral obligation to place child and family welfare first and foremost. To do otherwise is a grave violation of the rights of birth parents, children and adoptive parents alike.
The Bankses engaged in heinous activity ripping apart families, stealing children, lying and committing fraud as adoption professionals. They have ruined many lives. Other criminals have gone to jail for far, far less. Perhaps even more troubling is their trail of dumped adopted children that show even in their own family they have no regard for human life. Though this conduct may not be criminal, it is a strong indication of how little respect and concern they have for children's welfare.
Adoptive parents come to providers in a very vulnerable position. They are emotional and unknowledgeable about the legal process, a combination that makes them easy prey for those looking to make money. The international adoption industry is largely unregulated with the state patchwork of laws having little relevance, let alone protection over foreign proceedings. Parents rely completely upon their agencies to follow the law and operate ethically. Consular screening is generally cursory at best and is not a substitute for good ethical agency practices. Parents have little to no recourse when things go wrong.
Despite numerous instances of fraud in international adoptions, with many countries closing for similar child trafficking, it is rare that evidence is available against a US citizen that allows prosecution. Developing countries lack the resources to protect impoverished families considering adoption. It is up to the United States to act decisively in the rare instances that a case is prosecutable. For those cases, it is critical that the legal process sends a loud, clear message. Fraud, trafficking and corruption will not be tolerated and will be punished proportionately to the enormous damage done by such profiteers. To give a mere slap on the wrist only encourages others to cross legal boundaries to get rich in this lucrative business and is a slap in the face to those families torn apart by this criminal behavior.
Much needs to be done on a legislative and international basis to improve adoptions, but this case is truly a golden opportunity to make it perfectly clear that the utmost due diligence and ethical judgment must be exercised when conducting adoptions. That fast and loose practices, deceit and theft will never be allowed especially when American's operate in vulnerable populations. Punishment will be meaningful not token.
Please sentence the Bankses to the substantial prison time they clearly deserve. Not only will the Bankses and their victims receive the justice they deserve but you will be deterring other providers tempted to follow in their footsteps to profit from illegal adoptions. Much future heartache to other families may be prevented by a firm stance against this sort of reprehensible criminal conduct.
Barbara J McArtney