Chinese group speaks out after a controversial custody ruling - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: George Metaxas, 5/24/04, 5:00 p.m.

Chinese group speaks out after a controversial custody ruling

Monday, members of the Greater Memphis Unity Chinese Association spoke out about the custody battle over Anna Mae He. The group said Judge Robert Childers' made stereotypical comments about Chinese people and their culture in his decision. The members will challenge a freeze on the money from the Help Anna Mae He foundation and they started a new defense fund for the He family. The group also wants to change the way private adoption agencies notify birth parents their parental rights are terminated. Jack and Casey He have complained they were never notified their parental rights could be terminated. Now, the legal tug-of-war over five-year-old Anna Mae He could be a catalyst to change state law.

On page two of his opinion, Circuit Court Judge Robert Childers wrote the Jack and Casey He willfully abandoned the girl for a period exceeding four months and provided no support also for four months. But supporters of Jack and Casey He, Jiliang Cai, said this would have never happened if, "They would require private child agencies to follow the same guidelines that apply to state agencies." State law requires public adoption agencies to notify parents that they are in danger of losing their parental rights if they do not visit or provide financial support to a child during a four month period. But private agencies--like the one the Hes used-- are not required to do this because they don't receive any government funds, something State Representative Kathryn Bowers would like to change. Bowers said, "I think we've go some problems with the law, and we need to take a very serious look at that and I'm looking forward to convening a group of people so we can take a look at so that when we come back in January we can try and fix that."

Private adoption agencies like Agape Child and Family Services are already ahead of the game. Agape's Executive Direct David Jordan said,  "If adoption is the permanency option, then I think it's very important that you contact parents you do every means possible to be able to do that." Representative Bowers is convinced private and public adoption agencies should follow the same laws. Bowers says she wants to have a public hearing on the issue before the next legislative session convenes. She says there also needs to be a legal distinction between willful abandonment and induced abandonment.

Here's a look at what could happen next. The Tennessee Court of Appeals will consider the Hes' appeal. A court must also decide who will pay Anna Mae He's legal bills. And, since Jack and Casey He lost their custody fight, they now face deportation, even though their children are U-S citizens.

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