Liberia: Woman at Center of Adoption Saga Says Children were ‘Legally Adopted’
J.H. Webster Clayeh,(886729972)[email protected]
Monrovia- Maria Morgan Luyken, a naturalized American citizen who has been linked to the trafficking more than 500 Liberian children over a ten-year period, says she did nothing wrong to adopt poor people children and made them travel to America.
On May 7, Talk Show host, Costa posted a picture of Madam Luyken and Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee on his Facebook page and at the same time stated that Madam Luyken has benefited about four million dollars from trafficking Liberian kids.
“Fresh information on child trafficker Maria Luyken; She sold a total of 550 children over 10 years. She made about 4 million dollars, charging US$ 9,000 per child in “processing fees”. The more I learn about this disgusting woman, the more I get so angry that’s she is still free and passing around,” Costa posted on his most followed Facebook page.
But speaking to journalists in Monrovia Sunday, May 10, Madam Luyken who was born and raised in Liberia before going to the US to attain American citizenship admitted of taking over 500 children to the US but noted that she followed all of the legal steps in adopting children.
“Saah Joseph was adopted and today has come back to become a senator. What a blessing. So, if 10 percent of those children that were adopted were to come back, it will be good for Liberia. China did the same, they sent their children out for adoption and today they are blessing their country why not us when we are one of the poorest countries in the world. Why not us when we so connected to the US when we all want to be in the US,” Madam Luyken said.
Madam Luyken said: “I don’t see anything problems. I am sorry I am not there anymore but if I was there, I will be pushing for many children to leave because we that to happen for our children.”
How It All Started
Giving a history of how she started Madam Luyken said she returned to Liberia in 1995 and established an organization called the West African Children Support Network.
At the time, she said she worked closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare under the leadership of the then Minister Peter Coleman.
The country at that time was ravaged by war, Madam Luyken said she helped distribute relief items to 11 feeding centers and began the supporting arm to all of the 95 orphanages that were registered under the Health Ministry at the time.
Madam Luyken further explained that after 2003 she went back to America for some medical checkup and to spend time with her family after being out of so many years.
There in Minnesota, the United Stated, she narrated that she received a call from the US State Department asking her to help seven children that had been adopted by five American parents.
Luyken said the person who called her from the State Department told her that the children were missing and inquired whether she was able to locate the children so that they can continue with the adoption process.
Said Luyken: “When I got that call, I agreed to help. But at that time, I did not know that adoption was going on in Liberia. So, I spoke with one Diana Davis who was the Minister for Social Welfare and she gave me the rundown about how it was done through the probate court. I also spoke with John Reeves who was the judge at the time to tell me what the process is about.”
Luyken said she also got in contact with one of the parents who happened to be the spokesperson for the five families.
“So, the spokesperson would call me and give me information on who they were dealing with and I came to find out that the adoption was being done through the Christian Aid Ministry,” she narrated.
At first, she said the Christian Aid Ministry, which was coordinating the issue of adoption for the adoption agency in America misled her that all the seven kids were in Ghana due to the war.
Luyken said she then contacted officials from the then Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and they interrogated officials of the Christian Aid Ministry to produce the children or contact of the children.
Luyken added: “Eventually, Christian Aid Ministry told us that the children were not in Ghana but here in Liberia at someone’s house.”
“So, we got there and got all seven of the kids. And then, of course, I did not know what to do by then. I did know I have to take on their responsibility of providing a transit-home while their paperwork was going on.”
Madam Luyken explained that she then got in contact with one of her church members who was operating an orphanage to keep the children until their paperwork was completed. “The Probate Court along with the Ministry of Health showed me how to put the right paperwork together and it was done at my own expense.”
A few weeks later, after the children went to their adopted parents in the US, Madam Luyken said she got a call from the adoption agency in America asking her to facilitate the adoption of more children to the US.
“This was during the wartime and children were everywhere in orphanages without proper care and former Minister for Social Welfare told me that they need more people to come to the children’s aid,” she said.
Madam Luyken said she agreed to facility more adoptions and even rented a compound on the Old Road to be used as a transit home for the children with 10 persons working in the adaptation department of her organization, the West African Children Support Networks.
She added: “I met Cllr. Francis Garlawolo and he told me whenever you are ready do not go anywhere; Bong County will give you all the children you need. Because if 10 percent of those children come back home Bong County will be developed”.
Madam Luyken said she sent the first batch of 17 of the children from Bong County. Later on, she began to scout for children in other counties.
Adoption Price at the Time
In his revelation, Mr. Costa alleged that the adoption price at the time was US$9,000 but Madam Luyken refuted the claim, narrating that when she went into the adoption process, the adopting agencies in Liberia were given US$8,000 per child.
“When I got into adoption, in my mind, I wanted to take kids out of here so fast. And that is what I was thinking to take about 1,000 kids. So, I dropped the price from US$8,000 to US$3,000. She added” “Because it was US$3,000, we had many American families who wanted to help Liberian children. And I was so happy to take as many for our kids move from Liberia.”
West African Children Support Networks was not the only adoption agency in Liberia.
She said other foreign nationals had adoption agencies and were at times, angry with her for dropping the adoption price so low as US$3,000.
In 2006, Madam Luyken says she received a call from a counselor from the American Embassy telling her that the other adoption agencies are complaining about how her agency dropped the price so low. The counselor wanted her to be in line with other agencies.
She said, “Later that year, I increased the price from US$3,000 to US$6,000. In 2007, she increases to US$8,000 in line with other agencies. Adoption is a legal process. It is done everywhere in the world. Although I am no longer doing adoption, today, adoption in Liberia is about US$20,000,” Madam Luyken added.
She said they pay for visa fees for the children and hire lawyers to help with the legal process of adopting the children.
So, after the first seven children in 2003, I ended adopting in 2009 and about 500 children left from my entity.
Families Say They are in Touch with their Children
Many families who spoke to the press after Madam Luyken long conversation said they are in contact with the adopted children in the US.
Almost all of them said they have no money to support their children and were happy so happy when the adoption process came their way.
Mary Sumo, one of the parents, showed the picture of her three girls. “They were 7, 9, and11. She never got a cent for the adoption of her children but was happy that they were going to the US. I was not given US$5, I just wanted them to go and live a good life. They are in colleges now and I know one day I will enjoy them,” Sumo said.
Another man James Kollie said, “some of our children here they became zogos; some of them fought the war and die. Now as we speak, my daughter is in one of the best universities in the US. And I talk to her every time and I received donations from her adopted parents twice.”