Image: He parents
Greg Campbell  /  AP
Shaoqiang He, left, comforts his wife, Qin Luo He, as she holds their younger daughter, Avita, in their hotel room in Memphis, Tenn., in May 2004. They are battling with foster parents for custody of their older biological daughter.
updated 5/10/2007 8:49:04 PM ET 2007-05-11T00:49:04

An American couple who lost a seven-year custody fight for a young Chinese girl is trying to delay a court-ordered reunion with her biological parents by arguing that the girl is on the brink of an emotional breakdown.

Biological parents Shaoqiang and Qin Luo He contend the foster parents, Jerry and Louise Baker, are desperate to derail their long-awaited reunion with 8-year-old Anna Mae He, who has lived with the Bakers since she was an infant.

The state Supreme Court ruled in January that Anna Mae must be returned to the parents who put her in what was supposed to be temporary foster care in 1999 because of financial hardships.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected a petition from the Bakers seeking to stop the reunion on grounds that the child is being traumatized by having to leave the only family she has known.

“Our sweet loving little girl is full of anger and hatred. She is crying and yelling that nobody understands her,” Louise Baker said in filings with the Supreme Court petition and a companion pleading with the Juvenile Court in Memphis, which is charged with overseeing the He family reunion.

The Juvenile Court petition asks for psychiatric care for Anna Mae and includes excerpts from a journal Louise Baker kept describing the child’s reaction to recent court-ordered visits with her biological parents.

Juvenile Court Judge Curtis Person, upset by public disclosure of journal entries, sealed all records in the case Wednesday and issued a gag order for the Bakers, the Hes and their lawyers.

The journal is “counterproductive to the eventual reunification of the minor child with her natural parents,” Person said in his order.

Person has appointed a psychologist and a lawyer to coordinate Anna Mae’s transition from the Bakers to the Hes. Their reports to the judge are confidential.

Before Person issued the gag order, the Hes’ lawyer, David Siegel, accused the Bakers’ of attempting to stir public sentiment and “inject their own psychologist into what has otherwise been a very peaceful transition.”

Siegel also said he was considering a petition asking the court to remove Anna Mae from the Baker home immediately.

Another foster home may be an option
The judge has the option, among others, of placing Anna Mae in a temporary foster home if the Bakers and Hes cannot cooperate on her transition, which is expected to take several more months.

Clinical psychologist John Hutson said such “neutral ground” is sometimes necessary for children forced to leave one family for another and adapt to a new set of parents.

“Her world is pitching upside down. It’s going to be traumatic,” said Hutson, who testified in a Memphis court three years ago that the Hes should have been allowed more contact with their daughter over the years.

Court orders kept the Hes from seeing Anna Mae for five years.

Anna Mae, now in second grade, refers to her parents as “the other people” and throws fits before and after visits with them, Louise Baker said in her journal. “She is crying and screaming the whole way home ... She keeps saying she will move to Antarctica so no one will find her,” the journal says.

Other entries describe physical struggles to get Anna Mae to the visits. “She is screaming, holding on to doors and door frames,” Baker writes.

Siegel described the journal as “self-serving, one-sided observations.”

The court-appointed psychologist for Anna Mae has reported no such troubles, Siegel said.

Larry Parrish, the Bakers’ lawyer, asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its reunion order because of Anna Mae’s emotional deterioration. “It may return her to the custody of the Hes in shambles,” Parrish said.

In an unanimous decision, the Supreme Court overturned a 2004 ruling by a Memphis judge that took away the Hes’ parental rights.

The Hes, in the United States so Shaoqiang He could attend the University of Memphis, lost custody of their daughter largely because of their ignorance of American law, the Supreme Court said. The Hes put Anna Mae in foster care, the court said, so she could get medical insurance they could not afford.

The Supreme Court also criticized lower Tennessee courts for letting the custody dispute drag on for so many years.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments