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Guatemala judge orders American couple to return adopted girl

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The child was allegedly kidnapped in 2006
  • She is currently thought to be living in Liberty, Missouri
  • Guatemala has a troubled adoption history

(CNN) -- A Guatemalan judge has ordered an American couple to give their adopted daughter back to her birth mother.

Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez said in her ruling, made public this week, that the girl belongs with her mother, identified as Elizabeth Rodriguez Morales, who is supported by Survivors Foundation, a Guatemala City-based rights organization.

The girl was kidnapped in 2006, according to the group, which provided a copy of the judge's ruling.

She was subsequently adopted and taken to live in the the United States. The girl is currently thought to be living in Liberty, Missouri, according to the judge's order. The judge said the girl's passport should be canceled.

It was not immediately clear how much weight, if any, the decision would carry in the United States.

Norma Cruz, head of the Survivors Foundation, said the case represents the first time in Guatemala's history that a judge has ordered a child living abroad be returned under such circumstances.

The girl was born in 2004 and left the country in 2008, she said.

Cruz stressed that the girl's parents have fought for years to get their daughter back and urged authorities in the United States to respect the judge's order.

Guatemala has a long and troubled adoption history.

The country used to be one of the most popular in the world for international adoptions, sending more than 4,500 children to the United States in 2007. But that figure has plummeted amid reports of corruption and fraud.

According to the U.S. State Department, just 50 children from Guatemala were brought to the United States last year.

Marcie Babcock, who lives near where the Guatemalan girl is thought to be in Liberty, Missouri, told CNN affiliate KMBC that she feels bad for everyone involved in the case.

"This is really sad," Babcock told the network. "Obviously the people who adopted this child care about (her) very much and I'm sure the mother cares about (her) very much, too."

CNN's Dana Ford contributed to this report.