Sunday, 7 August 2016
Cameroonian woman gives up fight to adopt niece in the USA
A Cameroonian woman who spent the last two years in the United States fighting in the Allegheny County court system to adopt her niece will head back to her home next week alone.
Catherine Gana was unsuccessful in her efforts to adopt the 6-year-old girl who has spent the last four years in foster care with a woman in Penn Hills.
Common Pleas Judge Guido DeAngelis issued an opinion on June 29 ruling in favor of the foster mother, Deborah Cutrary, 62, finding that Ms. Gana failed to prove that her home would better serve her niece. Among his reasons, Judge DeAngelis found that the child was already strongly bonded to Ms. Cutrary and that removing her could be psychologically damaging.
Since July 2014 when she arrived in the U.S., Ms. Gana, 48, has seen the child just once during a court-ordered psychological evaluation. Judge DeAngelis denied repeated requests by her to have any type of visitation.
Ms. Gana struggled with the idea of appealing the decision — an appeal to the Superior Court would last many months, if not years, and she has already been away for 25 months from her own four sons and two nephews — and said now that she accepts what has occurred.
“I walked with God all through this case. I prayed and trusted God’s will,” she said. “I may not understand, but I do know there is a reason.”
Ms. Gana at first did not know that her sister had given birth to the girl in 2010. Two years earlier, Ms. Gana came to the United States from Cameroon and obtained custody of her two nephews — the 6-year-old girl’s half-brothers — through the Westmoreland County court system. The process took about three months, she said, and went smoothly. She expected to undergo the same process in Allegheny County when she was contacted by the Department of Children, Youth and Families in 2013 about her niece having been placed in foster care because of her sister’s medical problems.
However, CYF officials argued -—and Judge DeAngelis agreed — that Ms. Gana did not arrive in the U.S. quickly enough when they asked her to come. She disagreed with that assessment vehemently, telling the court that she came when she knew she was needed -— having made the 24-hour round trip from her home in Bamenda to Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, to try to obtain her visa five times in less than three months.
During the prolonged trial over the contested adoption, Ms. Gana and her attorneys presented evidence that Ms. Cutrary’s adult son, who had previously been convicted of attempted murder and sexual assault and is a registered Megan’s Law offender, regularly visited the home where her young niece was living and that CYF officials did not run criminal background checks on him or any of Ms. Cutrary’s relatives who lived outside the home. They also showed in court that CYF caseworkers failed to check three of four references provided by Ms. Cutrary in her adoption petition.
In his opinion awarding custody to the foster mother, Judge DeAngelis found no problems with the actions of the agency.
Ms. Gana also contends that she was mocked and treated poorly by the court and the agencies involved -—both CYF and KidsVoice, who served as the guardian for the child -—as well as by the judge, who repeatedly threatened to hold her in contempt or have her deported.
To those entities, Ms. Gana said: “I pray that you may one day wear the human eye and heart in executing your duties,” she said. “Man made the law, and not vice versa.
“I would love and hope that the American society look closely at its law and implementation of the law, for the benefit and justice of humankind.”
She added: “You are a wonderful nation.”
Ms. Gana believes that in the judge’s decision, he is robbing her niece of her biological family.
“I now move on with the assurance, I did what was right and to the best of my human ability,” Ms. Gana said. “The time, money and resources spent can never be in vain.”
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette