US couple detained in Ghana while trying to adopt

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by FRANCIS KOKUTSE and RUKMINI CALLIMACHI

KMOV.com

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 6:21 PM

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) -- An American couple who used their popular blog to chronicle their journey to adopt four children from Ghana were detained and their two biological children placed in a local orphanage over the weekend after authorities suspected them for child trafficking, officials said Tuesday.

Sol and Christine Moghadam from Irvine, California, had traveled to Ghana with their two biological sons after their application to adopt the four siblings had been approved, according to their blog. An adoption agency official said the family was later reunited and the couple cleared to leave the country with their biological children, although their newly adopted kids will need to await their visas.

They were stopped Friday at Kotoka International Airport where they tried to board a flight with the four children, whom they had adopted from the city of Kumasi, located 160 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of Accra, police in Ghana confirmed.

Kyle Tresch, a vice president for the adoption agency Dillon International Inc., said the couple had already obtained a court order that made them the legal guardians of the four Ghanaian children and were waiting for the U.S. government to approve visas for them when the incident occurred.

They were taken into custody after the government received a phone call from an anonymous tipster who accused them of child trafficking, according to a statement posted on the website of AdoptTogether, an advocacy group that produced a video of the couple's adoption process.

"I can tell you that we are investigating a couple who arrived at the airport with six children - four blacks and two whites - which aroused the suspicion of security officers at the airport who stopped them from traveling," Comfort Miah, an official with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghanaian police, told The Associated Press. "They say the children were adopted and we are investigating to find out if this has been properly granted by a court of proper jurisdiction."

On their blog and in a video created on their behalf, the couple and their friends say Christine Moghadam was forced to spend a night in jail on Friday, while Sol Moghadam was held in a detention center. Their two biological children were placed in an orphanage.

The couple had to post a bond for their release, and their passports were returned to them on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a media briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

Tresch said that as of Tuesday, all six children were with the couple. The couple, he said, was free to leave Ghana, though they will need to wait for visas to be processed before the adopted siblings can leave. Attempts to reach the couple through their blog and through Facebook were not immediately successful.

Frank Kwofie, director of operations for the police's criminal investigations department, confirmed that the family had provided documentation.

"The couple had documentation, but we have had cases where such documentation is fraudulent, so we are having it verified," he said.

On their blog, the couple described the toll of the ordeal: "We are emotionally exhausted and traumatized from the entire incident," they posted on Tuesday. "Our case is not complete yet but our chief officer from the Ghana police department has apologized for their overreaction and stated that our detainment was a mistake on their part. Although we have many pending circumstances before uniting our family, we have complete trust in God that He will provide a way out and heal our family from this traumatic situation."

Their blog, "Our adoption journey to Africa," has received 47,600 page views and supporters posted dozens of messages of encouragement. The couple began the application process in 2010, initially petitioning to adopt a child in Ethiopia. They were steered to Ghana in November 2011, after they saw the four siblings on the waiting list of the adoption agency. The blog's timeline states that they received final approval in April.

"The paperwork was all in place," said Tresch of the adoption agency. "This is a situation that has never happened in the 40 year history of our agency."

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