An Evanston couple accused of circumventing South Korean adoption laws have lost their bid to keep a 9-month-old girl whom they’ve raised since shortly after her birth, with the baby scheduled to return to her native country Wednesday, officials have confirmed.
Jinshil and Christopher Duquet have said they relied on bad legal advice and thought they were participating in a lawful private adoption of the baby, Sehwa, in June.
“It looks like South Korea has prevailed,” said Nancy Pender, a spokeswoman for Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, the law firm representing the South Korean government in the case.
She declined to provide details about what triggered the action or how the baby’s deportation will be handled. The Duquets had been pursuing a private adoption through Cook County Circuit Court in proceedings that are closed to the public. The court most recently heard the case Thursday, Pender said.
The Duquets, through their lawyers, declined comment. The couple have said that if they must give up the baby, they want their goodbyes to remain private.
“The case didn’t work out, basically,” said one of their lawyers, Jamie Teich. “Our whole team of people here are saddened and devastated by it.”
Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice declined comment.
Sehwa will be placed with a South Korean family for adoption, as opposed to an orphanage, Pender said.
The baby’s birth mother and grandparents relinquished parental rights to the Duquets and do not want the child back, officials agree. The biological mother lives at a homeless shelter for unwed mothers and already has another child, according to court testimony.
But South Korean officials say the Duquets skirted Korean laws by failing to go through a licensed adoption agency. Jinshil Duquet, a South Korea native who moved to the U.S. as a child, learned about the baby through a pastor with ties to her family, she testified in court.
She contacted immigration lawyers in Chicago, who put her in touch with a South Korean lawyer who said he could arrange for a private adoption. The Duquets had earlier adopted an older daughter from South Korea by going through an agency but were told they were too old under South Korean law to follow the same procedures again.
The Duquets argued that, despite their mistakes, it was in Sehwa’s best interests to remain with them.
South Korea and other countries have tightened laws on foreign adoptions in recent years to prevent trafficking and abuse, and the South Korean government has provided new incentives for domestic adoptions. Some experts say many South Korean children remain in orphanages because of a cultural stigma against adoption and unwed motherhood.
While Sehwa’s situation “is tragic … it certainly points out to why you follow the rules,” said Susan Soonkeum Cox, spokeswoman for Holt International Children’s Services in Eugene, Ore., which arranges international adoptions.