There is, perhaps, nothing that strikes fear in any parent’s heart like a missing child.
We are reminded of that anytime we hear of the toll that closed adoptions take on birthparents denied updates on the welfare of the child they once placed. It’s a similar theme that also resurfaces in conversations with any parents (whether they’ve adopted or not) when their relationships with their child/ren have become estranged, for any reason.
One parent whom Abrazo loves and respects, a devoted mom named Molly, shared her own experience after her missing daughter was found safe at last. “Having a child that’s missing is really, really hard. It’s even more devastating when you’ve been in the same situation that she is and there’s nothing you can do to help (because she won’t let you.) I know she’s upset and angry with me for having the police track her down, but that’s a small price to pay, just to know she’s still breathing.”
That’s the thing, you see? Parents need to know how and where their kids are, in order to be at peace. Whether parenting or noncustodial, whether near or far, whether connected or estranged, we all need some assurance of our child/ren’s welfare just to be okay.
Open adoption cannot cancel out the loss that comes with every infertility or adoption experience. Yet the transparency and connections that open adoption affords adoptees and parents and birthsiblings and other relatives can truly be transformative and healing.
We all have an intrinsic need to know our children are safe and secure, whether they live under our own roof fulltime or wherever they may be. To intentionally deny a parent this assurance is as cruel as it is to refuse a child’s need to know where and how their parents are.
The Abrazo staff is so very thankful for all the adoptive families who make a concerted effort each year to forward us their annual reports, which enable our agency to verify how and where “our” children are, and to use this to supplement the peace of mind of birthparents who choose open adoption here.
It’s just one more way Abrazo tries to ensure that parents who entrust a child to adoption don’t have to ever endure the experience of having a missing child.
Baby Gabriel: Not a Baby Anymore, But Still A Missing Child
Twelve years ago, Abrazo learned of an Arizona baby who had gone missing in San Antonio while on a trip here with his young mother, Elizabeth Johnson. She’d tried unsuccessfully to privately place her infant son for adoption with an Arizona couple, and when the birthfather objected, the adopters reportedly helped her to flee to Texas, where the adoption laws seemed more favorable.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy at the center of the dispute became known as Baby Gabriel, and he disappeared from a northside San Antonio motel in December, 2009. After initially telling Logan the baby had died, a landfill search proved unsuccessful, and Elizabeth then informed authorities she’d turned her child over to an unnamed adoptive couple at Raymond Rimkus Park. A national search ensued, FBI and police in Arizona, Texas and Florida couldn’t find him, and Gabriel’s father, Logan McQueary, fought in vain for answers.
Gabriel has never been found. His mother and Tammi Peters Smith, the Arizona woman who’d originally hoped to adopt Gabriel, both were criminally charged, stood trial and served time, but both are now free and parenting other children. Logan married and started a new family but has never quit searching for his missing firstborn, who would be twelve years old now. Everyone involved in this tragic mystery has found their lives forever changed by it… most of all, we suspect, Gabriel (whether or not he even knows what happened to him as a seven-month-old baby.)
SAPD is reportedly no longer actively investigating the case, but those who care about Baby Gabriel have never stopped hoping and praying and longing to find him.
If Gabriel was illegally adopted, as does happen in America more often than it should, the people he knows as his parents owe it to his rightful family to assure them of his welfare. The ends do not justify the means when a child’s future is at stake, and Gabriel, like all adoptees, deserves to know his own truth. Whatever Elizabeth Johnson did with (or to) her son, she owes it to him and to his father and his family to help him get found. Any adoption worth doing is worth doing properly, and any adoption not done the right way deserves to be exposed, however long it takes.
Now Again, A Missing Child: Lina Sadar Khil
It seemed like a bad dream when, again in December, another child went missing in San Antonio, a few miles from where Gabriel was last seen 12 years ago. Her name is Lina Sadar Khil, and like Gabriel, she moved here from far away. Lina, however, traveled her with her loving parents, refugees from Afghanistan, and on 12/20/21, she disappeared from a playground at the Villa Del Cabos apartments, not far from Abrazo’s office. Just as in Gabriel’s case, the SAPD and FBI are searching for answers, but thus far, there are reportedly few clues (despite a $150k reward being raised for her return.) Her panicked parents are desperate for their little girl to be returned to them safely, but hopes are running thin.
Sadly, Lina and Gabriel aren’t alone, either. According to the Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are 34 children currently missing in San Antonio, and children go missing or get abducted every 40 seconds in America… an average of 2300 per day. These are truly frightening statistics, which should be of concern to every citizen, whether they happen to be a parent or not.
Those who work in ethical adoption agencies are mindful of the need to verify where the children being placed for adoption come from, yet there’s no national requirement for adoption professionals to contact NCMEC to clear children being placed (or abandoned in Safe Haven “baby drops”) with their database, and frankly, there should be. Senators Roy Blunt and Amy Klobuchar are spearheading efforts to pass federal legislation to prevent rehoming of children, and this is yet another important step in the fight to prevent a missing child lost to an illicit adoption.
We realize that invoking the specter of a missing child is hardly an uplifting end to the year, but consider this our adoption agency’s effort to help spread the word about Gabriel Johnson and Lina Khil. Please keep these missing children and their families in your thoughts and prayers, along with all the others. And, of course, keep doing whatever you personally can to ensure that any child/ren around you remain safe and fully-accounted for, all throughout the year ahead.