Not without My Child

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The Principality of Asturias has separated adopted African children from their mothers. This film shows the injustice and indifference of the Principality towards the affected families.

TIME CODE: 00:00-05:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of woman: “This is the story of a young girl called Adama, who became very well known and loved by the people of Mires.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of a man: “Who is Adama?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of woman: “She came to Spain, to the city of Mires in the province of Asturias in 2009. She lived with Maria Louisa, a native of Mires, who accepted her completely from the moment of her arrival as her own daughter.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “I am in possession of a notary letter declaring that her birth mother entrusts her daughter to my care until she returns to Spain.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of woman: “The Social Welfare organization of the city of Asturias ruled that Adama must be expelled from the country; a ruling that drove thousands of inhabitants of Mires to unite and try to prevent the young girl’s deportation.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of a man: “Up till now we have collected 70,000 signatures from people against her deportation.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “We did our best to prevent the girl from having to leave.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of Woman on TV: “hade is five years old. He was two years old when his mother died, and he arrived in Spain from Nigeria, by boat. He was soon transferred to Asturias, to the municipality of Fresneda, by the Red-Cross and assigned to live with his uncle and his uncle’s fiancée. He has been there for three years now.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “Laura has renewed permission to keep Jade.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of Woman on TV: “Laura took care of the child, but the official guardianship was entrusted to the Social Welfare organization. They knew where he attended school, and last month without warning, they took him away right from the classroom.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Carlos Herrera: “Why did Social Welfare change its mind, where as two years ago it had approved Laura!?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “He had become fully adjusted to this environment: his home, school and his friends.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Carlos Herrera: “Why didn’t they consider the child’s stability and wellbeing?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “Three years of very poor treatment we endured from the superintendent’s office.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “I want to cry when I imagine that when I arrive my father will come and he will hurt me.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “I didn’t want this; her mother didn’t want this; and I would not have taken the child to Navarera.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “They came to our home to pick up the child and take her away to a childcare center.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Voice of Woman on TV: “According to Maria Louisa last month a letter was sent from the Social Welfare organization.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “Then they told me that if I don’t take her, they will remove her and transfer her to a childcare center.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “The child must be moved to a childcare center for the time being, but in order to avoid this, he could be temporarily placed in the care of a family introduced by the Red-Cross. The shock that the child receives will have a negative effect in the future because a five year old boy cannot understand this situation. It would have been better for him to stay at home. We haven’t even been able to access his case documents and we do not understand the reason for this.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “They must take special care of him; he is having a very hard time; and he needs a lot of attention.

Jade came to our home on the 20th October 2010. His uncle had brought him over. Back then his uncle was my fiancé. His mother had died, and there was no news of his father’s whereabouts, we didn’t know where he was. After his mother’s death, an aunt looked after him. His uncle did all he could to bring him to Spain legally, but wasn’t successful; so he was brought into Spain illegally by boat.

He arrived on a Sunday. I recall he was very restless and nervous; he couldn’t sleep properly at night and felt suffocated. He didn’t speak Spanish at all, and didn’t understand us. Soon after, he started getting fevers, in fact the very first day we had to take him to a health clinic. The doctor conducted all kinds of tests and took great care of him. He performed tests to preclude a range of possible illnesses.

Jade had very few clothes and whenever I took them for laundry or left them to be ironed, he would come and without saying a word, would take them away and hide them!

One day when I was watching a documentary on Morocco he said to me: “I was born there” and I answered “Yes” in approval. He would put his hands near Xavier’s, and say: “Are we brothers?” and Xavier would answer: “Yes” and he would then tell him: “Do you see the resemblance?” He was the center of attention at home; he is a child whose love settles quickly into one’s heart.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “Before Adama I had little responsibility. I have two adolescent daughters, but I lived freely. I used to go out and do what I wanted, until one day I met her father in a coffee shop, where he was selling CDs. We talked, and he told me that he had seven brothers and that two of them were five and six years old. He told me that in his country, if there was money saved for a child’s education, it would be used to send just the males and not the girls to school. I asked him how much the cost of sending a child to school was.

He changed the subject and said he needed to tell me something. I told him he should feel free to tell me anything he liked. He told me Adama is not his sister, but his daughter. I told him that is all the more reason to help the child. I will help you I said, since you intend to get married, and in this way you would obtain legal status here. Why don’t you bring your child over here where she can have a better life? According to immigration law the child wasn’t allowed to come, other than for vacations of up to three months. We undertook all the necessary tasks so that the child could come and stay. Finally, we got approval, made arrangements and we went to the airport to pick her up.

Her father told me at the time that his wife didn’t know about his daughter; that she didn’t know he had a child. I told him that this was unacceptable and I called his wife and told her everything; that the child was not her husband’s sister, but his daughter!

The doctor who examined her said that she should remain under treatment for six months, but in Senegal there are no resources available for this. So he said that he would write a letter advising all the stages of treatment that she should undergo, and until that is all satisfied, she has no right to leave Spain. From that moment, her immigration status became illegal, because her father had not completed all the administrative requirements.

One day we were preparing dinner together and the child was talking to her father, when suddenly her father lifted his hand, ready to strike her. At the time I was sitting in an arm chair, and seeing this I stood up and called out “No! Such behavior is not allowed in Spain; you don’t have any right; and I won’t allow you to beat your daughter”. From then on we were constantly fighting over this issue.

One weekend when she wasn’t with her father, she went to Ovido with my daughter - My daughter lives there. She came and said to me: “Maria Louisa, I will never return to my father”. I asked her why - Is it because he doesn’t feed you, or you don’t have any toys to play with…? And she said, “Worse, worse.” In my mind I could not imagine what she had experienced and what information she was hiding from me.

Then she said if I promised not to tell anyone, in particular her father (All this while she was crying), she would tell me. So I promised. But still she wasn’t able to tell me. Finally I brought a pencil and paper and told her to write about it. I keep that piece of paper with me even today. I told her to write it down and I promised her that her father won’t hear a word of it.

She wrote that her father does dirty things to her, he touches her! This was what she wrote! I was livid to the point of madness. I called her father and told him, “either you sign a paper ensuring that until her mother’s return you will never come for her, or I will file a complaint against you with the police”. Of course I wanted to file a complaint anyway, but I wanted first to ensure that the child wouldn’t be removed to a childcare center. It was then that they gave me temporary guardianship of the child until the immigration office decided what to do with her.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “My name is Adama. I am 11 years old. When I first came to Spain I was 6. I’ve been living here for five years now. I remember the first day I arrived. I was vomiting inside the car. My father… I almost didn’t know him and wanted to meet him; that’s why I came during my three month vacation. But he fell sick… I don’t know what kind of illness he had caught, but the doctor told me that I also should be under observation to be sure I hadn’t caught the disease from him. My father… well I had never imagined him being sick. On the phone he sounded very kind, he seemed like any other father, but when I came here, I saw in him, something else. I saw that he didn’t know how to behave appropriately with me.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pilar Casal, Jade’s Grandmother: “I am Pilar, Jade’s grandmother. When he was with us we were very happy; very happy, because he was a good boy. He was extraordinary actually,… kind, sweet, helping... I haven’t seen him for a year and I miss him a lot; such a lot.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Xavier Velasco, Jade’s Brother: “I am Xavier, Laura’s son, and Jade’s brother. I am studying forestry in Mires. Today, my life is very different; it has changed completely from the way it used to be. Before,…I don’t know… I was used to this place. I had never had a younger brother before, and when he arrived my life completely changed. I played with him every day. I taught him what to do at school. I helped him do his home work. And now, at home, I am bored.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “The three year time limit was coming to its end and we had to update his documents and turn them into a request for guardianship. It was then that I was called and told that I had 36 hours to deliver the child. When I asked them why, they told me that I didn’t qualify! I asked the judge how come I had qualified for the past three years, keeping a sick child without any help from state institutions, which never cared or asked how he was doing?!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pilar Casal, Jade’s Grandmother: “To tell you the truth, it hurts me a great deal. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren, but they live far away. He was living with me, like Xavier. He was so cute. He would hide behind the door and when I passed by, he would surprise me; jump out and run after me.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “I came out of the Social Welfare organization feeling totally powerless. They told me that the best thing to do was to find an attorney who specializes in family cases. I appealed for ‘exceptional circumstances’, but the judge of the 9th family court declined my request, since he thought that I was the child’s birth mother, whereas it was clearly indicated in the documents that I wasn’t his natural mother and that his mother had died.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pilar Casal, Jade’s Grandmother: “I was resting at home when suddenly the police came. I knew the officers, so I asked them what the matter was. They wanted to know if a foreign child was living with us. I answered yes, but he is at school right now. They told me that he is no longer at school. I said: “You mean he didn’t go to school?” and they said: “Yes, he did attend school, but he has been abducted.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “Outside at 12:45 the Police arrived and asked my mother to sign papers testifying of having been informed of the child’s abduction from the school.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pilar Casal, Jade’s Grandmother: “Why did they take him?!

“You have to sign”, they said. Not only had they stolen him, but I had to sign!? They said, “just sign it; nothing will happen!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “We are standing in front of Fersenada state school where Jade began his education. He passed the first and second grades here. He was now in third grade and on 7th of November, they took him away. Two police officers came, accompanied by two agents from Social Welfare, and they took him.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “The day they took him away was a terrible day, the 7th November. We were preparing for a local celebration, which was to take place the following day on the 8th. Earlier, the school supervisor came to me and said these exact words: “Anna, you should deliver Jade ”. And I told him: “Go and tell that to the school principal, that he can deliver Jade himself, because I will not do it.””

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “Her teacher told me that she had declined to deliver Jade and that she didn’t even want to be there to see him being taken away.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “Then the school principal came and said to me: “Anna, you should deliver the child.” I replied: “No. I am telling you the same thing I told them. Nowhere is it written that my duty is to deliver the child to them. That is not part of my responsibilities.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “The principal told me that he cannot refuse to deliver the child. He just can’t.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “In the end it was the principal himself who took his hand and as they were walking out, explained that two men had come for him and that he had to go with them since his mother couldn’t come pick him up.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “And they took him away with a police escort, like a criminal.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Anna: “I told them that I was absolutely against delivering the child because I saw that he was happy with Laura. She took good care of him and he was happy. For this reason I don’t want to participate in what I consider to be a set up.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “He entered the Red-Cross in tears… they didn’t allow me to see him.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “The first day at school wasn’t easy because I didn’t know anyone. I stood alone in one corner of the courtyard. A girl came over to talk to me, but I didn’t understand anything she said, so I stayed silent. In the classroom they would say that I was very intelligent, even though I didn’t understand much. But I managed to learn to say a few words, and it was mostly OK.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Emma Ferna’ndez, Adama’s Teacher at Forth Grade: “Well, at the beginning Adama was a difficult challenge for me because she spoke a totally different language. She learned very quickly though, and drew everyone’s attention towards her.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Angel Fombella, Adama’s Teacher at Sixth Grade: “If I had to use an adjective to describe the ordeal that Adama went through, considering the circumstances in which she came here, knowing a different language, different culture, I would describe her as a survivor. She is a person who will try everything to keep alive. I remember when she arrived at her first music lesson …, oh my god, that smile of hers, I remember it clearly; that smile that children and adults show when they don’t know what’s happening and so they wait eagerly to see what will come next; the type of smile that’s not a defense mechanism. With her smile she was trying to say: I will do anything you want; I will try my best. She was ready for anything.”

TIME CODE: 20:05_25:08

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “From the very beginning they were trying to take her away from me because her father had filed a complaint asking for the child to be transferred to a child care center. At that time, a court session was held and the judge gave a favorable verdict and the child was able to stay with me and not return to Senegal. Trinidad Gil said in the courtroom: “If the child is taken to a care center she would suffer a lot, but not indefinitely”. His words have been recorded by the court. They do not appear in the verdict, but they have been recorded. These are the words of the psychologist from the child care observation team. They asked her father why he was worried that I might want to have her under my care, and her father told them: “because I was waiting for her to become 18 years old so that I could exploit her as a prostitute.” From that time on I was under Trinidad Gil’s constant protection. Every time they called and they called me every six months to inform me of how she was doing. They never asked about her, and had I mistreated her they wouldn’t have known. It was never important to them. Their only aim was to take the child back to Senegal.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “I don’t know why, but those in charge had decided that I must return to Senegal. They just said that I must leave; I must go…and we never understood the reason why.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “The child would cry because she was afraid and didn’t want to return. Whenever there was talk of Senegal she would become so depressed that would have to take her to the emergency center. She gets anxiety attacks. I have all the medical reports. I presented all these reports to the court, too. And I explained to them that I had no choice, but to give her a tranquilizer at times.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “My father had gone mad. I have really no other word to describe his behavior. Maria Louisa only wanted for my wellbeing, but the immigration office didn’t care.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “They still haven’t offered me any explanation for their actions. I had an authorization from her birth mother to care for the child until the age she could attend university. On one hand, her father had signed the notary that conferred to me the guardianship of the child until her birth mother ever came for her; if of course she would ever be able to come some day! So why were they so determined to want to expel the child now for?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “No, no I want you to insist to the judge of the 9th family court, Judge Blasko…;he didn’t accept my request for ‘precautionary measures’ because he thought that I was the child’s natural mother. According to the law, the biological parents of the child can call for such measures only for two years, and since I had been caring for the child for three years, he refused my request - only on the basis of believing me to be the natural mother. Which case has the judge been reading? I want you to bring attention to this matter, because it is quite serious. This was a pretext, which they had made up in order to be able to take the child from me. They had planned it well.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pilar Casal, Jade’s Grandmother: “It is very sad. Almost a year has gone by and we can’t even talk about Jade He has no life anymore. He cannot live without that boy. They are hurting him very much, both him and the boy.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “I didn’t see him after the month of July. Another family seems to be taking care of him, temporarily, at the state’s expense. In 2012 the provincial authorities considered a 316,000 Euros budget for child-sponsored families. The only child in this province who lives with such a family is him. Other children who do not have any carer are sent to the childcare center. Why did ‘he’ go to another family?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Xavier Velasco, Jade’s Brother: “She feels utterly hopeless and I am trying to console her. I can’t do much. She has become overly sensitive. It’s quite natural. She gets easily excited and she misses him a lot.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Pilar Casal, Jade’s Grandmother: “I am worried for Laura. If she doesn’t get the child back… I am worried. I am afraid that she might do something. I imagine that if she sees those people fortuitously or meets them in the street, she might throw something at them! I worry for her. I worry that she might do something to herself.”

TIME CODE: 25:08_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Omar Garcia, Adama’s Former Coach: “When the timeline of the case was drawing to its end they started to rush the process. I think it was a dispute between Maria Louisa and the Social Welfare organization, a situation where they seemed to want to wind up the case quickly. They wanted to finalize it and so they hurried. And because of that we benefited.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “There was negative publicity for the Social Welfare organization. I draw your attention to the fact that we went to various state-level institutions where we explained that the conduct that was being adopted towards this minor was indecent.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “The psychologist said, “She goes to her uncle’s home because she desires to be with him”. And I answered: Since when does she want to be with her uncle? Because when I talked to them last night, they told me that she should stay with me! He told me: “Maria Louisa, it is done and over with; the child will go and you must take her yourself to Navara”. I said: “Look! It is true that you are the judge, you are the psychologist, and you are educated, and I am a simple janitor, but I will not deliver the child.” because everything was lawful, they couldn’t do anything.

They called Spain’s consulate and any place they could, but I had both the father’s and the mother’s authorization. What they did next was they lied to her birth mother in Senegal.

They told her that I didn’t have the financial means to keep her, that I couldn’t nurture her; and that she should come to Spain to pick up her child.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “They wanted to bring her mother over from Senegal, on a temporary authorization, to Spain, accompanied by a translator so that she could take the child back with her. The Social Welfare organization sought to return guardianship to the child’s natural mother so that this would negate any responsibility on their part, and they could return her to Senegal.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “It was a plan that they had made, because the moment the natural mother arrives in Spain, the residential status of the child becomes illegal due to the fact that her guardianship no longer belongs to me.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “They insisted and were determined and finally they succeeded in bringing my birth mother secretly to Spain.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “At first, we didn’t know why they had brought her over. They asked me to allow the child to see her mother. When we entered the building they then told me: “Now you are here in our department. Forget that the child is yours and you will never see her again!””

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “Who would have believed that a ten year old child could be removed from her mother’s care, without even allowing them to say goodbye to each other; a mother who had been watching over her child for four years, watching over her with all her senses? That morning, Chemi was also with me. Adama’s screams could be heard across the building. They had told her right there that she won’t be seeing Maria Louisa anymore and that she will return to Senegal with her birth mother.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “They put my attorney inside one room, and they took the child and her birth mother to another room. Adama later said to me that they told her she was not allowed to see me, but will go with her mother somewhere for eight days in order to get acquainted with her. Three people were waiting outside the room to say goodbye to her; they were Omar, Louisema and Jose, but none of them were allowed to. The child herself requested to speak with me and they allowed her one minute for that! “Maria Louisa, get me out of here. I don’t want to go with them”, she begged. From that moment on and for the next three days it felt like hell to all of us because we didn’t know where they had taken her.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “At our first meeting, the Red-Cross psychologist took hold of my hand and told me: “If you cry I will take you out! If you say anything forbidden, I will take you out! You have to tell Jade that you can no longer look after him!” I replied:” I cannot say such a thing and I cannot accept this at all, since I would have to be dead to be incapable of caring for him.”We entered the meeting room and he was leaning against a corner of the table. He wouldn’t look at us. At each and every meeting that we had from November 11th until the last meeting the following July, he never looked at our faces.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “When we entered he asked: “Does my father know what has happened to me?” Right now he is temporarily living with a family, a family that won’t care for him nor accept his permanent guardianship. Thus, what kind of a future awaits my son? Will he have a future at all or does it depend on whether someone accepts him, or that maybe he will have to spend the rest of his life in one of those centers. The child is in Limanes, a village nearby. My grandmother is from that same village. I will do everything necessary, anything, to have him back. I would, nevertheless, not kidnap him because I have another son, too!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Omar Garcia, Adama’s Former Coach: We met the people from the Social Welfare organization to see what solutions exist for Adama’s problem. It was then that they told us the only solution is for her to return to Senegal. It was not clear how much time she had left before needing to return to Senegal. We decided at that moment to share to the world, Adama’s plight through social networks such as Face-Book, Twitter, e-mail and T.V. networks. Then with the help of Adama’s sports coach we created a Website in order to collect signatures. We succeeded in collecting close to 180,000 signatures. The name of the website is www.chance.org.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “All of these problems prompted the immigration people to decide to close this case as quickly as possible. And fortunately, this haste resulted in errors on their part, which served to work to our benefit. They brought Adama’s mother from Senegal and tried to give her back her daughter’s guardianship. During her stay here she was constantly under their watchful eye so that we couldn’t contact her and explain to her all the other possibilities, which she could enjoy in Spain.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “The house I stayed in for three days… the first day they brought me here, they didn’t allow me to say goodbye to anyone. I don’t remember how long it was, but I remember that I felt helpless because I didn’t know anyone. All the windows had bars on them and they didn’t allow me to get in touch with anyone!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “They had brought her mother out on a visa. They had suppressed both the mother and the child’s freedoms, because at that time her status in Spain was legal. They took her to a house with barred windows in Gijon, and they didn’t allow her out.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “There was no towel or tooth brush in the bathroom. It was awful. I was imprisoned like a thief. You had to look out of the window through bars. You couldn’t leave the house on your own. When we went out to buy something a girl would follow us so that we wouldn’t escape, as if we were criminals.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “That young girl; all the troubles started because of that young girl!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Unknown Woman: Because of that young girl, because she was courageous and strong.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “That’s right. She is very strong. While the supervisors were distracted she found a phone and called Maria Louisa. She gave her a few descriptions; that she was in a house; and some other information that might help Maria Louisa find her.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “We went to the Doctor’s because they wanted to give me an injection. I looked at their computer and was able to read the address. Using the phone, which was in the living room, after my minder had left, I made a call and told them the address. Then I sensed someone coming so I hung up and erased the number.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “We arrived at the premises and pounded on the door. They seemed to have expected us! As soon as we hit the door, they replied: Yes, Adama is here; come in through the other door. We crossed over to another door and we saw her at the end of a corridor. Adama had no reaction, considering she had had no news of us for three days. She knew no one and so showed no reaction. She was scared.

We requested to talk to her mother, because her mother was not aware of her rights and we wanted our attorney to inform her of her rights, through a translator. They gave us permission to see her and go out.

We talked to her and explained two possible solutions. We told her that she could do what the immigration office wants her to do, meaning to return to Senegal with her child, or, since they have returned the child’s guardianship to her, they could both stay with us.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “And, well…, she decided to stay with us. It was a difficult decision for her, and when we informed the authorities of the decision, Adama’s mother was forced to state her wishes in front of the Social Welfare organization’s officials. After that, we took the child away from that house.

Then we found out that in an attempt to take them to the airport the child had grabbed hold of railings on a staircase and they couldn’t detach her!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “Then, when we walked out I started screaming and since there were passers-by around, they quickly took me back inside. Inside the building I grabbed a chair and stuck to it! It wasn’t very efficient, but it resulted in wasting three plane tickets for that day.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “If you don’t want to leave, just keep on screaming, and don’t get inside the plane, because they have no right to take you by force” - I often said that to her.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “She told me if you don’t want to go, just scream and don’t get on the plane because they can’t take you by force.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luisma Solana, Director of Quarry: “In a gap between the house door and the parked vehicle Adama sat and kept her distance from everyone. The only people she knew were Nacho and I. We seemed like two strangers to her though so she was suspicious. Her eyes weren’t clear, she was fearful, however, once we reached the shopping center and she saw Maria Louisa she was relieved. They were all there waiting for her and when they met, her facial expression changed and she felt more convinced that everything would be OK.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “The health secretary declared shortly thereafter, that children under six years of age are not permitted to be transferred to childcare centers.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “… to move from one family to another.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “They are transferred from one family to another, and then my son whose two year period with a family will expire.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa’s son: “Yes, she means here, right here!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “He moves to another family.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “He has to move to another one?”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Maria Louisa, Adama’s Foster Mother: “And after that to another, because it is important to them?!”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “Or else it has been clearly put in their dossier the details of whom will accept his permanent guardianship. Because I have a feeling that, since Pack Vacations, Jade is in touch with a family who is on the waiting list to receive a child from the childcare center.

Look here; in the doctor’s office, when he came here he was very restless, very! And he would talk all the time… I couldn’t understand what he said, but he talked constantly. I just told him to: “listen!” One day when he got into the car he said to me: “listen” with a different pronunciation. This was the first Spanish word he had ever pronounced. I asked Xavier: “Do you want us to continue our struggle? Are you determined?” and he said: “Mom, we will fight to the end.”

In the early days when I received the first court letter I said to my son, Xavier: “Xavier, I worry, I fear that they might take him away from us! And he replied: “Mother, life without Jade would be meaningless.””

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama Mboji Mendy: “They act like they feel superior to you, like they have never been a child before. They treat you with contempt; they don’t listen to you! It is not right for children to be treated that way because children need love and affection and someone who to care for them rather than oppressed every day.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Emma Ferna’ndez, Adama’s Teacher at Forth Grade:“But those weeks, I don’t remember how long it took till…”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Angel Fombella, Adama’s Teacher at Sixth Grade:

“One week…? Ten days? If I’m right it was 10 to 12 days, 12 days we experienced a feeling of powerlessness, I mean… well. Wait a minute… why shouldn’t she bring a school year to its end? What kind of justice is that? How can you explain this law to a child? How could she understand that a piece of paper says whether a person’s residential status is legal or not legal? Even then, she showed her strength! Because… you had to be very attentive to see that she had actually declined in her studies… Had the school year lasted three more months she would definitely have become the number one student. It would have been like always. Take a look at this semester’s grades: 10,10, 9,7,10,10,10 and 10 like always.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Emma Ferna’ndez, Adama’s Teacher at Forth Grade: Yes like always.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Angel Fombella, Adama’s Teacher at Sixth Grade:“In biology 10,9,9,10,9,9,10,8,10,8,9,10,9,10,10”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Emma Ferna’ndez, Adama’s Teacher at Forth Grade: Yes, yes, yes, yes.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Luis Angel Fombella, Adama’s Teacher at Sixth Grade: This is how Adama is!”

TIME CODE: 40:00_46:48

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama’s mother: “I knew that you were in a good place… that you were doing well. But I missed you a lot and I wanted to come and be with you at once. It is painful, very painful to be away from your daughter for five years. It is very painful for a mother to be in Senegal while her daughter is in Spain. But I knew that you were well-placed and well-cared for. In Senegal they told me that I have to come for you because Maria Louisa could no longer take care of you, and if I didn’t come you would be taken to a childcare center. Before such a thing happened I was willing to come and take you back with me, because I am the one who gave birth to you and I couldn’t stand them sending you to a childcare center not knowing what will happen to your future. But I am very grateful to Maria Louisa for all the efforts she made to provide you with a worthy living. She raised you and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade’s Foster Mother: “I want to file a complaint because when a mother doesn’t want her child, the moment she gives birth she relinquishes her legal right to the child. A number of children are transferred right away to the childcare centers; others are transferred to families. Why does such an inequality exist? Why should my child be included in the family supervision program, which receives 316,000 Euros from the local government? There are thousands of families who would volunteer to participate in this program. In this program, families with high aptitudes like attorneys, engineers, diplomats, etc. are chosen. Why? Why should my son have been placed in this program?

On 7th of November I requested an appointment with all political parties. The first person who welcomed me was Maria Louisa Calsedo, the left party deputy in congress. When I met her she was very kind towards me, and said that she understood my feelings completely because her nephew was in the same situation.

I want to tell all the people in charge of children in the central government of Asturias that all of them, the court officials, the psychologist team, and the Red-Cross, they have all formed a bloc, and I will not give up, I won’t stop till I get my son back.”

What a disgrace. Child abductors, that’s what you are, child thieves. You have gathered them all to take them away. It is shameful. When my attorney asked if they know which home my child has been taken to, he answered: No, he cannot keep track of all the children and all the homes. My son is the only child in the entire Asturias province who has been sent to a family instead of a child care center.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama’s coach: “She is a hard working girl, very, very disciplined and eager to learn. She is in better physical shape than most of her peers. And it is an honor to have her among us because in this way she helps her teammates improve, too.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama’s coach: “It’s true that she is very young and has many years ahead of her, but if she trains in this same direction she will definitely be able to play basketball at high levels in Spain - of course if she enjoys it and is willing to work.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama’s coach: “Well, with the limited possibilities that we have here in Asturias she will definitely be a candidate who could leave and play elsewhere at higher levels.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Adama’s coach: “And enjoy it, enjoy and get the most out of this opportunity that has been afforded her. The day Adama was released again I told her that this a new opportunity given to her, like she has been born anew. She has to use this chance. For me it is like Adama has turned one year old again.”

SOUNDBITE [Spanish] Laura Allongo Casal, Jade ’s Foster Mother: “The family group psychologist calls me and tells me that she wants to make me prepared. I ask her what this preparation consists of. She says that I should tell my son, without crying, that his situation will be fine; that I should give him a phone number for the time he turns 18 years old.

Well if they know that when my son is 18 years old he will need to contact me, why are they torturing him now?! Why? When they admit that I am important to him, why should he have to wait until he turns 18!?

I will not rest one moment of my life. I will mess up the whole world in order to get Jade back, because I and my family mean everything to him. Since 7th of November my son’s future has been left hanging in the air, and I won’t allow that to continue.”

   

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