Jessica and Adam Davis were excited when they learned they were successful contenders to become adoptive parents.
The couple, already parents to four of their own, believed that adopting an orphan in a difficult situation would be their way of “making something good happen in a difficult world,” CNN reports.
So when the European Adoption Consultant adoption agency told them about Namata, or Mata, allegedly uneducated, starving, and neglected, the Davises couldn’t wait to take in their new daughter.
However, after one year of welcoming the now 7-year-old into their home, the Davises learned the tragic truth about their adopted daughter.
Jessica had a gut feeling about the adoption agency that led to a darker discovery. While they had initially told the Davises that Mata’s mother “neglected her and couldn’t afford to feed her,” as the girl’s English improved, she spoke the highest praises of her mother and how they did everything together.
Then, when Mata had the opportunity to Skype with the mother she believed gave her up in August of 2016, she and Jessica were both seeking answers.
Mata’s birth mother beamed at her daughter from her computer in Uganda. However, by the end of their conversation, Mata’s excitement turned to sadness. She told Jessica that her, “mom was tricked,” into giving her up. Jessica’s suspicions were confirmed, as she realized that instead of saving Mata, she had unknowingly “participated in taking a child from a loving family.”
Therefore, Jessica and Adam understood they had only one option: Send Mata back to her birth mother.
CNN began an investigation into this apparent child trafficking scheme. Their investigation discovered that many families were taken advantage of:
[C]hildren are being taken from their homes in Uganda on the promise of better schooling, placed into orphanages even though they aren’t orphans, and sold for as much as $15,000 each to unsuspecting American families.
Furthermore, because there is no word for “adoption” in the most prevalent language spoken in Uganda, many mothers are allured by the opportunity for education for their children and, sign away their parental rights seemingly willingly.
Keren Riley of Reunite, the woman who organized the Skype session between Mata and her birth mother, explained that these traffickers prey on vulnerable women. She said that they:
“Know when somebody has lost a husband in a tragic way and is vulnerable and not coping — and then they get flagged.”
That’s exactly what happened with Mata and her birth mother. She explained to a Ugandan family court that after she tragically lost her husband, she was “grief-stricken” and heard about a way to get her daughter a good education. In a sworn testimony she said:
“I had not realized that I had gone through a process to take away my parental rights completely. I had all along thought and understood that the child was going to be educated and returned back to me.”
Once Jessica learned the truth about her adopted daughter, she set about trying to figure out the best way to send Mata back home.
Upon contacting the U.S. Department of States, she said they told her, “You can just keep her if you want,” to which she retorted, “I didn’t purchase her at Walmart.”
Riley helped the Davises send Mata home. After the astronomical costs of adoption, flights, and other expenses, Mata and Adam were finally on their way back to Uganda.
Mata’s reunion with her mother was beautiful, Adam recalled. He said it was like the “biblical parable of the Prodigal son.”
However, child trafficking is still a prevalent issue because of the creation of a market. CNN has learned that many families have been taken advantage of this way.
The EAC headquarters, located in Ohio, is now abandoned after the State Department shut down the agency in December. They said that the EAC:
“[F]ailed to adequately supervise its providers in foreign countries to ensure” that they didn’t engage in the “sale, abduction, exploitation or trafficking of children.”
Even though she flourished in her American home, Mata is thrilled to have returned to Uganda. Her mother, who has been granted back her full parental rights, echoed her sentiments, saying:
“I’m very happy and very grateful.”
To see a portion of Mata’s journey, watch the clip below for CNN’s coverage.