- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Supreme Court cleared the way yesterday for a Chinese couple to be reunited with the daughter they placed in foster care with an American family nearly eight years ago.

The court overturned a decision by a Memphis judge who had taken away the parental rights of Shaoqiang and Qin Luo He, ruling that they had abandoned the child. That decision attracted widespread publicity and was criticized as ethnically biased.

Their daughter, Anna Mae He, has been living with Jerry and Louise Baker in suburban Memphis since she was 3 weeks old. Anna Mae turns 8 later this month.

The Hes had argued that they sent Anna Mae to live with the Bakers only temporarily because of their legal and financial hardships.

“This evidence overwhelmingly shows that the parents’ voluntary relinquishment of custody was entered as a temporary measure to provide health insurance for [Anna Mae] with the full intent that custody would be returned,” the court said yesterday.

Mr. He said he and his wife will move as quickly as possible to get their daughter back.

“When she wakes up each morning, she’ll wake up and see her mother and daddy and her brother and sister, and we’ll all have the same faces she has,” he said.

A message left yesterday with an attorney for the Bakers was not returned.

Anna Mae was born in January 1999 shortly after her father, a student at the University of Memphis, lost a scholarship and student stipend over a sexual-assault charge for which he ultimately was acquitted.

The Bakers refused to give Anna Mae up, and they have been trying to adopt her over her parents’ objections.

The Bakers have said Anna Mae has no connection to her biological parents, and contend she would have a better life in the United States than in China.

The Hes have said they would return to China, but could not leave Anna Mae behind. But Mr. He said yesterday they are now unsure whether they will move back to China.

In 2004, Chancery Court Judge Robert Childers of Memphis took away the Hes’ parental rights, ruling that they had abandoned Anna Mae.

Lawyers with the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Memphis, Loyola University in Chicago and Vanderbilt University in Nashville had argued that Judge Childers was wrong to compare the parenting skills of the Bakers and the Hes or to consider whether Anna Mae would have a better life in suburban America than in China.

The Supreme Court yesterday sent the case back to the Shelby County Juvenile Court, where the custody fight began, and ordered it to resolve the dispute “with a view toward reunification” of Anna Mae with her biological parents.

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