Abandoned daughter found in foster care in US
A dad is fighting to get his daughter out of foster care in the United States and bring her to New Zealand to start a new life.
Paul Flores hasn't seen his 3-year-old daughter, Naru, since his ex-partner, now in jail on drugs charges, agreed he could have full custody but asked to take the child on a week-long holiday two years ago. She never came back.
The US man had been caring for the girl for three months in Missouri after his ex walked out on the family. After she disappeared with Naru, Flores thought he would never see his daughter again.
"I couldn't find her, the police couldn't find her. She was just gone."
Flores, 24, eventually married his new girlfriend, Kama, 22, and moved from Missouri to her hometown of Gisborne, where they are raising 7-month-old son Fable.
Five months ago, Flores was surprised to receive a phone call from child protection authorities in Missouri saying they had his daughter. She had been abandoned and was being fostered by strangers. She now lives with Flores' mother.
"It's good that she's with my Mom. At least we know where she is," he said.
But Flores wants his daughter back. "Our long-term goal is to get Naru and bring her back here."
It will be a long process as Flores was listed on Naru's birth certificate but was not married to her mother and his paternity has never been tested.
He said he could not just take his daughter. "Fathers don't have rights in the USA."
Instead, Flores and his wife must apply for custody of Naru, something he expected would take six months of legal wrangling.
They would have to return to Missouri and be monitored by child services for a year, after which Kama hoped to adopt Naru so she could become a Kiwi citizen and the family could return to New Zealand, Flores said.
The long-term move to the US would be- costly as Flores had to leave his IT job.
He has been promised his old job back and could support the family once he reached the US, but was struggling to pay for flights, he said.
The struggle prompted Kama to list her left buttock for auction on Trade Me last month. The winner could choose the design of a tattoo on it, but the auction had not met its reserve and the couple had decided against relisting.
However, more than $1500 had been donated on Kama's website - lovefornaru.blogspot.co.nz - and the couple hope to travel to the US at the end of next month.