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Testimony: 11-Year-Old Called Biological Parents ‘The Strangers’

October 20, 1993

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ Jenny Yang called her biological parents ″the strangers″ and seemed frightened before court-ordered overnight visits with them, teachers and counselors testified Tuesday in the girl’s custody trial.

The 11-year-old ″expressed fear, anxiety and terror″ during counseling sessions at school each Friday, said Carole Monsma, who was one of her counselors at Eastern Elementary School.

Jenny’s biological parents, Long Han Hong and Phan Hue Ong, gave legal custody of her to another couple when she was an infant and have been fighting since 1985 to get her back.

Jenny filed a lawsuit to stay with Mike Seng Yang and Tuyet Trieu, who have raised her since she was 4 months old.

She is asking Circuit Judge Robert Benson to decide what is in her best interests.

The sixth-grader said in the lawsuit that the Hongs verbally and physically abused her during 24-hour weekly visits that started on Fridays.

Her second-grade teacher, Janice Highhouse, testified that Jenny told her the Hongs once threatened to hit her with a shoe because she vomited, then forced her to sleep on the floor.

″Jenny called them ’the strangers,‴ Highhouse said.

The Hongs denied the allegations.

Monsma said Jenny felt a ″profound sense of abandonment″ by the Hongs and would ask her counselors why a parent would give away a child.

She wanted to know ″Why, when they insist on seeing her, are they unkind to her?″ said Dennis Howse, who currently counsels Jenny at Eastern.

″I think she exhibited what I would call rage about this whole thing,″ he said. ″In her mind it was unforgivable.″

Earlier Tuesday, Jenny’s custodial mother, Tuyet Trieu, testified she was the second person in the Vietnamese community to whom Hong offered his newborn daughter in 1982.

When she asked Hong why he wanted to give the baby away, she said he complained that the child cried too much. She said his wife supported the decision.

Trieu said that at first her husband refused to take the baby and tried to convince the Hongs to keep her because he believed it was wrong for another couple to give their child away.

″Later, he feel sorry for baby, and he take her,″ she said.

About a month after the Yangs took Jenny in, the couples signed a legal custody agreement with the understanding that Trieu and Yang would eventually adopt her, Yang said.

Yang testified the relationship with the Hongs began to sour after the Hongs moved to California in 1983 and asked him to sponsor a relative who wanted to come to the United States. When he refused, he said, they asked for Jenny back. The Hongs spent about two years in California, returning in 1985 to fight for custody.

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