The FBI announced this morning that two abducted Apex twins were found safe Friday in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
The twins' birth mother, Allison Quets, 49, was arrested on a federal charge of international parental kidnapping and North Carolina charges of second-degree kidnapping.
Agents think Quets took the twins out of the country last week in the midst of a court-sanctioned visitation that she had with them.
The adoptive parents, Denise and Kevin Needham, were expected to travel to Canada from their Apex home to be reunited with the 17-month old twins.
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The twins were found along with Quets at an undisclosed location in Ottawa at 8:30 p.m. Friday, according to the FBI. Quets had given them up for adoption but was trying to regain custody.
The discovery of the twins ended a nearly week-long search that had stretched from Durham to Canada.
The twins, Holly and Tyler, were last seen by their adoptive parents Dec. 22 when Quets picked them up for a weekend visitation that had been approved by a Florida court. Quets lived in Orlando but kept an apartment in Durham so that she could see the twins.
The FBI investigation found that Quets crossed into Canada Dec. 23 with the infants. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police assisted the FBI in the search.
Why Quets went to Canada remains unclear. An FBI wanted poster mentioned that she was known to travel back and forth to Canada, but no further explanation was offered.
Quets turned in her resignation Dec. 22 at the Orlando, Fla., campus of Lockheed Martin, where she worked as a systems engineer in the defense department contractor's internal information technology department, a company spokeswoman said Friday.
The Needhams have not spoken publicly in recent days.
"We're scared to death," Denise Needham said Tuesday. "I just want them home safely."
Quets' sister Gail has said Allison Quets conceived the twins through in-vitro fertilization but became weak during her pregnancy from hyperemesis, a severe form of nausea and vomiting.
Quets gave up her children for adoption a month after they were born, Gail Quets said, but added that her sister soon regretted the decision and was appealing the adoption in Florida.
No money changed hands in the adoption, said Gail Quets, who noted that her sister has spent her life savings in court since then.
During the search for the twins, the case gained national attention, particularly from advocates on adoption issues. Both critics and supporters see her situation as catapulting the issue of birth mothers' rights into the spotlight.
"This story is the tipping point," said Celeste Billhartz, an Ohio-based singer who was adopted as a child and has taken up the cause of mothers who give up their children for adoption.
Quets reached out to online communities of birth mothers, who generally prefer to be called natural mothers, in the month after the twins' birth and immediately after she gave them up for adoption.
"She was very distraught," said Sandy Young, a Texas birth mother active with the organization "Adoption: Legalized Lies." Young was working the group's support hot line in August 2005 when she spoke with a distraught Quets about the then-recent adoption. Young helped Quets get in touch with attorneys but hadn't heard anything more about Quets until this week.
Online message boards for the larger adoption community, including birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees who often hold opposite views, have followed every development in the case. Although some have rallied behind Quets, others worry about the broader repercussions of her actions on adoption issues.
Pat Lubarsky is president of the American Adoption Congress, a support organization that claims to be impartial. "It's a tragedy," Lubarsky said, referring to the kidnapping. "Somebody should have seen this coming."
Young expressed concern for the children.
"She's put herself at risk, she's put her babies in jeopardy, and she's done her cause harm," Young said.
But Joe Soll, a New York psychotherapist and outspoken critic of adoption, refused to condemn Quets.
"I don't blame her," he said. "I applaud her. ... I hope she gets away with it."
Soll was adopted and has never been able to locate his birth mother.
"Babies are not property. Babies are human beings that belong with their original mothers," he said.
An open adoption, in which the birth mother has future contact with her children, tends to be difficult to manage, Lubarsky said. The adoption of Holly and Tyler was open, Gail Quets said.
Lubarsky, who has been reunited with the son she gave up for adoption 48 years ago, said that an adoption can be emotional for everyone involved.
"Some people can do it," she said. "Some people, as you can see, cannot do it."
The kidnapping has cast a light on some of the differences between birth mothers and adoptive parents, Billhartz said.
Billhartz's own mother was told in the 1930s that her baby was sick, and she thought her daughter was dead until the two reconnected in the 1970s.
Billhartz said observers are bound to take sides.
"They've got to ask the question, 'Why did she do this?,' " Billhartz said of Quets. In contrast, "there are going to be a lot of people that think, 'How dare she do that, she gave them up.' "