Clinton family traveling to Spain to reunite with granddaughter while mom awaits trial in Czech Republic
Two weeks ago, Christina Walters had no idea the location of her four-year-old niece, Rachel Hardy. Walters’ sister, Pam Hardy, had left for a doctor’s appointment and never returned home.
Clinton resident Tom Hardy, Pam’s father and Rachel’s grandfather, was contacted on July 1 by police in the Czech Republic and told Pam had been arrested for drug smuggling, but the whereabouts of Rachel were unknown. The Hardy family was frantic.
“It’s real hard,” said Tom’s wife, Madonna.
With the help of CNN and a private investigator, the family learned Rachel Hardy was in Malaga, Spain. The little girl was dropped off at a non-governmental office with no identification of any kind. The Spanish government placed Rachel in foster care, and Walters has been working with the U.S. Consulate and Spain to bring Rachel home.
On Monday, Walters received full custody of Rachel from a Michigan judge. This will make it easier for her to bring Rachel home, but there is still the journey to a foreign country to be navigated.
For a while the family was told it could take up to a year before Rachel could come back to the U.S., because of all the requirements set by the Spanish government. Walters is now hopeful she will be able to travel to Spain the first week of August.
“They decided on Friday a home visit wasn’t necessary,” said Walters of the biggest hurdle in Rachel’s return.
While she is pleased the requirement of the home visit has been waived, Walters is still concerned about the cost of travel to Europe. Her family has been working to raise money quickly to cover cost for plane tickets, lodging and food during her stay in Malaga.
“We really need to raise about $10,000 because Malaga is a resort area and this is its busiest season,” Walters said. “We’re looking at being there for a week.”
For a single mother of two boys, there is no room in the family budget for a trip to Europe.
Because she works as a nanny, even getting time off is a challenge, although Walters is very appreciative of how understanding her employers have been about the situation.
“I’ve never traveled internationally,” she said. “This whole situation has been overwhelming.”
During her interaction with the Spanish government, Walters has not been able to talk with Rachel. An official from the State Department did observe Rachel, and told the family she seemed quiet and withdrawn.
“Even though she was found two Mondays ago, Spain is not allowing contact,” said Walters. “They are treating her as a citizen of Spain.”
Once she arrives in Malaga, Walters will have an interview with officials to show she is fit to take custody of Rachel. After the Spanish government is satisfied with Walters, she will be able to fly home immediately with Rachel.
Walters has cared for Rachel for much of her life already, because of Pam Hardy’s personal issues. “When her mom couldn’t, I was there,” Walters said.
The family has no idea why Rachel was in Spain or who was caring for her. All they know is Pam went to Europe to reconnect with a Nigerian man she met on the Internet who may or may not be Rachel’s father. Not long after, Pam was arrested for drug smuggling when the drugs she swallowed burst in her system and she had to be hospitalized.
“This is why you don’t get tangled up with people from Nigeria online,” Walters said. “We can’t assume anything.”
Last week grandparents, Tom and Madonna Hardy, had a garage sale at their home in Clinton. On Saturday, July 27, the family hosted a spaghetti supper at the Tecumseh Assembly of God. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the community enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and sundae bar, with special activities including a silent auction, face painting, music, demonstrations, and balloons.
All donations were made to the Bring Rachel Home Fund at United Bank and Trust for travel purposes. Donations can also be made to the fund at any UBT branch office.