HOUSTON -- US State Department officials learned that seven American children had been abandoned at a Nigerian orphanage but waited more than a week to check on the youths, who were suffering from malnutrition, malaria, and typhoid, a newspaper reported yesterday.
A person whom the State Department would identify only as a "local contact" in Nigeria told the consulate in Lagos about the children July 30, The Dallas Morning News reported.
A consular official saw the children for the first time Aug. 7, two days after House majority leader Tom DeLay and US Senator John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, intervened at the request of a missionary who found them Aug. 4.
State Department spokeswoman Kelly Shannon said she did not know why it took so long for a consular official to personally check the Nigerian government's assurances that the three boys and four girls were safe and well cared for.
The children, ages 8 to 16, were returned to Houston last week and are now in foster homes.
The lawyer for their adoptive mother, Mercury Liggins, 47, said the children were abandoned by Liggins's brother-in-law while she was in Iraq as a contract food-service employee for US troops.
Liggins told a judge she could not get a visa to enter Nigeria, the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday. Liggins faces a custody hearing next Thursday.