Adopted family values
December 27, 2004 10:43 AM   Subscribe

The Evan Parker Scott case bears more than a passing resemblance to the Baby Richard case of several years ago. Once more, a toddler who barely knows what's going on is being confiscated by the parent who gave him up in the first place. Is the domestic adoption system broken?
posted by u.n. owen (13 comments total)
I find the Baby Richard site pretty disturbing, incidentally: the sad photo of the four year old being taken, screaming, from the only parents he ever knew, used under the title "a four year old comes home."

Not to mention the blatant profiteering effort. "A reality book"!
posted by u.n. owen at 10:44 AM on December 27, 2004

One or two isolated messed-up cases does not a broken system make. And I certainly don't envy a judge who is forced to decide between a foster family who has raised a child for three years, and the biological father who may be legally entitled to the child because he didn't know about it until it was too late to stop the adoption.

That's one of those cases where there just aren't any winners.
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:00 AM on December 27, 2004

But note: he didn't choose between either of those two valid choices. He chose to give the baby to his biological mother, who'd signed all the adoption papers and gone along with the whole process and who is responsible for not having told the father in the first place.

He had two valid options and chose a third, completely fucking stupid one.
posted by u.n. owen at 11:03 AM on December 27, 2004

Well, either way, it sounds like he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Yes, the RIGHT thing to do is leave the kid with its foster family. But if the adoption was invalid from the beginning, as a judge he doesn't really have any choice but to give the child back to its biological parents.

This one would make the judge look bad no matter what he did. "Activist judge defies the law and denies woman the right to her own child!"
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2004

The system works well as long as all the proper steps are taken. On the face of it, it looks like the Scott case was potentially doomed from the outset when the biological father was left out of the loop. Where I live, the law is very clear as to the birth father's rights. If he is known, he must be contacted and allowed to either contest or sign-off on the adoption within 30 days of notification.

I have to say, though, that the judge absolutely blew this one.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:17 AM on December 27, 2004

Reading the article, the bio dad was abusive, and the mom doesn't want him having physical custody. Apparently up until 4 months ago she was siding with the adoptive family, but switched because it was looking like chances were good that physical custody would go to biodad if she didn't.

posted by konolia at 12:00 PM on December 27, 2004

wow that's really fubared.
posted by dabitch at 12:13 PM on December 27, 2004

Hopkins and White never married and she did not learn she was pregnant until she sought medical treatment for injuries suffered when she was assaulted in the Maine residence they shared, court documents show.

Okaaay. Guy beats up GF. GF doesn't even realize she's PG until being treated for assault injuries. Realizes kid would be better off elsewhere.
But The Law says it wasn't fair that *Girfriend-Beater* didn't get chance at kid, wrenches 3-yr.-old from loving family that's raised him, gives liberal visitation rights to Girlfriend Beater.
I like to be in Amer-i-ca.

One of the first of these kinds of awful custody battles was the "Baby Jessica" case in the early 90s, adoptive family the deBoers v. birth parents the Schmidts.
The birth mother first listed her fiancee as the dad. Then it turned out the real BioFather, Schmidt, who only married her later, had other kids by other women whom he evidently didn't support.
Yeah, those two selfish asshats were real winners. (Although compared to the BioParents in the story above, they sound like Parents of the Year.)

As in the case above, the courts in their wisdom decreed that the ability to have sex and pop out a kid trumped the ability to be a mature adult.

And I still remember the news footage of that kid being dragged away screaming.

And then we get into the courts that think bigoted grandparents are preferrable to the same-sex partners who've been raising the kids.
posted by NorthernLite at 12:17 PM on December 27, 2004

Hopkins and White never married and she did not learn she was pregnant until she sought medical treatment for injuries suffered when she was assaulted in the Maine residence they shared, court documents show.

Hmmm... that doesn't exactly say that it was the boyfriend who beat her up - just that it occurred in the shared residence. It might be seen as implied, though...

I wish the article were more clear on that. It would affect my opinion on the justice or lack of same of this whole mess.
posted by John Smallberries at 1:01 PM on December 27, 2004

Ok, so then give the kid to the adoptive parents, if the dad - who is the ONLY parent who has a claim - isn't fit. But this was a dumb choice allllll around.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:22 PM on December 27, 2004

He had two valid options and chose a third, completely fucking stupid one.

I agree. The bio mother legally gave up all rights when she agreed to the adoption. I don't understand why the judge didn't leave the kid with the foster parents and grant the bio dad visitation.

Of course we're all discussing this based on one journalist's watered-down interpretation of events. And you know how accurate that can be.
posted by zanni at 1:50 PM on December 27, 2004

In case anyone's interested, this is the editorial I wrote that'll be appearing later this week about this case.

Since Evan Parker Scott was an infant, he has been the pawn in a three-way custody battle that has now taken him away from the only home he’s ever known.

When Evan was born, his biological mother, Amanda Hopkins, gave him up for adoption to Dawn and Gene Scott, a couple living in Jacksonville. But Evan’s biological father, Stephen A. White Jr., wasn’t informed about Hopkins’ pregnancy until shortly before Evan was born. When he found out that Evan had been given up, he began an intense custody battle.

White had a good case. According to the law, an adoption isn’t valid if either parent wishes to keep the baby. Hopkins decided that she didn’t want White to keep Evan, so she jumped into the custody fray.

In the end, the court ordered that Evan, now three years old, be relocated from Jacksonville to Illinois to live with the same biological mother who gave him up in the first place.

The case bears more than a passing resemblance to Illinois’ famous “Baby Richard” case, in which another toddler was given back to his biological parents after a raging custody battle. Photos of Baby Richard being passed, screaming, from his adoptive parents to his biological ones, are a sad reminder that a child being removed from his or her home doesn’t feel love, only fear.

The adoption shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Hopkins should have told White about her pregnancy from the beginning so they could arrive at a mutual decision about their child’s future.

White had a right to sue for his child. Hopkins, though, not only signed off on the adoption papers, she also neglected to inform White about the child and caused the battle in the first place.

It is unconscionable to return a child to a parent who only wanted custody after she found out her ex did as well. Children aren’t a game of keep-away.

When the biblical Solomon was faced with a similar problem, he told each of the two possible mothers his solution: he’d cut the baby in half so they could share it.

One of the women agreed, as she cared more about winning than the child’s life. But the other woman said she would rather give the baby up than for it to die, and it was that woman that Solomon decided was the true mother: the one who put the child’s needs ahead of her own desires.

It’s hard to believe that Hopkins really had her baby’s best interest in mind when she entered the custody battle, prolonging it for years and making the boy’s departure more traumatic.

Giving Evan back to the one person who had no right to him was a giant mistake on the part of the judge. Hopkins may have given birth to Evan, but Solomon would agree: she’s no true mother.
posted by u.n. owen at 2:35 PM on December 27, 2004

UN Owen, did you do any new reporting for that editorial? You make it seem like the biomom was merely being capricious and vindictive, ignoring the strong suggestion that the biodad was abusive and that she had good reasons for her actions.
posted by insideout at 8:57 PM on December 27, 2004

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