NOTE: Posting dates are irrelevant here, so ignore them. This blog is designed to be read from the top down.
'A Cherished Child' - what a delightful name for an adoption agency! Wouldn't it make one assume its endeavors were aimed at bettering the lives of children entrusted to it?
As a number of Illinois famililies have learned, most painfully, agencies like 'A Cherished Child' in Utah appear far more interested in collecting the brokering fees than in the welfare of the babies they place. Ethics are cast to the four winds, as are laws designed to protect all parties to adoption.
Baby Tamia's family was one of those families.
Carmen McDonald, suffering from post-partum depression and bipolar disorder, felt overwhelmed, and in a weak moment called an 800 number she found for 'A Cherished Child' to explore the possibility of placing her child for adoption.
The next thing she knew, she and her three-month-old baby daughter were flown from her home in Illinois to Utah, where she was housed and 'counseled' in a hotel room. Within hours, she was asked to sign a relinquishment document, with just an agency representative and a hotel clerk as witnesses. When she attempted to back out, she was threatened with being left without return airfare for Baby Tamia and her, which would have left them stranded - and with no money - in Utah. Frightened and feeling alone (she hadn't informed her mother of her contact with A Cherished Child), she caved in and signed.
What resulted was a total breakdown for Carmen. When her mother learned what had been done to her, she immediately set out to rally the support of Illinois officials, her church, and others who could help her bring Baby Tamia back to Illinois.
The frosting on the cake was when Baby Tamia's prospective adoptive parents, with whom Tamia already had been placed, were arrested on drug charges, putting Baby Tamia in the care of Child Protective Services.
Other victimized mothersThe Baby Tamia case was far from unique. Because of all the media attention it garnered, it brought the nation's attention to the horrendous predator activities being carried out all over the United States by agencies operating out of Utah.
Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times, has written a series of excellent columns on the Baby Tamia case and on the victimization of poor (and especially black) mothers by Utah predators. She gives examples of two more Illinois mothers victimized by Utah adoption brokers:
(Summary) Eula McNulty, a 23-year-old Chicago mother of a seven-month-old, suffering from depression, saw a TV commercial for 'Adoption Center of Choice' and called the toll-free number. She was sent an e-ticket to fly to Utah, where she was assured the baby's father would be contacted. He wasn't. What's more, when McNulty left Utah after surrendering her baby, she was given an envelope with $1300 in it (ostensibly for 'expenses'). She felt terrible - as though she had sold her baby.
Quoting Mary Mitchell from a column entitled 'Parents ensnared':
McNulty is not the only poor, desperate woman who went to Utah. Another woman who is too ashamed to let her name be used took her young twins and an infant to that state. She was given $1,300 in cash, supposedly to cover her travel and meal expenses. The children's father is fighting to get them back.
Prospective adoptive parents rescue Chicago motherThe Baby Tamia case brought to light an account of another Chicago mother, also brought to Utah by A Cherished Child, who tried to back out of relinquishing her baby. The following is an excerpt from "Tamia case an instance of déjà vu?", subtitled 'Utah parents say they had a similar adoption horror', published in the March 27, 2005, issue of The Salt Lake Tribune:
The allegations brought back memories for the Mintzes, who say they experienced the "seamy side of adoption" firsthand."Baby Warehouse"
When their birth mother backed out, minutes before she was scheduled to deliver via Cesarean section, the Mintzes say A Cherished Child's director Ruby Johnston flew into rage.
"She started screaming at [her] and saying, 'You can't do this. You made a deal.' She was intimidating this girl right as she was about to have this baby," said Steve Mintz, who works as a surgeon at Salt Lake Regional.
Carolyn Mintz said, "I was devastated that we weren't bringing home a baby. But we weren't about to take a child from someone who desperately wanted her."
Steve Mintz says Johnston apologized profusely, claiming this had never happened before, but "the OB-GYN looked at her and said, 'What about that Vietnamese girl last month?' "
That comment triggered an "aha" moment for the couple, who decided to cut all ties with the agency.
In McDonald's lawsuit, she claims Johnston threatened to strand her in Salt Lake City if she did not surrender her daughter. The Mintzes wonder if that happened to the birth mother they met, who also was from Chicago. They were stunned to see her weeks later, featured with her infant daughter in a Salt Lake City TV news segment about overflowing homeless shelters.
"I don't even know if Ruby [Johnston] gave her bus fare to get back home," said Steve Mintz. "We gave her a little money and set her up with social services."
Says Lowery in an article published on the NBC5.com website on 2/17/05:In Illinois, the adoption has sparked a lawsuit by McDonald, seeking Tamia's return, and accusations that Utah adoption agencies prey on vulnerable, low-income African American women. In Utah, the case has renewed debate over whether the scant oversight provided by state and federal laws has turned the state into a "baby warehouse."The Utah adoption debate: Phillip Lowry, an Orem attorney who has filed lawsuits for fathers and another Chicago grandmother attacking Utah adoptions, says Utah's laws attract parents and birth mothers from other states."Utah has come to be known as a baby warehouse," where mothers and adoptive parents can "minimize legal hassles," Lowry said. "There are no guards at the door going in or out."Under current law, private adoption contracts between individuals must go before a judge. But licensed adoption agencies need only two witnesses present at the time the mother signs over custody of the child.
"They are inducing natural mothers to come to Utah with babies or to give birth. Adoption agencies are setting up shop, putting up ads in Yellow Pages all across the country with 800 numbers."
He claims that Utah's adoption laws are attracting ever more new agencies - thirteen licensed just in recent years."Utah Laws Not Likely to Change - Mormon-controlled Legislature"
Proposals to amend Utah adoption laws have fallen flat before the predominantly Mormon Legislature. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints runs 12 of the state's 37 licensed adoption agencies. A bill before the 2005 Legislature would mandate offering psychological counseling to all birth mothers. That move, or requiring a judge to sign off on all relinquishments, might prevent lawsuits like the one filed by the McDonalds, Lowry said. (Utah adoption attorney Phillip Lowry)
Fathers Lose their Children to Utah PredatorsIllinois father's rights trampled - judge orders his child returned
Quoting from the NBC5.com article, 'Mothers Say They Felt Pressured':
In another Illinois case, a hotel employee also witnessed a young Springfield mother give up her child, but that adoption was overturned. Brooks reported that an Illinois judge ordered a baby returned to the biological father after finding that the director of "A Cherished Child" encouraged the mother to refuse to name the father of the baby on the birth certificate, leave the state of Illinois for the purpose of interfering with the father's parental rights and avoid the 72-hour waiting period for taking a consent as required by Illinois law. "The agencies are running amok with the law," Lowry said. "They are taking advantage of it."Other Father Court Cases
Buddy Pruitt, of Birmingham, AL, lost his child through 'Adoption Center of Choice':
Frank Osborne, of Stanley, North Carolina, has been in a pitched battle with 'Adoption Center of Choice' to recover the son he lost to adoption without his consent. Read about it in the 'N. Carolina Father Sues':
Victor Johnson, of Arizona. An excerpt from Johnson's complaint, from the court record:
The complaint stated that the relevant adoption statutes of Utah are Utah Code Ann., § 78-30-4.11 et seq. It was alleged that the latter statute, as applied or on its face, without due process of law deprived Plaintiff of his fundamental right to maintain a parent-child relationship in that the statute does not require the mother to produce the name of a possible father. It was averred that a due process violation occurred also because once "actual notice of the father's right is given to the adoption agency there is no duty on the adoption agency as agent for the adoptive parents to disclose information or [provide] notice of the proceedings to the father." In connection with this alleged violation of Plaintiff's rights, the complaint cites the "Kidnapping Act 28 U.S.C. § 1738." App. at 21-22.
Johnson lost his case, which means he lost his daughter. The agency involved? Adoption Center of Choice.
Still Other Fathers
Pound Pup Legacy has a listing of fathers from throughout the country who are battling agencies to parent their own children. Scroll down the list and you will find other dads whose children were swept away by Utah's predator agencies - or LDS branches in other states.
Bottom line: By Utah's not requiring the naming of fathers, notifying them, or coordinating "putative father registries" with other states, they deliberately make it extremely difficult and costly for fathers to attempt to assert rights in Utah that would be legally theirs in their own states. Predator agencies are thus licensed to literally steal children from their fathers in any state. Even married fathers have no protection. All the predators have to do is lure the mother to Utah and coach her to refuse to name the father.