Jewish World Review Jan. 3, 2005/ 22 Teves, 5765
When love matters more than blood
From the moment my wife and I decided to adopt a child, we planned on an international adoption. Adopting a child from another country is more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive than a domestic adoption, but we didn't want to take any chances. We had heard too many heart-wrenching stories of adoptive parents forcibly separated from their child years later not because they had done anything wrong, but because the biological mother had changed her mind, or the biological father had decided to assert his paternity, and an American court had elevated the claim of blood over the claim of love.
It had happened in Illinois, when 4-year-old Danny Warburton ("Baby Richard") was pried, sobbing, from the only parents he had ever known and given to the stranger who happened to have sired him. It had happened in Michigan, when a screaming and terrified Jessica DeBoer was taken from her mother and father and sent to a couple in Iowa because judges had concluded that the biology involved in conceiving Jessica counted for more than the love and sacrifice involved in raising her. We wanted to be sure such a horror-show never happened to our adopted child.
The way it is happening now in Florida to Evan Parker Scott.
Evan was born in Jacksonville to Amanda Hopkins on May 5, 2001. On hand to witness the blessed event were Dawn and Gene Scott, the childless couple with whom Hopkins had agreed to place the baby for adoption. Two days later, the Scotts took Evan home. They have been his adoring parents ever since.
"We never really knew just how . . . blown away we would be by the love we feel for this very special child," Dawn Scott would later write. "We can't even describe it in words. . . . Evan completes us."
Now that completed little family is being torn apart. By order of Florida Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace III, Evan is about to undergo something most small children experience only in nightmares he is going to be sent away from his parents forever.
At 3, of course, Evan is too young to be aware of the circumstances swirling around him. He has no idea that his biological mother was an unmarried 21-year-old who had moved to Jacksonville to get away from Stephen White Jr., the unstable 33-year-old who had impregnated her. He doesn't know that White "has a history of drug use and violent behavior," as Judge Wallace wrote in his Dec. 16 order, or that he was convicted of criminal assault for beating Amanda early in her pregnancy a beating severe enough to send her to the hospital.
Evan has no idea that Hopkins willingly placed him with the Scotts for adoption because she knew they could give him a better life than she could. He doesn't understand that White was notified of the pending adoption before he was born, but waited months before taking the legal steps necessary to establish his paternity. He has no sense of the tortuous legal odyssey that ensued when a judge nonetheless allowed White to block the Scotts' adoption and demand custody for himself an odyssey that has involved nine judges, endless trips to court, and a blizzard of motions, cross-motions, affidavits, and orders.
All this little boy really knows is that Dawn and Gene Scott are his Mama and his Daddy and always have been. They are his rock the one true thing he has always known. Now Evan's rock is about to crumble.
The Scotts have been terminated as his guardians and removed as parties to the case. Hopkins, who freely placed Evan with them for adoption but now says she wants him back, is to have primary custody. The biological father who never married the mother or supported her when she was pregnant, and who has a criminal history and what even the court calls "a temper that he has difficulty controlling" is to enjoy liberal visitation rights. Soon, probably this week, Evan is to begin the transition from his home in Florida to the Illinois naval base where his birth mother now lives. Once he is in her custody, the Scotts don't know if they will ever see him again.
This is what comes of attaching more importance to DNA than to years of devoted parenting. Only a legal system that believes ties of blood are the truest expression of parenthood could order a boy stripped of the parents who have raised and cherished him from birth. The universe as Evan Parker Scott has known it is about to implode. He is going to believe that his Mama and Daddy sent him away. What did he ever do to deserve that? And who among us would wish the confusion and heartbreak he will suffer on any child we loved?
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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.
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