Adoption Controversy: Dawn and Gene

Adoption Controversy: Dawn and Gene
It's an adoptive parent's worst nightmare — being forced to hand over a child raised since birth to the biological parents.
"I want to ask you how you're doing, but I guess that's obvious," Dr. Phil tells Dawn and Gene, who are both very emotional.

"We're not giving up hope because there's still a chance. And that's what's keeping us going. That's why we're here ... so we can try to bring this little boy back home," says Gene.

Dr. Phil tells them to use this opportunity to raise awareness on whatever they think is important for people to know and understand about their situation.

Dawn and Gene have no contact with Evan at all. "We're dead to Evan," says Dawn.

"As far as the law is concerned," adds Gene. "They were leaving that up to the biological parents and/or the expert psychological help that they were supposed to be receiving for Evan. We had e-mailed the biological mother and asked her if we could call and she pretty much said no, the specialist she had seen says he doesn't advise it."
Even Evan's biological grandmother thinks he would be better off with the Scotts. "I was just as flabbergasted as Dawn and Gene were when Amanda changed her mind," says Rosemary. "She just feels like I am siding with the Scotts and I'm really not. I truly believe that Evan is going to be better off in the long run with Dawn and Gene. I am not siding against my blood, I am siding for my blood, which is Evan."

Dr. Phil brings up the fact that Dawn and Gene never got consent from the biological father. "Didn't the lawyers tell you at that time that unless he waived his parental rights and consented to this adoptive placement, that the entire proceeding could be in jeopardy?"

"That's not what we were told," says Dawn. "We were told by our adoption attorney at the time that he hasn't come forward, he hasn't claimed paternity for the child, he was given notice, properly, he hasn't fulfilled the five requirements. His consent is not required for this adoption."
But a year later his paternity was established by the court. Dr. Phil reads the judge's opinion of their situation: "'Regardless of the reason for the failed adoption, where the natural parents are not unfit, the law since time immemorial has been that the government, even when acting through the judicial branch, has no right to keep a child from his or her natural parents. For this reason, when the Scotts failed adoption petition was dismissed nearly three years ago, the Scotts lost any hope they may have had to be considered on equal footing in this paternity custody case with Evan's natural parents.' What do you say to that and how do you overcome that?"

"We never expected that we could be on equal footing with the biological parents," says Dawn. "There's an issue about the best interest of the child and what possible detriment could happen to the child if he's removed from his placement. And that's the bar that has to be reached in our case and we weren't allowed to present evidence to that fact."

"The judge goes on to say that this is difficult but that children are resilient ... and in the eyes of the law, that you are dead to him now. You can't even participate in any custody proceedings, correct?"

"Well, the thing is we have an appeal on file that addresses our standing to be part in a custody hearing, but in the meantime the judge has removed him. Temporarily," says Dawn."Does the judge say he's removed him temporarily or does he say he's removed him and you guys are out of it?" asks Dr. Phil.

"The judge has, in his ruling, said that 'Even though this is a temporary move, even if you prevail on appeal, I'm still going to put him with a biological parent,'" explains Dawn.

"Who are you fighting here?" Dr. Phil wants to know.

"We're fighting both of them now," says Gene, explaining that both Evan's biological parents are unified and fighting for him. "From the man who beat her and she didn't want anything to do with, she didn't want Evan to have anything to do with, now she's siding with him, saying he's changed."

Dr. Phil brings up the fact that Amanda is claiming that one of the conditions of the adoption was that if there was ever a problem with the adoption, that they'd return Evan to her. Though the court recognizes that, Dawn and Gene disagree.
Dr. Phil introduces Stan Jordan, a member of the Florida House of Representatives and an adoptive father himself, who agrees with Dawn and Gene that removing Evan from the only parents he's ever known is emotional abuse. He's filed a complaint with Gov. Jeb Bush. "I sincerely believe that this child will be significantly damaged if [this situation] is not corrected," says Stan.

"I guess it seems to me that the court is being inconsistent," says Dr. Phil, acknowledging that Dawn and Gene had custody of Evan for almost four years. "The position may have been wrong, but if that's the position they took, it doesn't seem like the child should have to pay the price."

Amy M. Pellman is the Legal Director for the Alliance for Children. "What adoptive parents need to know is they need to find an attorney who not only is knowledgeable on the laws where the child is born, but also an attorney who is knowledgeable on the type of adoption they are seeking, whether or not that be domestic, international or foster care. Get as much information as you can and make sure that you have an expert," says Amy.

"I wanted Amy to talk about this because you guys don't want to scare parents off from adopting a child, but you do have to cross the Ts and dot the Is," says Dr. Phil.
"If there was a compromised position, where you could be in Evan's life across time, would you do that?" Dr. Phil asks them. "At this point, you want your son back," he acknowledges. "You absolutely, no kidding, want your son back and believe that it is the best thing for him."

Dawn and Gene agree.

"Would you work with the biological parents to come up with some compromise where you could still be a cooperative, not a competitive, but a cooperative factor in Evan's life?"

"Absolutely," says Dawn.

"I think at some point parents have to take a fiduciary position and put the child's interests above everyone else's," says Dr. Phil. He has a message to Evan's biological parents: "Put this young man's interests above all else. And I will agree to sit down with everybody as a mediator, as a broker of peace here, to try to come up with a way for Evan to prevail. And I'm not taking sides, except Evan's side."

He turns back to Dawn and Gene: "And if there's something I can do to sit down with the biological parents and with you guys and bring some resolution, some harmony to this, then I volunteer to do that."