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.

It was an adoption story that captured national attention. After raising 3 1/2-year-old Evan since birth, Dawn and Gene Scott were recently ordered to return the boy to his biological mother. It was the worst day of their lives having to hand over the precious little boy they'd done everything for since he was born. They videotaped their final moments together and their very emotional goodbye. All three cry as they prepare Evan for leaving.

As Evan's biological mother, Amanda, leaves with Evan, Dawn screams at the reporters, "I can say what I want to say, now he's gone! I'm not going to be silenced anymore. That little boy has been traumatized and hurt and nobody cares!"One week later, Dawn and Gene sit down to share their story.

"My husband and I had always talked about having a family," says Dawn. When it didn't happen naturally, they explored adoption. Dawn learned that one of her co-workers had a daughter that was considering placing her baby for adoption.

"It was basically put in our hands," says Gene. "We couldn't not take advantage of a situation like this."

The birth mother, Amanda, was 21 years old. "She had been in, from what she told us, a very abusive relationship with Steven, the birth father," says Dawn. Amanda chose Dawn and Gene to raise her baby. "We were just overjoyed and we thought, 'This is a dream come true.'"

They met with an adoption attorney. "The first thing that I said was, 'No matter what it takes, make sure every I is dotted and every T is crossed,'" says Dawn. Amanda believed the biological father was in jail. Dawn and Gene's attorney sent a consent form and other legal paperwork to his last known address, but never got a response. "And according to the adoption statutes at the time, if a man doesn't come forward and claim paternity on a child, his consent is not required for the adoption," says Dawn. So everyone believed it would be smooth sailing.
When Evan was born, Dawn was there as Amanda's labor coach. "Beautiful, beautiful baby," she remembers. "I was the first one to hold the baby. We hugged and she said, 'I did this for you. Here's your son.' What she requested was that it would be an open adoption, that she would be able to get pictures, have visits once in a while, and we were completely agreeable with that. We couldn't believe it. We've got a baby. We're a family."

"We were just happy parents and with not a care in the world," says Gene.

A few months later, Dawn and Gene heard from the biological grandfather, who was requesting a DNA test. Then they learned the adoption was never finalized. "When Steve Jr., the biological father, made his intentions known after Evan was already in our family, that's when the litigation began," explains Dawn. "Because the biological father did not give his consent and a trial court judge ruled early on in the litigation that his consent was required for the adoption."

Eventually, Evan was handed back and forth for two-week long visitations between the Scotts in Florida and Steven in New Hampshire.

Dawn and Gene say they saw a change in Evan. "The whole summer, he was thoroughly and completely traumatized," says Dawn. "He came back a different child. He was having a lot of difficulty with potty
training. He regressed back to wanting a pacifier. He became abusive to our pets. It was incredibly, horribly traumatic for him. He is so angry and so hurt, he either completely shuts down or he lashes out in anger, biting, hitting."


When it didn't seem like it could get any worse, Amanda changed her mind. "Amanda was in our corner the whole way, and then all of a sudden she just changed at the drop of a hat," says Gene.

"It was almost like, 'Raise my child for nearly four years and when I'm ready to take him back, I'll take him back. I've got my life together now, I want to be Mama now.' It feels like a betrayal," says Dawn. The courts eventually gave Amanda visitation rights too. "We didn't believe that a judge in his right mind would take a child out of a stable, lifelong home and put him in a temporary situation," she says.

After a long struggle, the courts awarded full custody to Amanda. "The day that we had to let him go, that was the worst day of my life," says Dawn.

Gene breaks down. "I put his jacket and a blanket in the car ... and I reached in and I kissed him and I told him, 'Evan, you are always in my heart.' And I told him to be a good boy. And then they drove off," he cries.

"I'm thinking this is worse than a death because there is no closure," Dawn explains. "We still have hope he's going to come back. We can't give up on him. We're exhausting every avenue
that's available. We've got two appeals on file right now ... The house is so quiet, it's like our house died ... My biggest fear is that this is going to damage him and his trust in other people forever. He trusted us to protect him, that's what parents do. And we couldn't do it ... I worry that Evan is stuffing his emotions deep down in some place. It switches like a light switch from a raging, angry little boy to compliant and happy and it's alarming. I'm so scared for Evan, that he's never going to recover from this and he's never going to be a healthy adult."