WOMAN WANTED TO GIVE UP CHILD, COUNSELOR SAYS

Relates to:
Date: 1993-03-16

DENIES BULLYING DAVIS COUPLE INTO ADOPTION
Ted Bell
SACRAMENTO BEE

A Children's Home Society counselor testified Monday in the case of a young Davis couple suing to regain custody of their daughter that the mother had wanted the child put up for adoption.

Counselor Dee Heszler testified in the 10th day of the Woodland trial that the mother, Lea Darrah, had contacted her on April 21, 1991, after being referred to the Children's Home Society by the Davis Crisis Pregnancy Center.

Darrah, who was 19 at the time of the birth, has sued the Children's Home Society of California and the Davis Crisis Pregnancy Center, charging breach of contract due to fraud and undue influence. Darrah and her husband, Matthew, say they were pressured into giving up their baby.

The baby was turned over to an adopting couple 13 days after Lea Darrah contacted the private pregnancy counseling center.

Heszler's cross-examination by the Darrahs' attorney, Brenda Russo, began on Monday. She testified earlier in the day that:

* Darrah, then Lea Tyler, told her that she had given birth to her daughter Michelle alone and unattended on a bathroom floor in her University of California, Davis, dormitory, that she wanted the child put up for adoption, and that she did not want her Sacramento parents to know she had been pregnant.

* The couple, who were not yet married, were never interested in raising their child. Heszler said she repeated offers to let the young couple wait in their decision and encouraged them to talk to Lea's parents.

But she said all offers were rejected by Lea Darrah, who had set a deadline of two weeks to have the child picked up by a prospective adopting couple that the birth parents had chosen from a Children's Home Society photo album.

* She scrupulously followed every state Department of Social Services regulation in counseling, informing and helping the Darrahs. She said she could never have browbeaten, threatened, bullied and demeaned the two young lovers.

The Darrahs have produced affidavits from another couple who contend they were bullied by a Children's Home Society counselor in an attempt to get custody of their baby and from a social worker who said she dropped interest in a prospective counselor's job after hearing heavy-pressure recruiting of birth mothers was required.

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