Baby Tamia adoption agency banned from state until 2008

Relates to:
Date: 2005-08-24

Jonathan Lipman
Daily Southtown

The Utah adoption agency that broke interstate law by rushing the adoption of Harvey infant Baby Tamia has been barred from doing business in Illinois for three years.

The injunction was part of a settlement agreement that A Cherished Child adoption agency and its director, Ruby Johnston, reached Tuesday with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office and Tamia's family.

It prevents the company, Johnston or anyone working on their behalf from "engaging in any activities relating to adoptions" from March 1, 2005 -- the month Judge Michael Murphy ruled against the company -- until March 1, 2008.

The agency admits no wrongdoing in the settlement and maintains any violations of adoption laws were unintentional.

Attorneys wrangled for more than an hour behind closed doors Tuesday over whether the settlement deal would be made public. While copies of the injunction were released, other terms of the settlement were not. The McDonalds sought $100,000 and attorney costs in their original lawsuit.

"I'm happy that all parties agreed there was an injustice done," said Maria McDonald, Tamia's grandmother and legal guardian since the baby returned to Illinois. "And I'm happy that it's over."

Assistant Attorney General Barbara Greenspan said she wanted the injunction public because families needed to know about the case.

"We don't want anyone else to go through this," Greenspan said.

A Cherished Child attorney Bruce Wall said he could not comment, citing the settlement's confidentiality agreement.

Tamia's mother, Carmen McDonald of Harvey, and grandmother, Maria McDonald of Chicago's Riverdale community, first sued to get Tamia Hemphill back in January, when the baby was 3 months old.

Tamia was returned to Maria McDonald in March when Murphy ruled A Cherished Child broke Illinois and Utah law by rushing Carmen McDonald through the interstate adoption process and violating notification rules.

The McDonalds alleged the agency bought McDonald a plane ticket, flew her to Utah, had her sign away her parental rights in a motel room and flew her back within 24 hours.

Maria McDonald rallied local clergy and politicians to her cause, and earlier this month joined Gov. Rod Blagojevich in signing into law measures requiring stricter licensing of adoption companies and banning for-profit adoptions.

Maria McDonald said Tuesday she hopes to stay active in the cause of adoption reform.

"My daughter was very young and immature. A lot of times, young people cannot come to the people they should trust for information, so they seek information from other parties," Maria McDonald said. "You hope they receive the right information, but Carmen didn't."

Department of Children and Family Services director Bryan Samuels said in a news release that Tamia "unfortunately became the poster child for adoption abuse in Illinois" but was also a catalyst for adoption reform in the state.

Carmen McDonald, who has struggled before and since the court case with mental illness, said she was tired of battling and glad her daughter was home with family.

"It was long, hard and frustrating," she said. "Tamia's fine. She's fat, and active and exactly what I would want her to be."

Jonathan Lipman may be reached at jlipman@dailysouthtown.com or (312) 782-1286.

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