Baby Tamia baptized

Relates to:
Date: 2005-03-31

Bishop Trotter named godfather

Courtney Greve
The Harvey and Markham Star

With her hands clasped in prayer, Carmen McDonald gazed at her 6-month-old daughter and mouthed the words, "Hey, pretty girl."

The young mother's eyes were fixed on Baby Tamia, in spite of a jubilant standing-room-only crowd at Sweet Holy Spirit Church and the frenzied click of cameras.

Tamia Hemphill -- who was returned to her family Thursday after a custody battle with an adoption agency -- was baptized on Easter Sunday by her new godfather, Bishop Larry Trotter.

"(God), you gave her to us, we give her back to you," he said, cradling Tamia and blessing her forehead. "Dispatch the guardian angels to watch over her. Don't let harm or danger come into her life."

Tamia's mother and grandmother, Maria McDonald, chose Trotter and his wife, Celeste, to be the baby's godparents because the pastor of the church, 8621 S. Chicago Ave., was instrumental in bringing Tamia back to Chicago.

"I reached out for help ... to a whole list of people, and I could not find any answers," Maria McDonald said. "When I reached out to Bishop Trotter, he wanted to meet with me personally ... he believed me and he joined into this fight."

"I truly believe that God had his hands in the midst of this from the very beginning," she said.

Maria McDonald, who pushed the legal battle on her daughter's behalf, said she is not opposed to adoption, but the process should not take advantage of "young, desperate mothers."

"Systems need to be put in place to protect those people," she said.

Maria McDonald's attorney, Robert Fioretti, said he will continue to work to "take the profit motive out of the adoption process" by pushing for stricter regulations of adoption agencies and their advertisements.

Trotter urged the congregation at Sweet Holy Spirit to "give liberally and lovingly" to Sunday's collection, which will be donated to the McDonalds for their legal fees.

On Christmas Eve, three months of legal wrangling began to bring Tamia home from Utah.

The McDonalds say Carmen was suffering from post-partum depression when a Utah-based adoption agency coerced her into hastily giving up the baby.

A Cook County judge ordered Tamia returned March 23, ruling that A Cherished Child broke Illinois and Utah laws by rushing the adoption process and failing to notify authorities in either state.

Illinois child welfare authorities placed the baby with Maria in her home in Chicago's Riverdale community. Carmen must get counseling and submit to monitoring before regaining custody of her daughter.

"It's going to be a struggle," Maria McDonald said Sunday. "Carmen has some issues she has to stay on top of. I didn't want to be one of those mother-grandmothers, but I didn't get to pick that. God said this was so, so it is."

Maria McDonald said the first few days with Tamia were spent getting to know each other. Tamia, for example, likes the sound of her grandmother's voice.

After the church service, Maria McDonald said her family planned to gather at her home to celebrate Tamia's homecoming and christening.

"We're going to just be together as a family and do what we do best -- eat, watch funny movies and laugh," she said.

Maria's uncle, Joe Spears, attended the service with Bernice Closure. The pair from Chicago's Austin community carried two fluffy dolls for Tamia.

"She's a blessed child to be back home and because her baptism is on Easter," Spears said.

Closure added: "We're celebrating two lives -- Jesus' and Tamia's."

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