Tamia case resolved, but it's not a wrap for state yet

Relates to:
Date: 2005-03-25

The Chicago Sun-Times

Contested adoptions are heart-wrenching for biological and adoptive parents, and no one wants to see a child endure the trauma of being torn from one set of parents and given to another. So it's no surprise that the legal battle between Carmen McDonald, the birth mother, Maria McDonald, the grandmother, and A Cherished Child Adoption Agency of Utah was emotionally draining for everyone involved.

Although the arrest of the adoptive parents in a drug bust added a bizarre twist to the courtroom battle, this case has always been about whether the Utah adoption agency followed the law when it placed Tamia with the Utah family. In the end, Cook County Judge Michael Murphy made his decision based on the rule of law, and ordered that the 6-month-old girl known as Baby Tamia be returned to Illinois.

After nearly three months of court hearings, Murphy found that the Cherished Child agency, licensed in Utah and allowed to do business in Illinois through the placement of ads and referrals, had violated the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

Outside of the adoption field, few people are aware there is such a compact. Its enforcement in Illinois is the responsibility of an administrator with the state Department of Children and Family Services. The compact outlines the steps that must take place before a child is taken out of state for adoption. The Cherished Child agency failed to take those steps when it placed the child out of state without getting approval from Illinois.

Evidence presented in Tamia's case suggests that this isn't an isolated incident. As Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell has pointed out, at least three other women in the Chicago area have accused Utah adoption agencies of engaging in tactics that would be barred by the compact.

But without financial resources, these women were unable to protest the adoptions, and their children -- who were born in Illinois and should have been protected by Illinois laws -- are now caught up in a system that may be tainted by fraud.

Investigations are already under way in Utah by the Utah attorney general to determine whether the Cherished Child agency has a pattern of violating the compact. It is critical that the Illinois attorney general's office also investigate this Utah adoption agency, as well as other out-of-state adoption organizations doing business in this state, to find out whether these agencies are operating legally in Illinois. It's good that state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz is sponsoring a bill in the Illinois General Assembly to address unethical adoption practices.

The Baby Tamia case exposed the ugly side of adoption. But it also gives Illinois a chance to clean up a process that should be as sacred as birth itself.

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