'It's the best moment of my life'

Relates to:
Date: 2005-03-25

Beaming mother holds Baby Tamia in emotional reunion

Lisa Donovan
The Chicago Sun-Times

The touchdown of Delta Flight 715 Thursday night at O'Hare Airport marked the end of a journey for an anguished family who simply wanted their baby -- Baby Tamia -- home safely. Baby, mother and grandmother were reunited in the airport's Terminal 3, as community leaders, social workers and the media looked on.

In the end, a Chicago grandmother won her battle to have her grandchild returned to her daughter from a Utah couple who a judge ruled illegally adopted the child.

"It's the best moment of my life," said Carmen McDonald, describing what it felt like to see her child for the first time since she gave her up to the Utah-based A Cherished Child Adoption Agency.

The 20-year-old mother grinned as she held her 6-month-old daughter, dressed in pink from head to toe -- including her familiar headband.

'She looks healthy'

The three-month quest to reunite Tamia with her mother began when the Chicago woman, admittedly bipolar and suffering from postpartum depression, gave up her newborn daughter for adoption. McDonald and her mother, Maria McDonald, later alleged the adoption agency had manipulated her into giving up control of her baby.

Wednesday, Cook County Judge Michael Murphy ordered Tamia released from the control of the Utah agency, putting an end to the battle for Tamia. And Thursday, the Utah juvenile court system approved releasing the baby to Illinois child services officials.

Asked what she would tell other young mothers who felt they had no choice but adoption, an adamant Carmen McDonald said: "Don't do it. You won't forgive yourself."

Carmen's mother praised God. "I was fairly confident this day would come. I just wasn't sure it would come this quickly," Maria McDonald said.

As family members introduced Tamia to the media, their pastor, Bishop Larry D. Trotter, held the baby. But then Tamia started to cry and was handed to mom. Immediately, she stopped crying, and began to coo and gurgle in mom's arms.

"She looks good. She looks healthy, and that was my concern," Maria McDonald said, expressing regret that her granddaughter had to be the one to raise awareness about problem adoptions in Utah, and the hope that her family's chronicle could help change policy governing such adoptions.

'I feel so blessed'

Last week, Tamia's prospective parents, Stephen Kusaba and Lenna Habbeshaw, were arrested at their Utah home on drug charges. But the Cook County judge said that played no role in his decision ordering Tamia returned. Instead, he said, violations of the federal Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children rendered the adoption invalid.

In the car ride to the airport, Tamia's mother and grandmother said they were nervous and anxious to see the child.

"I just feel so blessed. I have never felt that way before. I feel so good, like everything in my past doesn't even matter. The only thing that matters is the future," Carmen McDonald said as the family made their way from their Riverdale home to the airport for the plane's 9:22 p.m. arrival.

Though DCFS officials will take control of Tamia, Maria McDonald is expected to gain custody, with Carmen McDonald moving back home and DCFS officials conducting regular home visits.

The happy family left the airport clutching Tamia tightly, to take her to spend her first night at home.

Contributing: Mary Mitchell

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