Baby Tamia back home with mother

Relates to:
Date: 2005-03-25

William Lee
Daily Southtown

Ecstatic reunion at O'Hare ends three months of anguish in adoption dispute

Carmen McDonald "almost ran on the plane" Thursday night as she waited to be reunited with her six-month-old daughter Tamia.

McDonald, a former Harvey woman who now lives with her mother in Chicago's Riverdale community, finally got to hug and kiss her daughter after a three-month-long custody battle.

Baby Tamia has been at the center of a custody dispute since she was given up for adoption in Utah in December.

On Thursday, state welfare officials and clergy from the South Side arrived at O'Hare International Airport with the little girl in tow.

Bishop Larry Trotter, of Sweet Holy Spirit Church on the South Side, was one of the clergymen who returned the girl from Utah.

"(Carmen) was just ecstatic. She almost ran on the plane, knocked the police out of the way. It's been that kind of day," he said.

Tamia's grandmother, Maria McDonald, called the reunion part of "God's plan."

"It couldn't have happened at a better time -- Holy Week. This is perfect," she said.

Tamia will be baptized Easter Sunday at Sweet Holy Spirit.

For now, though, Carmen and Maria McDonald plan to spend time with Tamia.

Tamia's custody battle began after Carmen McDonald returned from Utah. McDonald said A Cherished Child adoption agency threatened to leave her stranded in Utah if she didn't go through with the adoption.

McDonald had this advice for other mothers who are feeling forced into adoption.

"Don't do it, or you won't forgive yourself. If you're scared, you're not going to do what's right with the baby. Go to somebody that loves you, and they'll embrace you with the baby. Everybody loves babies."

Maria McDonald said that "when this issue first came up, I was feeling like, 'What am I?' I am one person with one voice, and I was fearful that I may never see my granddaughter again.

"As God would have it, I got the most attention ... all the way to the governor's office. I hated (that) this happens to Tamia, but we don't get to pick our plights."

"If we can just stop these types of people from coming into Illinois, taking our children out of Illinois and putting them in different states, I've done my job," she said.

The family's attorneys plan to go back to court next month to bar A Cherished Child agency from doing business in Illinois.

Attorneys also will seek to have Carmen McDonald restored as Tamia's permanent guardian within three months.

The child will remain in custody of the grandmother until Carmen petitions to have the child returned to her, officials said.

Tamia's return was ordered Wednesday by Cook County Presiding Judge Michael Murphy, who said Utah-based adoption agency A Cherished Child illegally rushed the adoption and failed to notify authorities in Illinois and Utah.

Tamia has been in custody of Utah child-welfare authorities since last week, when her would-be adoptive parents were arrested on drug possession charges.

After Murphy's ruling Wednesday, the Utah judge overseeing Tamia's situation in that state set a deadline of noon Thursday for any last-minute objections. Nothing was filed and agents from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services were allowed to take custody of Tamia Thursday afternoon, spokeswoman Diane Jackson said.

DCFS placed Tamia in Maria McDonald's custody but will retain some authority over her case. Carmen McDonald must get counseling and the home will be monitored before permanent custody is decided, officials said.

The McDonalds battled for three months to get Tamia back, struggling to raise money for their cause at first and winning the support of people such as Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the end.

McDonald's attorneys said A Cherished Child coerced her into giving up Tamia when the agency bought her a ticket, flew her to Utah, had her sign away her parental rights in a motel room and flew her back within 24 hours.

In Utah, Carmen McDonald was running a 102-degree fever, suffering severe post-partum depression and crying uncontrollably, her attorneys said. When she told the agency she changed her mind on the adoption, the agency's director allegedly threatened to leave her stranded in Utah.

Attorneys for A Cherished Child dispute that McDonald was mentally ill and say she was never coerced into signing the adoption forms.

Contributing: Jonathan Lipman

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