Harvey women fighting to get 3-month-old back

Relates to:
Date: 2005-01-11

Attorneys say adoption agency preys on vulnerable, young black women

Jonathan Lipman
Daily Southtown

A Harvey woman and her mother are trying to reclaim the woman's 3-month-old baby from a Utah adoption agency that attorneys and advocates say preys on young, vulnerable black women.

Attorneys say Carmen McDonald, 20, was depressed and sick when representatives of A Cherished Child Adoption Agency flew her from Chicago to Utah on Dec. 2, had her sign away her parental rights and flew her back within 24 hours.

In Utah, McDonald was running a 102-degree fever and crying uncontrollably, according to her lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court. She told the agency she didn't want to give up the baby, but the agency threatened to leave her stranded in Utah if she didn't go through with the adoption, attorney Robert Fioretti said.

"They said, 'How do you expect to get back?' " Fioretti said.

A call to Cherished Child was not returned Monday.

Carmen's mother, Maria McDonald, is fighting to get the child back for Carmen, who remains hospitalized with mental illness.

Maria McDonald was joined at a Monday news conference by her attorneys and Bishops Larry Trotter and Tavis Grant of the United Pentecostal Churches of Christ.

The baby, Tamia, was born Sept. 10 at Ingalls Hospital in Harvey, Maria McDonald said

Her daughter doted on the little girl, she said.

"(Carmen) wouldn't take her eyes off her," McDonald said. "She wouldn't even lay her in the bed; she had to keep her in her arms."

Maria's mother, Carmen's grandmother, died Sept. 20, a loss the family took hard, Maria said. At some point, the lawsuit said, Carmen called the adoption agency, which advertises in area papers.

Fioretti said the company "absolutely" targets black women as a source for adoptable children and advertises it offers black children for adoption. The practices the Utah-based Cherished Child company uses for finding adoptees are illegal in Illinois, he said.

"There are 75,000 black and brown babies in foster care," Grant said. "And there are predatory practices used by adoption agencies in states where there is little or no regulation."

On Dec. 2, telling her family she was going to see Tamia's father, Carmen McDonald flew to Utah on a plane ticket provided by the adoption agency. She had been promised her baby would be adopted by a biracial couple, but the couple she met with was white, Fioretti said.

Agency personnel yelled and intimidated her when she arrived in Utah and protested the adoption.

Upon her return to Chicago, Carmen told her family Tamia was with her father, Maria McDonald said.

A week later, New Orleans police picked up an incoherent Carmen McDonald

The lawsuit contends the adoption is invalid because Carmen McDonald's consent was given under duress and under false promises from Cherished Child. There are also questions about whether Illinois or Utah law should apply.

Jonathan Lipman may be reached at jlipman@dailysouthtown.com or (708) 633-5979.

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