Baby Tamia stays in Utah for now

Relates to:
Date: 2005-03-04

Case delayed: The Chicago woman who gave up her daughter for adoption in Utah is trying to get her back; Baby Tamia stays put after case is delayed

Shia Kapos
The Salt Lake Tribune

The biological mother and grandmother of Baby Tamia hoped to leave a downtown Chicago courtroom Thursday with news that the 5-month-old girl would be returning to Illinois.

Instead, Carmen McDonald and her mother, Maria, walked out disappointed and angry that the case would be delayed while lawyers attempt to verify documents that showed Utah laws were violated in the child's adoption to a Utah family.

"I'm upset and I'm hurt," said Maria McDonald, who filed suit with her daughter to return Tamia to Chicago. "They had ample time to look at the documents."

The McDonalds have sued A Cherished Child adoption agency, based in Midvale, alleging the agency took advantage of Carmen McDonald's financial and emotional vulnerability.

McDonald surrendered Tamia, then 3 months old, for adoption in Utah in December.

The case has raised debate about adoption in Utah and about the agency, which handled another adoption overturned by an Illinois judge in 2004.

The McDonalds' attorneys are asking A Cherished Child's attorneys to agree that a Utah document, showing the company violated a law that governs interstate adoptions in Tamia's case, is genuine.

Utah regulators have said the adoption agency failed to notify the state that Tamia was coming to Utah, and failed to give Carmen McDonald a copy of the relinquishment papers. Licensors, however, did not substantiate complaints that she was coerced or deceived.

Attorneys for A Cherished Child would not comment on the case.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has jumped into the fray on behalf of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which must sign off on all adoptions involving that state.

"Our client, DCFS, did not feel like the adoption was legal," said Madigan's spokeswoman, Melissa Merz.

In court Thursday, attorneys for A Cherished Child notified Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Murphy that the adoptive parents, called Mr. and Mrs. Doe in court documents, are seeking to change jurisdiction over the dispute to Utah.

The case is scheduled to resume in Chicago on Wednesday.

Carmen McDonald made her first public statement Thursday about the case and about her relationship with Tamia (pronounced Ta-MEE-a).

"I had a lot of emotional situations in my life," she said in a trembling voice. "My grandmother died less than two weeks after Tamia was born. I was having a hard time."

The slim 20-year-old wore a pink blouse and plaid skirt. She was firm in stating her desire to be a mother to Tamia.

"I know I can handle it now," she said. "I miss her. I don't like having to wake up without her."

Carmen McDonald, who nursed Tamia for about a month, said she liked to lounge with her daughter.

"Then we'd play patty-cake and other stuff. She likes music and she likes to be talked to," she said, her voice perking up as she discussed Tamia. "She was a sweet baby."

Carmen McDonald says she's not angry at the couple who want to adopt her child. But she hopes that if they understand the circumstances of her case, they might return Tamia.

"I was in an affected state of mind," she said of her dealings with the Utah agency.

Robert Fioretti, an attorney for McDonald, says he needs a simple yes or no answer from A Cherished Child that the Utah document is valid so that the two sides can agree and move on.

"These are tactics they use to delay the case," he said, adding, "If we have to, we'll go to Utah to get this done."

Time is of the essence, Maria McDonald said.

"The longer she's there, the more attached she'll get," she said of Tamia.

Judge Murphy touched on the subject as he advised lawyers to be ready for their Wednesday hearing.

When examining what is in the best interest of the child, he said, previous cases consider "how long the child was with the birth mother and how long the child was with adoptive parents."

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