An open letter to Tamia's adoptive parents

Relates to:
Date: 2005-03-01

Mary Mitchell
Chicago Sun-Times (IL)

Dear Jane and John Doe: You don't know me. But I'm sure by now you have heard that I am that concerned black woman who has been writing those stories about Baby Tamia.

Or maybe someone put it another way. Maybe someone told you that I'm that racist woman who's been attacking adoption agencies for luring black birth mothers to Utah.

Either way, I thought it was time that I introduce myself -- I am a black grandmother who has learned that the very least we can do and the very best we can do is to raise our grandchildren if our own children fall by the wayside.

We are taking a stand for these black children because we have so much to make up for. If there is a crisis in the black community when it comes to parenting, we are the creators of that crisis. And we cannot leave this world with that kind of burden hanging over our heads.

That is who I am.

Chill of rejection

But there is something else. I am intimate with the pain that has robbed so many of our daughters of the will to find joy. They suffer from the chill of rejection, and there is little we can do. Still, we can no longer hide our faces behind a mask of respectability. How respected are we, when we fail to take care of the children who are born in our village?

I tell you this, because you met Tamia's mother, Carmen McDonald, only briefly. She is the 20-year-old woman who flew to Salt Lake City, Utah, on Dec. 3 on a ticket paid for by A Cherished Child Adoption Agency, and left her daughter behind. Carmen's world then fell apart.

But when she changed her mind, tried to undo what she had just done, it is alleged that representatives of the adoption agency, probably the same person who convinced her the adoption would go smoothly, yelled at and threatened the young woman with being stranded in Utah.

The final cut

But you've not yet met Maria McDonald, Tamia's grandmother. Someone recently asked me about her.

"Where was she when her daughter made this decision?" they asked.

When a woman falls in love with a man, it is the final cut of the umbilical cord. Still, Maria McDonald threw the baby shower. And she was in the delivery room when Tamia came into the world.

She did not know of Carmen's decision because Carmen did not want her to know. And when an adult daughter takes a fall, you are only allowed two choices: You can catch her or you can pick up the pieces.

If you were childless, or even if you have other children, it may still be hard for you to understand why no one could break Carmen's fall. And maybe you are desperately trying to save one innocent black baby from what you see as a bleak future. Who am I to judge?

But there are some things you need to know before you swear to yourselves that you will fight this battle to the end.

A Cherished Child Adoption Agency is accused of breaking the rules to get Tamia.

In fact, the Illinois attorney general has determined the agency violated two provisions of the Interstate Compact, an agreement among the 50 states that governs domestic adoptions. Tamia shouldn't have been turned over to potential adopted parents in Utah without the approval of the Illinois Interstate Compact Administrator, and the agency failed to give Carmen, the birth mother, a copy of the relinquishment papers, according to papers filed by the state attorney general's office Monday.

"Because of these violations, we are asking that the baby be returned," said Robert Fioretti, the lawyer representing the McDonalds. "The judge has already said that if there were any violations of the Interstate Compact, this case is over."

Methods questioned

In another case involving a Utah adoption agency, A Child's Dream, a father last week successfully won the return of his infant daughter from California. A judge in Georgia had ruled that agency ignored the father's rights. In this case, the young mother traveled from Georgia to Utah, and the baby was taken out of state to a California family that same day.

"The adoption has been stopped, and the [adoptive] family has been told that the whole thing has unraveled," said George McCormick, the baby's father. "I've spoken to them and they didn't know that I wanted to raise my daughter. I feel really bad for them and I hope they can be part of my daughter's life."

When I was coming of age during the "Make love, not war" years, there was a catchy saying going around, a line from a short poem that burst through the chaos like the sun. It went something like this: "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was." At least that is how I remember it.

As corny as that may sound, I have always found it to be true. So please don't hang on to Tamia out of self-righteousness or a belief that you can offer her more than her mother and grandmother.

Take a fresh look at the adoption process and weigh it against fairness. I think you will agree, it is only right to bring Tamia home.

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