Chicago judge to hear Utah baby suit

Relates to:
Date: 2005-02-23

Adoption dispute: Claims an interstate compact gives him jurisdiction

Kirsten Stewart
The Salt Lake Tribune

An Illinois judge has agreed to hear a lawsuit seeking to overturn the allegedly fraudulent adoption of a Chicago baby through Midvale-based A Cherished Child Adoption Agency.

Cook County Presiding Judge Michael Murphy ruled Tuesday that an interstate compact meant to protect children taken across state lines gives him jurisdiction to hear the case. The fact that most of the parties and witnesses live and work in Illinois also makes the state an appropriate venue, Murphy said from the bench.

Murphy also put a Guardian ad Litem attorney on standby to represent the baby's interests in court. He forbade the adoption agency's staff from taking steps in Utah to finalize the adoption. Under Utah law, adoptions are finalized in court after a review of the adoptive home is conducted six months after a child is placed.

The next hearing on the case is scheduled for March 3.

Baby Tamia was turned over to A Cherished Child in December by her mother, Carmen McDonald, 20, who now alleges she was coerced into surrendering the baby and wants the baby returned.

Attorneys for A Cherished Child have argued Utah laws apply in the case, and that an Illinois judge has no right to intervene.

Denise Erlich, the Chicago-based lawyer for A Cherished Child, refused to comment on Tuesday's ruling.

At the March 3 hearing, the judge will weigh arguments as to whether A Cherished Child violated the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), a law drafted in the 1960s and later adopted by all 50 states. The compact clarifies, in certain adoptions, whether the laws of the state sending a child or the state receiving the child apply.

In late December, Utah licensing officials found that the agency violated the compact by failing to notify Utah's ICPC administrator before placing Baby Tamia. The notification came on Dec. 20, roughly two weeks after McDonald relinquished her baby.

According to state regulators, A Cherished Child also failed to provide McDonald a copy of the relinquishment papers. But licensors found nothing to substantiate complaints that McDonald was coerced or deceived by the agency.

According to their report, McDonald initiated all contacts with the agency, beginning in June while she was still pregnant. She told staff that no one else in her family wanted the baby.

The agency arranged to fly her to Utah after the baby was born. She met in a motel for three hours with a social worker who introduced her to the adoptive family. And she kept the baby with her overnight, signing the relinquishment papers the next morning after another three-hour counseling session.

The report states the agency also checked the Illinois putative father registry and found no record of the baby's father.

kstewart@sltrib.com

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