CANTON GRANDPARENTS' ADOPTION MOTION DENIED

Date: 2007-02-03

Akron Beacon Journal (OH)

JUDGE RULES TEENAGE MOTHER 'KNOWINGLY AND VOLUNTARILY' SIGNED PAPERS

Author: Beacon Journal staff report

Stark County Family Court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by the Canton parents of a teen who gave up her infant for adoption.

Judge David E. Stucki ruled that Stephanie Bennett "knowingly and voluntarily" signed papers that surrendered her 6-month-old daughter, Evelyn, to an Akron adoption agency.

Judy Bennett, Stephanie's mother and Evelyn's grandmother, expressed dismay at the ruling.

"It sounds fishy to me, but we're not giving up, no way," she said.

Stephanie Bennett, 17, and her parents, Ranza and Judy Bennett, have been fighting separate battles in the Stark court and in Summit County Probate Court to regain custody of Evelyn. The child is now 10 months old and has been placed with an adoptive family. The Summit County case is pending.

Stephanie has accused the private adoption agency, A Child's Waiting of Copley Township, of advising her to run away from home so it would be easier to sign paperwork away from her parents, who initially were unaware that Evelyn had been handed over to the agency.

Stephanie also met with the agency without her parents at GlenOak High School, where she was a student. A guidance counselor at the school signed the adoption papers as a witness.

The Bennetts also contend that Stephanie didn't receive proper counseling and the agency took the child without any documentation, including a birth certificate or Social Security card, to prove who she was.

Don Caplea, the Bennetts' Stark County attorney, said he had just received the judge's decision and had not had time to confer with his clients about a possible appeal.

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