Idaho hearing on adoption today

Relates to:
Date: 2007-12-11

Deseret News, The (Salt Lake City, UT)
Author: Amy K. Stewart Deseret Morning News

AMERICAN FORK -- A court hearing in Idaho today could decide the custody fate of Jed and Cally Nielson's adopted baby, Harvey.

The Nielsons, who live in American Fork, adopted the boy in June. The birth father, Matt Tenneson, 20, of Coeur d'Alene, is now contesting the adoption, however.

The birth mother, Cammie Knight, 19, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, says she hasn't changed her mind about allowing the Nielsons to adopt her baby.

However, the judge could rule today for possibly a joint custody arrangement between Knight and Tenneson. The case is in Kootenai County District Court.

If that is the result, Knight said she maybe driving to American Fork this week to pick up her baby.

But adoptive mom Cally Nielson, 24, says she has no intention of just handing over Harvey. "Somebody will have to sue me personally and get an order from the judge to take the baby," Nielson said.

If Knight does end up with the baby for now, there is a chance Harvey could be placed back with the Nielsons again. That is because LDS Family Services has filed an appeal regarding the judge's earlier ruling in favor of the birth father's rights, the couple says.

LDS Family Services didn't return phone calls from the Deseret Morning News.

Knight says if she does end up with custody of her baby, even for a short while, she intends to change his name.

The young mother said she put the name "Ty Wesley" on the baby's birth certificate and she believed the birth parents would stick with that name. "Ty" is the name of a close high school friend who died. "Wesley" is Knight's father's middle name, she said.

"I've never called him 'Harvey,"' Knight said. "I just refer to him as 'The Little Guy' and during my pregnancy I called him 'Ty' as soon as I found out he was a boy."

The Nielsons said they opted for "Harvey" simply because they liked the name. And Cally Nielson said the idea of someone calling Harvey by another name makes her sad.

Knight said her family is prepared to help her obtain baby items if she does end up with the baby. They are also willing to help out with caring for the baby.

"It will be hard but I know I can raise him," she said. "We're just waiting on the word of the judge."

The Deseret Morning News contacted Tenneson on Monday. He declined to comment.

Attorneys of Knight and Tenneson did not return phone calls.

Knight says while her first choice is for the Nielsons to keep Harvey, her second choice would be for her to have primary custody of the baby and allow Tenneson some visitation in her home. That way the baby wouldn't have to be moved back and forth between two houses, she said.

Knight says her relationship with Tenneson is "nonexistent" right now and she can't imagine how things will be between them in a joint custody arrangement. She said they didn't communicate during the last few months of her pregnancy.

Adopting out her baby was difficult enough emotionally, Knight says. Now she is faced with the custody battle and the possibility of having her baby back after she had made her final decision to give him up.

"I picked adoption because I knew it was right," she said. "I wanted to keep the baby so bad, but I knew it was wrong."

Knight, who gave birth at age 18, said she chose the Nielsons specifically because she sees them as a good family that can raise her son. "They can take care of him 24/7 and give him everything he needs," Knight said.

Still, handing her baby over to the couple in the hospital room "was the hardest thing in my entire life -- physically and emotionally," she said.

Cally Nielson says the entire court proceeding is upsetting to her as well.

"Harvey is a real person with real feelings. He already has parents and a home here in American Fork. I can't imagine ripping him away from that. I love my baby."
E-mail: astewart@desnews.com

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