Family refuses to return baby

Relates to:
Date: 2007-12-21

Coeur d'Alene Press, The (ID)

Idaho magistrate ruled last week that child must be given back to father

Author: Marc Stewart; Staff writer

COEUR d'ALENE – Despite a court order, a Utah couple are refusing to return their adopted baby to its biological father in Coeur d'Alene.

Matt Tenneson is frustrated with the situation and wants his son back. He said he might ask authorities to charge Jed and Callie Nielson of American Fork, Utah, with custodial interference or kidnapping.

"We're working with the police in Idaho and Utah," Tenneson said Thursday. "They are in direct violation of the court order."

Last week, Magistrate Barry Watson ruled that Tenneson, 20, be given temporary primary custody of his 5 and 1/2-month-old son and ordered the Nielsons to relinquish custody.

The Nielsons told a Utah paper that they intend to wage a legal battle to keep the baby.

"We plan to celebrate Christmas with Harvey and be grateful for every day we have him," said Callie Nielson in an interview with the Deseret News on Wednesday.

"We're just going to keep fighting," she said.

The Nielsons' attorney did not return phone calls.

The birth mother, Cammie Knight, gave up custody of the child last summer, shortly after he was born.

But Tenneson never waived his parental rights and has won several key court rulings in Idaho against the adoption agency, LDS Family Services.

The custody battle is testing state jurisdiction and representatives from the attorneys general in Idaho and Utah both maintain that private adoption is a civil matter and said there's no desire from either office to test the limits of a ruling from an Idaho judge.

Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, said he has been trying to help the Tenneson family and has asked the state attorney general to analyze the situation and find what remedies are available.

"It's a test case, but we've got a tragedy on our hands," Jorgenson said. "Idaho is not getting any cooperation from Utah."

Jorgenson blames LDS Family Services, a Mormon adoption agency, for the botched adoption and not getting Tenneson's consent.

"LDS Family Services needs to be held accountable," Jorgenson said. "They didn't comply with the usual manner of procedures that other agencies follow. If this adoption had gone through the state, it never would have happened."

The attorney for LDS Family Services didn't return phone calls Thursday.

Jorgenson said there are "religious overtones" in the case.

"The birth mother is LDS and she wanted the baby to go to an LDS family," Jorgenson said. "So, the baby was spirited away and placed in an LDS home."

Tenneson said the baby was born two weeks early and he had no idea she had prearranged the adoption. He said he and Knight were not communicating at the time.

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