CAROL MARBIN MILLER
St. Petersburg Times
Jessica Hannah Bowman describes her experience with a Pinellas County adoption agency as similar to buying a used car.
The mother of a 5-month-old with severe medical problems, Bowman was thinking of putting the girl, Gabrielle, up for adoption. Mostly, though, she wanted to talk to a counselor, just as the Yellow Pages ad said she could.
But before Bowman left the office of Adoptions by Choice on Tuesday, she signed a consent form and handed over her child. When Bowman returned hours later to retrieve Gabrielle, whom she says she never really wanted to give up, adoption officials told her it was too late.
"The deal was done, just like buying a used car and driving off of the lot," she said she was told.
Bowman, and her mother, Julianne Bowman, sued Adoptions by Choice in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court on Thursday, contending that the agency deceived her into giving up her baby. She is asking a judge to forbid Adoptions by Choice from placing Gabrielle with adoptive parents and to return the child.
"ABC holds itself out to the public and to Jessica Bowman individually as an agency which provides counseling to a parent under distress," the lawsuit states. "Rather than provide counseling, ABC took advantage of a distraught young woman and pressured her to execute a consent to place her daughter with ABC for adoption and to terminate her parental rights."
Greg Boyer, an attorney for the Tampa-based Adoptions by Choice, denies that the agency pressured Bowman.
"From what I have read here in the complaint, I can categorically deny these allegations as distortions," Boyer said Thursday.
"I don't know of any time that a birth mother did not receive care, concern and counseling," Boyer said. "The reason I work with this agency is they do spend a lot of time with birth mothers counseling them and working with them."
Thursday's lawsuit comes as shock, Boyer said, because Bowman gave the agency no indication she had changed her mind. "In fact, my information is she spent yesterday getting medical records sent to the adoption agency to give to the prospective adoptive parents."
The lawsuit identifies the adoptive parents as Jane and John Doe. Boyer said the agency will not release their names.
Gabrielle was born April 5. Until recently, she required "constant medical attention" to treat ailments related to an underdeveloped intestinal and digestive system, the lawsuit says. She has been hospitalized six times and receives nutrition through a feeding tube, the lawsuit says.
"The constant medical attention and associated cost created great stress in Jessica Bowman as to her ability to provide adequate care for the needs of her daughter, which she loved greatly," the suit states.
Bowman contacted Adoptions by Choice after seeing an ad in the Yellow Pages. She told agency employees she wanted counseling about her options, the suit says, and was considering putting Gabrielle up for adoption. Among other things, she was thinking about allowing her mother to adopt the child.
"Rather than provide counseling, ABC immediately undertook an aggressive campaign to convince Jessica Bowman that Gabrielle would be much better off with adoptive parents with strong financial resources which could better meet the monetary needs of Gabrielle," the lawsuit says.