Teenage mother stages protest after son is given for adoption

A 15-year-old mother staged a protest on the doorstep of Faro’s Aboim Ascenção children’s refuge after a court made the decision to allow the girl’s two-and-a-half-year-old son, who has been living in the institution, to be adopted.

June 6, 2009 / the-news.net

Cascais Family Court decided the boy, Martim, should be urgently adopted.

After his birth in December 2006 and at the request of Social Security, Martim was placed in the care of the Aboim Asenção Refuge as his then 13-year-old mother did not have the necessary conditions to look after him.

The baby was placed in care with the mother’s consent in February 2007 and has remained there since, his biological family still living in Cascais, Lisbon.

“If my son Martim didn’t have a family that wanted him I could understand the court’s decision. But he has a family that is waiting for him in a house with love and care. Why should he be adopted? It is not logical. I will not stop until I get my son back”, said teenager Ana Rita Leonardo, who will be 16 this month and is a student at the Alcoitão Rehabilitation Centre, Sintra, where she is on a commercial shop assistant’s course.

On July 16th this year the child’s adoption was decided following a long battle between Lisbon’s Family and Constitutional Courts. It was eventually decided that toddler Martim needed “urgent adoption”.

“The last time I saw my son was on December 20th 2008. I have visited him as and when I could afford to travel to the Algarve. On my last visit he clung to my legs and wouldn’t let go, he started to cry and a carer had to take him away”, Ana Leonardo told national press during the protest she staged outside the Refugio Aboim Asenção in Faro.

According to reports Cascais Family Court based their decision on the fact that Ana Leonardo had her child at 13 years of age and is herself from divorced parents.

The judges alleged Ana’s mother, Martim’s grandmother, does not have the necessary conditions to support her family either, and that she suffers from depression.

Lawyer Isilda Pegado confirmed to Portuguese daily newspaper Diário de Notícias (DN) that a requirement has been submitted to the Cascais Family Court for Martim’s paternal grandparents to be granted custody as they are willing and have the economic conditions to do so. Martim’s father was 16 at the time of his conception.

Ana Rita says she is willing to embark on a hunger strike in her fight to keep her son, and guarantees she now has the economical circumstances and maturity to raise her son. She has even vowed to take her case to the European Human Rights Court should her son be handed over to an adoptive family.

Alleging that the child’s father, who is now 20, was never heard in court, his sister Ana Cláudio Matos, said “my brother never had access to the court case. The paternal family was never notified of what was happening”.

Talking to the media the child’s paternal aunt, who was amongst friends and family participating in the protest, alleged there were “irregularities” in the case and accused Refúgio Aboim Asenção director Luís Villas Boas of preventing the family from seeing Martim. She claimed orders were made to stop the visits and the family was told their visits were too upsetting for the young boy.

She said the family was “angered” and “hurting” that they had been “forbidden” from seeing Martim and appealed to the President of the Republic to look into the case.

In response Luís Villas Boas explained that visits by the child’s family had to stop after courts authorised his adoption, because by law he was then “automatically prevented from visits by his parents”.


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