Judge to rule in dramatic adoption battle of immigrant mother

By Mariano Castillo

July 18, 2012 / CNN

A Missouri judge on Wednesday will decide the fate of a 5-year-old boy who is at the center of a heart-wrenching adoption case.

The boy has lived with an adoptive family for years, but the Missouri Supreme Court ruled last year that the parental rights of his biological mother, a Guatemalan undocumented immigrant, were wrongfully terminated.

His adoptive family calls him Jamison. His biological mother calls him Carlitos.

When the Supreme Court ruled in January 2011, it did not give custody of the child to the biological mother, Encarnacion Bail Romero, but ordered a retrial.

During a two-week trial in March and April of this year, a judge heard arguments from the adoptive parents, Seth and Melinda Moser, and from Bail Romero, to determine in which home the child's best interests would be served. Because it was an adoption hearing, it was a closed trial, and the documents and evidence presented remain sealed.

Missouri Circuit Court Judge David Jones said a ruling would be handed down Wednesday.

Because of the confidentiality of the proceedings, Bail Romero's attorney, Curtis Woods, declined to elaborate on what evidence was presented during the trial.

In essence, Woods said, the Mosers' counsel argued that Bail Romero had abandoned her son and was an unfit parent. Woods said he countered with evidence that showed her to be a fit mother.

The Mosers, who reside in Carthage, Missouri, have taken care of the boy since he was 2 years old. For them to retain custody, the judge must find that there are grounds to terminate Bail Romero's parental rights and that staying with the Mosers is in the best interest of the child.

The other option is for the judge to find no evidence to terminate parental rights.

Either way, Woods said, an appeal by the losing side is expected.

Bail Romero was anxious leading up to the ruling, he said.

"I think the whole process scares her a little bit," he said. "She says she has placed her trust in God."

Following the state Supreme Court decision last year, a lawyer for the Mosers said that the couple's position had not changed: They played by the rules in adopting the boy and have provided him with a loving, stable home.

In December 2010, as they were waiting for the state Supreme Court ruling, Seth Moser told CNN that he and his wife were the only parents the boy had ever known. They heard him speak his first words and watched him take his first steps.

The boy's journey began when Bail Romero was imprisoned after a 2007 immigration sting at a poultry processing plant.

At first, Carlitos was looked after by some relatives, but later they sought help from a clergy couple to look after the child. That couple introduced the boy to the Mosers, who adopted him and renamed him Jamison. The judge in the original case granted the adoption by ruling that Bail Romero had abandoned her son by not contacting him or the Mosers for more than one year. But Bail Romero said she doesn't speak English and was left with no way to ask for help. She never consented to the adoption, she said.

The last image she's seen of her son was a passport photo of him taken months after she was detained in May 2007. She has another son and a daughter, both older than 9, who are being raised in Guatemala by her sister.

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