exposing the dark side of adoption
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Adoption by Tampa couple contested



St. Petersburg Times

Standing at the door of her south Tampa home, Christine Carr just smiled Thursday evening when asked how she felt about the baby girl she and her husband adopted about a month ago.

"Well," she said, "we love her."

The baby's biological father, 17-year-old William Jardina of Bacliff, Texas, loves her, too.

And he wants her back.

"As soon as I seen her, I had the weirdest love," Jardina said, recalling the morning of July 24 when he first saw baby Kara in a hospital maternity ward in southeast Houston. "It's automatic love for this baby."

Jardina's tale is reminiscent of the saga of Baby Jessica, who was recently returned to her birth parents after the couple who raised her for two years failed to win custody in a court battle.

Now, Jardina's decision may well thrust Mrs. Carr and her husband, Donald, a Marine at MacDill Air Force Base, into a custody fight they had hoped to avoid.

"I think it's unfortunate, you know," Mrs. Carr said. "It's a no-win situation."

Jardina said he knew his girlfriend, Stacey Goss, was planning to give the child away. But just weeks before Kara was born, she decided against it, he said, and was planning to marry him.

It didn't work out that way.

Goss, a 19-year-old student at Texas A&M University, and her family have declined to comment. And Thursday night, a message left with her attorney was not answered.

But Jardina, a senior at Dickinson High School near Houston, said not more than a week after Kara was born, Goss disappeared. He said he tracked her by phone to her grandparents in Oklahoma, but she did not have the baby with her.

He later found out where the baby was. Goss had arranged a private adoption, sending Kara to the Carrs in Tampa. The couple had tried to adopt another child but were unsuccessful.

Jardina wants to get the baby back and raise her - alone. He said he refused to sign any legal papers relinquishing custody of Kara and is seeking her return. He has filed a custody suit.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday at the Galveston County Courthouse, which starts the process of establishing Jardina's paternity and determining who gets custody.

Tampa adoption lawyer Thomas E. Cunningham Jr. said that based on the facts known Thursday evening, the Carrs probably are at a disadvantage.

"I think they've got problems," Cunningham said. "Florida law is clear that you need either abandonment or consent" by the biological father. "He's a necessary party to the adoption."

It is unclear, however, whether the adoption was initiated in Texas or Florida. Hillsborough County records show the Carrs filed an adoption petition Aug. 5. But Jardina said the consent papers he was served were from Texas courts.

Cunningham said Jardina's status as Kara's father would take precedence over the fact that he is a minor.

"He's the father. Age doesn't matter."

Then there's the Baby Jessica ruling.

A few weeks ago, federal courts in Iowa and Michigan ordered a Michigan couple to return the 29-month-old child they had been trying to adopt to her biological parents.

Jessica's mother had given her up for adoption two days after her birth, but she had named the wrong man as the father. She later told the real father of Jessica's birth, and the fight for the child began.

Thursday evening, Mrs. Carr, 48, spoke briefly to a reporter. She said her attorney, Anthony Marchese of Tampa, had advised her and her husband, Donald, 38, not to comment.

But as Kara napped, Mrs. Carr said they were upset that Jardina had spoken to the media, preferring to settle the matter in court. She said she already had received a call from the Maury Povich show.

"We're upset that he brought it to the media," she said. "We don't think it's in the best interest of the child."

Texas law governing adoptions give parents 60 days to change their minds. Mrs. Carr said they were familiar with the law, and knew Jardina had not signed over custody.

"We knew that he might contest it," she said.

Mrs. Carr, who gave up her job at a brokerage firm to care fo Kara, said she and her husband have had Kara since the "first week of her life," and have grown quite attached to her.

Of the legal dispute, she said: "Obviously, I hope we're successful. We're letting the courts decide it. Whatever happens, happens."

What if the Carrs have to give up Kara?

"We'll do what the courts decide," Mrs. Carr said.

Before moving to Hyde Park, the Carrs lived in Town 'N Country, where they impressed their neighbors as quiet, decent people ypical of the military families that rotated every year or so through the home on Imperial Key.

"He's a very nice guy," Bryan Chaffee, a next-door neighbor said. "Both he and his wife are both extremely nice people. They're friendly, outgoing, kind and considerate."

Jardina, meanwhile, said he thinks about Kara all the time. He admits that he and Goss did not plan to have the baby, but once they found out she was pregnant, "it was fine."

He works for his father's company as a heavy-equipment operator and said he just bought a three-bedroom house, the house where he hopes to raise his baby.

"It's my responsibility. It's my baby," Jardina said. "It's not that baby's fault she's here."

- Staff writers Bill Duryea, Bruce Vielmetti, Susan Clary and Michael Canning contributed to this report. Information from the Houston Post was also used in this story.