Teen-ager ready to be a dad
But his girlfriend "gave my baby away' for adoption
The Tampa Tribune
HOUSTON - In the Jardina family in San Leon, Texas, a tiny coastal village on Galveston Bay, marriages and children - lots of them - come early in life.
Chuck and Zena Jardina, both 37, started their family at 20 and have four children. They also both have living grandparents nearby.
In fact, four generations of family on both sides live within 25 miles - a gang of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins going to church and out to seafood dinners together, baby-sitting and visiting, week in and week out.
They aren't surprised their eldest, William, considers himself ready at age 17 to start his own family, emotionally and financially.
After all, he's been working in his father's prosperous gravel business practically since he was a toddler. Chuck Jardina has a picture of William at age 8 sitting at the controls of a huge front-end loader, stretching his chubby arms toward the wheel.
"By the time he was 5," said his mother, Zena, "he could run that loader and load up our trucks."
To the family's four generations, the Jardinas expected, William and his high school sweetheart, Stacey Goss, would add a fifth - a baby born July 24, named Kara.
But today that baby is in the hands of people far away, who the Jardina's don't even know - Donald and Christine Carr of Tampa, Fla.
And instead of a new layer in their warm quilt of family, William feels betrayal.
"Stacey snuck behind our back and gave my baby away," he said. "Now Kara is with strangers."
"They may be excellent people, but they're strangers to me," he said. "How would you feel if somebody gave your baby to strangers?"
And after giving up their baby for adoption, the woman William thought he'd spend the rest of his life with told him not to try to find her, not to call her, not to try to see her.
At this point, he said, "I don't want anything to do with her anyway."
The Jardinas can't understand it.
"Chuck's grandmother told us, "This is not a puppy, this is our blood,' " Zena said.
The only explanations they're likely to get soon will come in court. There's a hearing Wednesday in Galveston over William's parental rights. Meanwhile, Stacey Goss and her family are out of touch, avoiding calls from reporters and are said to be staying in Oklahoma with Stacey's grandparents.
But comments of friends suggest she may have wanted a different kind of life from what William had planned - or perhaps her parents wanted it for her.
Unlike William, Stacey was a straight A student in high school. She was also a cheerleader, played soccer and was on the honor roll. She rode in equestrian hunt and jump competitions, a sophisticated pursuit in a world of Western riders.
Stacey talked endlessly with friends of becoming a veterinarian. She went to Texas A&M University in College Station to pursue that goal, while William, two years younger, was still at Dickinson High.
And she didn't come from the same kind of family.
Stacey is an only child. Besides her parents, she has few relatives nearby - an aunt in Houston, friends say, and the grandparents in Oklahoma.
Instead of a huge, close family, those who knew her say, she had the affections and dominating interest of a doting mother, who got involved in everything she did - including, the Jardinas claim, her decision to give up Kara.
From these differences - the kind that usually lead only to young hearts dramatically broken, but quickly healed - has sprung a legal controversy spanning two states.
The opinion of some experts on both sides of the Gulf of Mexico is the Carrs have little chance of keeping Kara against William's wishes.
Texas officials announced Friday they'll look into whether the adoption violated the Texas laws against baby selling. Officials of the state Department of Protective and Regulatory Services said the adoption could be illegal if the lawyers involved arranged the adoption by bringing the Carrs and Stacey together for pay.
Since the Carrs, their lawyers, Stacey and her family are avoiding questions, the circumstances surrounding the adoption remain unclear.
But Eugene Smith, professor of family law at the University of Houston Law Center, who wrote much of the Texas adoption law, said he doesn't consider any prosecution likely.
He said the law, though intended to prevent baby selling, "is much avoided."
"Since we allow private adoptions, unlike most states, we've developed a thriving adoption industry," Smith said. Lawyers and doctors often arrange adoptions in Texas without consulting the state or other licensed adoption agencies.
Still, Smith thinks William Jardina's claim on Kara will be upheld, because he never relinquished his rights as a parent.