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Custody Case Court Battles

July 05, 1995

Re your editorial, "Oh Baby, What a Mess Parents Make!" June 25:

Times editors ask which is most important--bonding, heritage or stability for the child; you suggest stronger adoption laws.

By law, we adoptees may not choose with whom we bond. By law, adoptees, as in the general population, are raised in homes that may initially appear stable but can become unstable. By law, adoptees are denied knowledge and access to their true heritage. What the legislators, courts and wanna-be adoption experts cannot manipulate or predict is our outcomes. That is determined only by our God-given spirit to survive, despite adoption laws.

TOM SCHAFRICK

Palm Desert

Your editorial on the Baby Richard case states in part, "The adoptive parents told no lies, broke no laws and did nothing wrong." That is not what the Illinois Supreme Court found. The adoptive parents and Baby Richard's mother, the Illinois Supreme Court wrote, had engaged in a scheme of "lies, deceit and subterfuge" to hide Baby Richard's adoption from his father. Among other parts of the deception, the lawyer for the adoptive parents filed a false affidavit stating that Richard's father could not be found, according to the Illinois Supreme Court. Had the deception worked, Richard's father could not have opposed his son's adoption, as he had a right to do under Illinois law.

Suppose Baby X is kidnaped from his mother and put up for adoption by the kidnaper (using forged documents), and Baby X is adopted by a caring couple who innocently believe that the kidnaper is the real parent. Remaining with the only parents he had ever known would be in Baby X's best interests. But should those interests weigh so heavily as to defeat the biological mother's right to custody of Baby X when she locates him five years later?

With the added fact of the adoptive parents' role in the court-found deception, Baby Richard's case is moved closer to the hypothetical case. Richard's case is several steps removed from the rightly criticized cases with which his case is so often confused--those in which innocent adoptive parents lose custody of a child only because the child's biological parents changed their minds about adoption.

REGINALD ALLEYNE

Professor of Law, UCLA

As a child psychiatrist with almost 15 years' experience as a child custody evaluator primarily in the Los Angeles County Superior Court's Southwest Division (Torrance), I would like to applaud the sentiments expressed in your editorial, and add the following comments:

The "messes" you refer to occur because of a confluence of circumstances involving inadequate legislative direction that leads to chaos in the courts, inadequacies in the judicial system itself and the traditional concept of children as property, to name a few.

It must be understood that family law courts are basically parent courts, in which only recently the matter of the child's well-being has been addressed as paramount. Since judicial procedure remains adversarial, the child's interests are invariably compromised, and children are quite often hurt rather than helped because of these procedures. Courts are woefully ill-prepared to understand the specific emotional and psychological needs of the individual child whose fate they are deciding.

The introduction of specialists in child psychology and development to assist the courts in custody/adoption cases has been salutary to some extent and their participation in these matters should be expanded. All too often such is not the case, and the interests of children are sacrificed. Parents need this kind of education themselves.

BERTRAM GOLDSTEIN MD

Torrance

Thank you for caring about children.

I cried bitter tears when I read your editorial. The tragedy is that our courts are not on the side (innocent) of children. Never have been.

For a country that loves "liberty and justice" for all, our courts turn a blind eye and a deaf ear when confronted with children's issues.

MARGARET MARKETA

NOVAK-DATTELS

Beverly Hills

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