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Adoption Deception: Toddler Left in Legal Limbo

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UPDATE 1:00 PM: Statement from Stacey Doss regarding the California versus Ohio battle for Vanessa Doss Adoption Custody Lawsuit: "The California court has passed the buck and given the entire case to Ohio. The Ohio judge has decided that they will put Vanessa into foster care. The birth father will have night visits with Vanessa.  Vanessa will likely be placed with the birth father's mother. The California court is vacating its order to keep Vanessa with me as of July 16, 2010. The court chose July 16th to give us time to file with the Court of Appeals in California. I only have until July 16th to save my daughter."

toddler left in legal limbo

Gina Kaysen Fernandes: A Southern California mother is embarking on a heartwrenching legal battle today to maintain custody of a 2-year-old girl she has raised since birth. The fate of little Vanessa rests in the hands of attorneys and family court judges in two states.

After ten years of infertility treatments, adoption attempts and a failed marriage, Stacey Doss finally achieved motherhood. "It was surreal," says Stacey, describing the day she got the call from an Ohio woman who had chosen her to become the adoptive parent of a newborn girl. Hours after the June 13th, 2008, delivery, Stacey cradled Vanessa in her arms at the hospital. "It was amazing," she recalls. "I looked at her and thought, 'Oh my gosh, she's mine!'" But that baby bliss quickly turned into devastation when Stacey learned that she had been deceived.

The birth mom had told Stacey and the California adoption agency that she had conceived Vanessa during a one-night stand with a guy she didn't know. She signed a penalty of perjury document, and the agency filed legal paperwork that allowed Stacey to take Vanessa home to Southern California. Everything was falling into place -- until the baby's birth father stepped forward to claim custody. Turns out, the birth mom lied to everyone, including the man (who had actually fathered two of her other children). "He thinks his child was stolen," says Stacey. DNA tests have confirmed that Benjamin Mills, Jr. is indeed Vanessa's father.

Stacey immediately hired attorneys to finalize the adoption process. "I was devastated ... I was a nervous wreck," she says. She also hired a private investigator, who uncovered disturbing details about the father's criminal history. Media reports confirm that Mills' rap sheet includes domestic-violence, child-endangerment and drug-possession charges, and that he has served three stints in prison. "I saw a monster," says Stacey. Mills has four other children, but he doesn't live with any of them.

Stacey tried to give Mills the benefit of the doubt, hoping they could reach an agreement if they met in person. In June 2009, she paid to fly Mills out to California to meet Vanessa -- and soon realized that compromise wouldn't work. "Vanessa was scared of him," says Stacey, who felt at the time that Mills was more interested in visiting tourist sights than in spending time with Vanessa.

The issue of who should have custody of the toddler is now up to the courts in California and Ohio to decide. "Mr. Mills recognizes how emotional this case has become," says Elizabeth Gorman, an attorney from Legal Aid of Western Ohio who represents Mills and spoke to KNBC. "We are all in a bad spot." The pro-bono agency declined to discuss details of the case with momlogic, but in a statement wrote, "We have faith that the court process will lead to results that are best for the child."

Stacey is not optimistic about today's hearing. "We are mortified," she says. "We don't know how much worse it can get." According to Ohio adoption attorney Jerry Johnson, the case doesn't look good for Stacey. "[Mills'] criminal record has no bearing whatsoever," says Johnson, who is not involved in this case but says the scenario is not uncommon. "If the courts find that the birth father's consent is necessary, the adoption can't go through."

Laws about birth parents' rights vary from state to state, but in Ohio, the burden is on the biological father to register with the state. A birth father has up to 10 months (beginning a month after his child's birth) to sign the "Putative Father Registry," which protects his parental rights in case the birth mother doesn't identify (or intentionally misidentifies) the birth father. If Mills signed this Registry, his parental rights are still intact. That doesn't necessarily guarantee he'll gain custody, but it means Stacey faces an emotionally difficult and financially draining road to justice. She has hired seven attorneys to fight this case, preparing for the worst. "I'm in big trouble," she says. "It doesn't look like California is going to stand up for this baby."

But why would Mills want custody of Vanessa, considering he has already relinquished custody of his four other children? "That's what's so egregious about this case," says Robin Sax, a momlogic legal analyst and former prosecutor. "While he may be asserting his parental rights, is he really acting in the child's best interest? Or is he taking advantage of the situation where the judge's hands are tied?"

Stacey's biggest fear right now is that Vanessa will end up in Ohio's foster care system while the court drama unfolds. Because the adoption is still pending, Vanessa is legally in the custody of Ohio Social Services; under a judge's order, the agency could take the toddler away from Stacey. "That's a highly unlikely scenario," says Johnson, adding that, unless it's found that Vanessa is in imminent danger, "I cannot see any judge doing that."

Stacey does her best to shield Vanessa from the ongoing stress. "She's the most energetic, funniest child who loves to laugh," says Stacey. And despite this ordeal, Stacey hopes her experience won't deter other hopeful parents from entering the adoption process. "It's the best thing I've ever done," she says.


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46 comments so far | Post a comment now
atrotsrhics July 7, 2010, 10:30 PM

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Jen fryreyesonly July 8, 2010, 2:17 AM

I think you all need to stop take a minute and think ALL of you. That means
Lawyers
Social Workers
Hospital Doctors Nurses Med Staff
Neighbors
Jail workers
Judges (who many times dont think of the living subject the living effect)
teachers
employters
YOU all each and everyone one of you if involved in this logical case need to say ok so the father knows who the child is now his or not, but
What is the best for the child??
NO risks put up on the child given the history of anyone’s background should be taken - the judge is wrong she or he needs his ba or what ever re-examined and perhaps they are truly not fully educated if they can not see the simple solution.
Treat it as a divorce the custody remains as it is - the natural parents if they truly in their hearts and if they truly care for this baby or child will say ok I only care to support this child as friend to see this child as given times and via supervised visits in a park library or what ever even with the adoptive parent(s).
The judge needs to have some re-education (it happens to us all) sorry.
The best thing for the child is NOT to force this child to see the natural father alone, NOT force the relationship or bond with the adoptive mom to end-causing the child of what ever age to go into shock, and not trust not bond with anyone ever again -
OBAMA where are you ….lets use some common sense and rectify these situations that are happening far too many times.
Are you all about weird rules and not the social domino affect to the child or children there???
WHO CARES about the natural parents, who cares that they suddenly appear, they have to respect the terms of what happened they should be charged, for forging any documents but who is going to pay hard for this, who is hurting over this - a tiny little child for the sake of SELFISH people trying to regain custody of her for WHAT GOOD REASON???
Sorry the child stays with the adoptive parent(s) the NATURAL PARENTS may visit the child on designated dates and times and superivised visits are ALLOWED FOR THE NATURAL PARENTS until the child or children are 17 if the NATURAL PARENTS REALLY give some love and care deep within they will do this for the safety and well being and nurturing of the child or children that were adopted. LETS ALL REMEMBER
The adoptive parents thought they were going to be parents and did their part completely and full up to this point they cared for the child or children during the good and bad and loving times, the sick times the nasty days times the late night times the vomit times etc… up until now that child or children were fully tended to by someone else for the natural parents who caused the problem initially. Those natural parents should be so very greatful to the adoptive parents and honour them respect them and leave them to raise the child that only knows them the adoptive parents as mom and dad. The nerve of some stone faced judge to think otherwise. The NATURAL PARENTS SHOULD ONLY BE DOING SUPERVISED VISITS ON AGREED MONTHLY DATES UNTIL THE CHILD OR CHILDREN ARE 17 AND they themselves CAN DECIDE with maturity at that age IF THEY WISH TO BE WITH THE natural parents that caused all this problem to begin with. What child would be happy to realize they were forced back with someone who was abussive or in jail or a mother who signed them over to the new adoptive parents who cared and loved this child unconditionally from beginning until now??
ANY RECORD OF JAIL AND ABUSE AND OTHER THINGS SHOULD BE A CLUE TO THE JUDGES THERE AND HERE hello there is a risk and we dont want any child or children put at risk. FOSTER CARE IS NOT NEEDED A DUMB MOVE BY THE JUDGE brainless.
THIS WILL cause that child or children to feel like they can not believe or trust anyone they are being taken from one home to another strange home and nothing is permanent. I think the natural parents should be taken out some where and EDUCATED on the effects of what they have caused and are causing this child -for what good reason??? POWER CONTROL they lack in their drug infested or jail life style so they want to control this situation of this child - how sad how sick it is to hear and see that the system there is not working - THE ADOPTIVE SYSTEM IS WORKING AGAINST THE CHILDREN obvisiouly and when you have a judge making these decissions…god he or she better realize the mess they are causing and probably have caused to many other cases. JUST LIKE DOCTORS JUDGES ARE not always “all there” for many reasons.
SO OBAMA I truly hope you get up from your desks and look at this and realize the child is bonded with a parent it calls mom leave it there make the bad guys who did wrong to begin with pay for damages charges…make hte natural parents have only visits with hte child who can over time know but the child decides if he or she lives with the natural parents when the child is old enough in his or her teens 17 the same age to drive ?? to live with the natural parents and for the record the natural parents should contribute for costs and help support this child they want back for the wrong reasons…oh yes they can start showing how much they care by supplying monthly funding toward the child or childrens education fund! OH yes your darn right.
What kind of game are these judges and people playing there - a joke they are not doing their job and the judge should be removed or gracefully retire.
Disgusting disappointing and heartless to even suggest fostercare - A STEP BACKWARD a hinderance an affect that could be avoided - how dumb is this.
I think you guys have a lot to learn and that is find out why this happened and charge the dumb people who let this happen or go in this direction.
I’d be ashamed and make it known to you all that are apart of this mess, the judge or any others involved in this case or in taking a bonded child who was adopted and doing just fine wiht the adoptive parent(s) …I’d disown you as my relative, I’d kick you all out of the family for causing such a sad and heartless situation to this child or any children unless they were in danger with the adoptive parent(s) and no not because of the natural parents wanting to find and take them back how stupid is that- wake up judge and all you people over there that were apart of this - SHAME ON YOU ALL your looking pretty bad to take this or any child from the only true real good parent its known - the nerve of you all. I hope that each one of you realizes the people you are affecting and the domino affect and what may happen to this chid and others.
Disappointing and disturbing to hear this is happening all for the sake of the word NATURAL? What is natural about the mother giving it up for adoption what is natural about the father showing up with a prison record, what is natural about the parents pretending to want to tend the child, what is natural about the emotional aspects to the child when the foster parents take it in…you guys need to STOP THIS.
END OF STORY get real over there or DR PHIL you better step up for this and many other children. This is so disgusting and so obvious. What have the natural parents done to support this child what kind of home, income past or parenting history or lol education or even money to buy the bed for the child..use your brain and heart people.
Stacey should be left to be the mother of this child..do not interfear and cause the child to have memories and point the finger at the system and sue you later on in life for her life being destroyed by the natural parents who had other control motives. The future will bring children who are wanting to get back what was taken from them, what they were subjected to, for the wrong reasons. Leave her were she is, where she has known …snap out of the dumb zone and see through the natural parents and their motives.

Jen fryreyesonly July 8, 2010, 2:24 AM

I just posted a lengthy commment on here and hope you all that were apart of this child adoption and birth process initially and counselling etc for the people involved … nurses doctors JUDGES THAT are probably stuck in some time warp and not into the many variables of children ….affects and cause…etc I hope you think of this child many years later and realize it was your doing.. the natural parents are out for other selfish motives and should pay support should only have supervised visits monthly and the adoptive parents continue forward until this child is 17 and old enough to decide who they want to stay with. The bond is there do not intefear!!!
How dumb this judge is in thinking this way foster care …oh lets ruin the childs trust in anyone for ever …are you guys ever going to get a grip on the adoption and child welfare thing there>????? This judge should be ashamed of his or her self - how many lives have they messed with????
The canadian is watching from over here and this just stinks of you all doing wrong to the child and the adoptive parents. Stop being dead heads and realize the child is fine where she is.
Heartless is what this is.

Jen fryreyesonly July 8, 2010, 2:25 AM

I think you all need to stop take a minute and think ALL of you. That means
Lawyers
Social Workers
Hospital Doctors Nurses Med Staff
Neighbors
Jail workers
Judges (who many times dont think of the living subject the living effect)
teachers
employters
YOU all each and everyone one of you if involved in this logical case need to say ok so the father knows who the child is now his or not, but
What is the best for the child??
NO risks put up on the child given the history of anyone’s background should be taken - the judge is wrong she or he needs his ba or what ever re-examined and perhaps they are truly not fully educated if they can not see the simple solution.
Treat it as a divorce the custody remains as it is - the natural parents if they truly in their hearts and if they truly care for this baby or child will say ok I only care to support this child as friend to see this child as given times and via supervised visits in a park library or what ever even with the adoptive parent(s).
The judge needs to have some re-education (it happens to us all) sorry.
The best thing for the child is NOT to force this child to see the natural father alone, NOT force the relationship or bond with the adoptive mom to end-causing the child of what ever age to go into shock, and not trust not bond with anyone ever again -
OBAMA where are you ….lets use some common sense and rectify these situations that are happening far too many times.
Are you all about weird rules and not the social domino affect to the child or children there???
WHO CARES about the natural parents, who cares that they suddenly appear, they have to respect the terms of what happened they should be charged, for forging any documents but who is going to pay hard for this, who is hurting over this - a tiny little child for the sake of SELFISH people trying to regain custody of her for WHAT GOOD REASON???
Sorry the child stays with the adoptive parent(s) the NATURAL PARENTS may visit the child on designated dates and times and superivised visits are ALLOWED FOR THE NATURAL PARENTS until the child or children are 17 if the NATURAL PARENTS REALLY give some love and care deep within they will do this for the safety and well being and nurturing of the child or children that were adopted. LETS ALL REMEMBER
The adoptive parents thought they were going to be parents and did their part completely and full up to this point they cared for the child or children during the good and bad and loving times, the sick times the nasty days times the late night times the vomit times etc… up until now that child or children were fully tended to by someone else for the natural parents who caused the problem initially. Those natural parents should be so very greatful to the adoptive parents and honour them respect them and leave them to raise the child that only knows them the adoptive parents as mom and dad. The nerve of some stone faced judge to think otherwise. The NATURAL PARENTS SHOULD ONLY BE DOING SUPERVISED VISITS ON AGREED MONTHLY DATES UNTIL THE CHILD OR CHILDREN ARE 17 AND they themselves CAN DECIDE with maturity at that age IF THEY WISH TO BE WITH THE natural parents that caused all this problem to begin with. What child would be happy to realize they were forced back with someone who was abussive or in jail or a mother who signed them over to the new adoptive parents who cared and loved this child unconditionally from beginning until now??
ANY RECORD OF JAIL AND ABUSE AND OTHER THINGS SHOULD BE A CLUE TO THE JUDGES THERE AND HERE hello there is a risk and we dont want any child or children put at risk. FOSTER CARE IS NOT NEEDED A DUMB MOVE BY THE JUDGE brainless.
THIS WILL cause that child or children to feel like they can not believe or trust anyone they are being taken from one home to another strange home and nothing is permanent. I think the natural parents should be taken out some where and EDUCATED on the effects of what they have caused and are causing this child -for what good reason??? POWER CONTROL they lack in their drug infested or jail life style so they want to control this situation of this child - how sad how sick it is to hear and see that the system there is not working - THE ADOPTIVE SYSTEM IS WORKING AGAINST THE CHILDREN obvisiouly and when you have a judge making these decissions…god he or she better realize the mess they are causing and probably have caused to many other cases. JUST LIKE DOCTORS JUDGES ARE not always “all there” for many reasons.
SO OBAMA I truly hope you get up from your desks and look at this and realize the child is bonded with a parent it calls mom leave it there make the bad guys who did wrong to begin with pay for damages charges…make hte natural parents have only visits with hte child who can over time know but the child decides if he or she lives with the natural parents when the child is old enough in his or her teens 17 the same age to drive ?? to live with the natural parents and for the record the natural parents should contribute for costs and help support this child they want back for the wrong reasons…oh yes they can start showing how much they care by supplying monthly funding toward the child or childrens education fund! OH yes your darn right.
What kind of game are these judges and people playing there - a joke they are not doing their job and the judge should be removed or gracefully retire.
Disgusting disappointing and heartless to even suggest fostercare - A STEP BACKWARD a hinderance an affect that could be avoided - how dumb is this.
I think you guys have a lot to learn and that is find out why this happened and charge the dumb people who let this happen or go in this direction.
I’d be ashamed and make it known to you all that are apart of this mess, the judge or any others involved in this case or in taking a bonded child who was adopted and doing just fine wiht the adoptive parent(s) …I’d disown you as my relative, I’d kick you all out of the family for causing such a sad and heartless situation to this child or any children unless they were in danger with the adoptive parent(s) and no not because of the natural parents wanting to find and take them back how stupid is that- wake up judge and all you people over there that were apart of this - SHAME ON YOU ALL your looking pretty bad to take this or any child from the only true real good parent its known - the nerve of you all. I hope that each one of you realizes the people you are affecting and the domino affect and what may happen to this chid and others.
Disappointing and disturbing to hear this is happening all for the sake of the word NATURAL? What is natural about the mother giving it up for adoption what is natural about the father showing up with a prison record, what is natural about the parents pretending to want to tend the child, what is natural about the emotional aspects to the child when the foster parents take it in…you guys need to STOP THIS.
END OF STORY get real over there or DR PHIL you better step up for this and many other children. This is so disgusting and so obvious. What have the natural parents done to support this child what kind of home, income past or parenting history or lol education or even money to buy the bed for the child..use your brain and heart people.
Stacey should be left to be the mother of this child..do not interfear and cause the child to have memories and point the finger at the system and sue you later on in life for her life being destroyed by the natural parents who had other control motives. The future will bring children who are wanting to get back what was taken from them, what they were subjected to, for the wrong reasons. Leave her were she is, where she has known …snap out of the dumb zone and see through the natural parents and their motives.

Jen fryreyesonly July 8, 2010, 2:43 AM

Everyone ..so sorry that posted more then it should have but get it through your thinking abilities there who cares about what the natural parents want - its what has been going on for this child until now and with who that counts and the natural parents sure can have a visit monthly and support this child with education funding monthly for her or his future but no do not over step the boundry and bond this child established thank god when you the natural parents gave her up…yes the father to - indirectly he was not there to sign for being the father and he was not around til now…for what reason when he has how many other kids we you and others in the USA will be supporting more then likely down the road..he’s not in this for any good of anyone..but control and power as well as the natural mother. If they care truly care then monthly money for the education fund, monthly money until this child is old enough to decide in her or his teens to live wiht natural mom or not - be greatful that the adoptive parent is a wonderful mom and who has done exceptionally well with the child. Its disgusting that we don’t seem to see what is going well should not be disturbed but enhanced with visits of the natural parents maybe that is all. So Natural parents out there if you were my relative you’d be in big trouble for doing this, I’d make sure your history was made public that all real and true information was public about your childhood upbringing, your education, your work your time in jail your medical drug history, mental health issues, your money and accounts that are empty and your trying to get child welfare for probably …I’d make sure your underware was out in the publics eye- your relatives should do the same - the judge has only done 1/4 of his or her job and should retire.
The same process the adoptive parent went through the natural parents should go through - and more efficiently with looking at why did they do what they did why are they after this child now why did they set this scam up??
You all need to look a little more deeper here. Sorry zero tollerance to jail or drugs or kids ignored by the parent else where - sorry you are wrong Judge and should be examined for making this decission. Hats off to Stacey Doss or who ever she is and where ever she is for tending this child so well and making her life way better :) I’d love to do the same but now who wants to adopt at all reading this hardship heart ache that is avoidable…many people will shy away now thanks to that judge who did not think of ALL VARIABLES ….where did they go to school I wonder…Larry King get to the bottom of this !!! OBAMA clean this up over there - this is so not right. Oprah talk about this issue and Dr Phil and the doctors you all have a job to do and that is to help make this right and stop it from happening again.
Holy doodle can’t believe this !
God I pray this child remains in the adoptive parents hands and her emotional side is not messed with by forcing her into strange peoples homes and the unbalanced unstable natural parents had better back off and do what is good for this child.They need to grow up and be sent to parenting before ever having kids again mandatory.
Its so easy to make a child, for some….and then its so easy to want it back but how do they qualify or score verses others and the adoptive parents think about this - we are not going on scores but the emotional well being of a child so we dont have a mess bigger down the road with this child.

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pentt July 11, 2010, 10:50 AM

the law is the law only when it concerns women.

JB July 11, 2010, 4:48 PM

Those who are supporting the “father” must be friends of his. The man has a lengthy criminal record and a history of domestic violence. He doesn’t have any interest in raising any of his children, and that includes Vanessa. It is his intention to get custody so he can turn Vanessa over to his MOTHER so she can raise him, rather than raising her himself! Where is the logic in that? It sounds like he’s on a power trip (woman beaters usually are) and cares more about asserting his power than doing what is right for that poor little girl.


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