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Baby Vaughn: Failed Adoptions and False Choices

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Guest blogger Robin Sax: Few people would disagree that abortion is one of the most hotly contested issues in our country. The passion from the pro-choice and pro-life camps is evident. From printed words to television screens, from debate podiums to our living rooms -- whenever the issue is even mildly discussed, tensions flare on both sides. Seldom is there an opportunity or an issue that bridges both viewpoints. But now we have one: the broken adoption system in the United States. That's because the right of a mother to choose (pro-choice) and the desire for the child to be born (pro-life) are both at play whenever a mother takes the adoption route.

Grayson
Abortion laws affect many areas of American life. Take their effect on crime, for example. Many are familiar with the theory that legal abortion reduces crime. Proponents of the theory argue that unwanted children are more likely to become criminals. In particular, it is argued that the legalization of abortion in the United States after Roe v. Wade has reduced crime in years since. Opponents generally dispute these statistics and will point to some negative effects of abortion on society. This camp encourages women to choose to put their children up for adoption rather than have abortions. 

Every mother has a right (and a responsibility) to develop a life plan for her unborn child. Today, as most of us already know, there are essentially three legal options for an American woman who is faced with an unwanted pregnancy: 1) Keep and parent the child, 2) Have the child and place him/her up for adoption or 3) Terminate the pregnancy. Obviously the choice is very difficult, and thus the source of many heated debates. But the great misfortune is that the adoption system is truly broken in America. 

The mechanisms to both put a child up for adoption and to adopt a child are fraught with so many problems. Many will pursue an adoption option in a foreign country (sometimes risking medical difficulties in the child) rather than stay domestic. The domestic system has a high probability of failed adoption, legal difficulties or failed placement. Therefore, women who have an unwanted pregnancy are choosing to terminate rather than pursue adoption as a viable alternative. In turn, more Americans must go abroad to China, Russia, etc., to adopt.

A woman should have a valid alternative to either aborting her baby or being forced to raise a child she does not want. Adoption should be that valid alternative. But some states will not recognize a mother's right to place her child up for adoption. This leaves a woman with only the two alternatives: aborting or parenting. In the case of Baby Grayson Vaughn, the birth mother had the constitutional right to place her newborn child up for adoption. Her choice was protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Because of her constitutional right to choose what to do with her body, no man should be able to object to this newborn adoption. Any interference from a unwed father can be viewed as a violation of freedom of choice, a violation of privacy rights and of Due Process. 

So how is that 3-year-old Grayson is caught in a torturous battle between his prospective adoptive parents, Jason and Christy Vaughn of Sellersburg, Indiana, and his birth father, Benjamin Wyrembek of Swanton, Ohio? Will this case end in tragedy on October 30 -- the day the Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the boy to be returned to his birth father (a total stranger) and be taken away from the only parents he has ever known? 

While some people criticize the Vaughns, thousands of their supporters are in a fight against the clock to save Grayson from what experts have deemed "court-sanctioned child abuse." How is custody of Baby Vaughn even an issue when his birth mother herself chose the Vaughns as parents, acknowledged her own inability to care for the child and expressed the belief that Benjamin Wyrembek is not fit to parent his child? Why are we punishing this mother for choosing adoption as a viable option and selecting the Vaughns -- loving parents -- to be her child's mom and dad?

It has been three years since Christy Vaughn first held Grayson after he was born; she took him home nine days later. Now the courts want to take this child away from the only parents -- and siblings -- he has ever known. One question we might ask: Does Grayson's mother regret having her child? Any birth mother faced with this kind of contested adoption could understandably regret that she did not choose abortion

A woman must have the constitutionally protected right to place her newborn up for adoption, and not be forced into electing either abortion or parenting an unwanted child. While the "father's rights" people may be going crazy out there, please know that I agree that fathers deserve rights (of course!). But in this specific case, the woman's rights trump. And I am not alone in my thinking: The Supreme Court agrees. In Planned Parenthood of Central Mo. v. Danforth, the Court made it clear that the reproductive rights of a woman are constitutionally protected and superior to the claimed rights of all others, even her husband. 

Adoptive children and families are suffering injustices, as in Baby Vaughn's case, with the unfair adoptions laws. We must speak out and begin to mend this terrible state of affairs.


next: Bob Saget Posts Video of Screaming Baby
151 comments so far | Post a comment now
KS October 12, 2010, 5:22 PM

I fail to see where giving fathers their rights to parent children who are born is in any way restricting the reproductive rights of women. An adoption should never be valid until both parents have signed away their rights to their child.

Your argument that this ruling is going to restrict mothers rights holds no water. Giving men rights to parent their children does not equal taking away the rights of women. I fail to see why you would have come to that conclusion. If this women did not want to have a man such as Benjamin Wyrembek as the father of her child she should have prevented the pregnancy or sought out an abortion. Not declared that he is a unfit parent after she herself took the time and effort to carry his child to term.

Furthermore, your argument of women not wanting their babies to be exposed to abuse holds no weight either. No mother who gives their child up for adoption can say with any certainty that their child will never be abused.

If you do not want to father a child with a man who is unfit to raise children then you need to do whats necessary to ensure you do not become impregnated with the mans baby. Or simply chose to not have sexual encounters with men you feel are so unworthy.

Men should have just as much rights to the babies that are born as women do. If you are PROVED to be an unfit parent THEN you should have your rights stripped. No man has the right to arbitrarily declare a woman unfit and then take her baby away from her so why does a women have the right to decide to carry a baby to term then give it to another family because she feels the father is not suitable? It’s sexist and discriminatory.

read the case history October 12, 2010, 5:42 PM

This has to be one of the most disingenuous articles every written on this case. This case isn’t about a woman’s right to chose, the biological mother had every right to chose to give up her child and she did. She did not have a right to force the father to give up his child. Note, that he’s not trying in any way to compel her to be part of the child’s life. He’s fighting for his and his son’s right to be together. It’s ridiculous to say that her choosing not to be a part of it, means he and his son can’t be together.

This case is also not about the risks of adoption. This isn’t a case of a stranger showing up years later. The father filed for his son BEFORE they filed adoption papers. They were legally notified of his claim when the child was days old. The adoption agency was found to be in CONTEMPT of court and the director given a 30 Day Sentence (suspended if he complied with the court orders).

They are on their THIRD adoption petition for this child. When 2 state SUPREME COURTS throw out 2 adoption petitions, that’s not because adoption is “fraught with so many problems.” It’s because this father was found to be FIT by the courts, and NEVER CONSENTED TO ADOPTION. And that was made clear since his son was days old.

To quote the Ohio Juvenile Court Judge, “Plaintiff has made efforts to obtain possession and custody of his child since December, 2007.”

If anyone has an interest in reading the timeline of this case, or what multiple courts had to say about it, take a look at this link, http://thinkingoutloudcafe.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/timeline-in-the-vaughn-wyrembek-adoption-custody-case/

A mom of Three October 12, 2010, 6:04 PM

Robin,
You are reaching here…So if we follow your argument, fathers have no choice in what happends to their child because the Mother has all the rights. Once again, another Vaughn supporter reaching or grasping at straws to hold on to a baby that doesn’t belong to them. Robin you are an attorney you should know this. I am all for adoption but in this case, The Vaughns were notified of possible paternity 7 days after they had the baby. They chose to roll the dice and lost. They have dragged this out and poor Grayson is the loser. If they had did the right thing, they wouldn’t be in the mess know and Grayson would be with his father. They get no sympathy from me!

Rebecca October 12, 2010, 6:09 PM

Oh please, no one is forcing Grayson’s birth mother to raise him. The biological father is willing and ready to take full custody of Grayson and doesn’t expect the birth mother to contribute at all. It’s not the woman’s right to decide the father is unfit. Once the child is born there is a legal process by which an unwed father can gain the rights to his child. Grayson’s father followed this legal process. Grayson’s court-appointed guardian met with Grayson’s father and ordered a home study of his home. The father is employed, has his own home, and is able to financially and emotionally care for his son. He has been thoroughly investigated by the courts. The mother has the right to give up HER rights, she doesn’t have the right to give up the FATHER’S rights, only the state has that right, and since the father was found fit, he gets to raise his son. The mother never needs to see the child again if she doesn’t want to. But she doesn’t have the right to take that choice away from the father.

Rebecca Herman October 12, 2010, 6:12 PM

Oh please, no one is forcing Grayson’s birth mother to raise him. The biological father is willing and ready to take full custody of Grayson and doesn’t expect the birth mother to contribute at all. It’s not the woman’s right to decide the father is unfit. Once the child is born there is a legal process by which an unwed father can gain the rights to his child. Grayson’s father followed this legal process. Grayson’s court-appointed guardian met with Grayson’s father and ordered a home study of his home. The father is employed, has his own home, and is able to financially and emotionally care for his son. He has been thoroughly investigated by the courts. The mother has the right to give up HER rights, she doesn’t have the right to give up the FATHER’S rights, only the state has that right, and since the father was found fit, he gets to raise his son. The mother never needs to see the child again if she doesn’t want to. But she doesn’t have the right to take that choice away from the father.

read the case history October 12, 2010, 6:20 PM

“Will this case end in tragedy on October 30 — the day the Ohio Supreme Court has ordered the boy to be returned to his birth father (a total stranger) and be taken away from the only parents he has ever known?” This is one of the most saddening lines of the article, but not for the reason the author intended.

To begin with, the father filed has been asking to get to know his son for years. He filed his first petition for visitation/parenting time in August 2008 - that was before the Vaughns even agreed to allow a DNA test.

The Ohio courts granted him visitation and the Vaughns appealed it, and it was dismissed. He filed again for visitation, and the court granted him WEEKLY 4 hour visits with his son, (a year after he first asked). The Vaughns took his son to exactly ONE of those visits, where the father and the child’s grandmother got to meet their son and grandson. The Vaughns then filed an emergency ex-parte (meaning only one side participates) petition , in another state, to get temporary custody and to no longer have to allow father and son to spend 4 hours a week with each other. That was in September 2009. If they had done what the Ohio court ordered, and allowed those weekly visits from August 2009, do you think this father would be a “stranger” to his son? Do you think the Vaughns would be “the only family this child knows” when he would have been spending part of every weekend with his grandmother and the rest of his family?

Cassi October 12, 2010, 6:20 PM

I agree with the others, this article is one of the most ridiculous, uninformed ones I have seen in a very long time.

First, if you want to know how badly adoption is broken, you should research every single area you can to learn of the coercion and manipulation that takes place over and over again so that the adoption industry can continue to make it’s billion dollar, unregulated profit off of convincing mothers they are not “good enough” for their own child.

And a child born, is no longer in any way part of the mother’s body, and as a mom and a woman, I can’t believe anyone would even make the argument that this is so in any way or that a mother’s rights are violated if a father wants to raise and love his own child.

We can’t have it both ways, ladies. We can’t fight for our equal rights only to turn around and deny fathers their own. The only person who has been cheated by this system and the adoption laws as they are today is Grayson and his father who should have been together from the moment his dad declared he did not, in any way, want to give him up for adoption. Which was done, by the way, within weeks of Grayson being born.

Christine October 12, 2010, 6:22 PM

Honestly this is a tough one. I think what is sad at this point is that the one getting the short end of the stick is the child. I think the parents on both sides are being really selfish. It is hard when he has been with one family and thats all he knows. I gave a baby up for adoption and the father was given the opportunity to show up in court and he didnt show so his rights were terminated by the courts. We dont really know the whole story about what really happened so we really cant judge either side. Unfortunately it seems that the adoptive parents and the biological father cant seem to come to any kind of agreement and if they truely had the childs best interest in mind they would work something out.

Anonymous October 12, 2010, 6:27 PM

Yes, the adoption system is broken. These horrible adoptive parents should not have ever been able to adopt a child. That is the source of the problem.

Rebecca Herman October 12, 2010, 6:33 PM

Christine - though the last court hearing was closed, the word going around is that the bio father offered visitation once he gets custody and the Vaughns refused - they said if they can’t adopt him they don’t want to see him ever again. If that’s true, who is the one not willing to work for the best interests of the child? This father has been fight for his son since 2 weeks after he was born. He filed for his rights as the law requires in his state, he has won every court case and the Vaughns have lost every court case so far for over 2 years. It is the Vaughns fault if the child suffers from leaving them, because they purposely created this situation.

read the case history October 12, 2010, 6:46 PM

The Ohio Court appointed a Guardian ad litem in this case. The court considered the best interest of the child and was urging the parties to work with the GAL to complete a transfer in the child’s best interest.

In July 2010, the court wrote, “Adoption by Gentle Care and John Cameron are hereby ordered to work with Heather Fournier, the Guardian ad litem in this case, and the Vaughn family to plan and facilitate the transfer of the minor child to Mr. Wyrembek in the manner that is in the child’s best interest. This Judgment Entry applies to the Vaughn family to the extent necessary to facilitate the return of the child, who is placed with the Vaughns, to the placement agency, Adoption by Gentle Care.”

The Indiana court later wrote in the September 2010 court decision, “The court strongly urges that the Vauhn’s comply with the suggestions of Heather J. Fournier in her letter of August 16, 2010 to Mr. Vorhees and others in facilitating such transfer of custody.”

That was in August and September 2010, when the father had been granted custody of his son since January 2010. He was declared the father and the adoption was dismissed by June 2009!

This is an awful situation for this little boy, but if you read some of the history of the case, it’s clear that this child could have and should have been reunited with his father long ago.

As the Ohio Juvenile Court said months earlier, “It is in the best interests of this child that custody be awarded to the Plaintiff and that he be designated as the residential parent and legal custodian of this child. Any further delays in these proceedings do not serve the best interest of the child.”

Anyone interested in the quotes above can find much of the timeline to the case and information on finding the supporting documents at this link
http://thinkingoutloudcafe.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/timeline-in-the-vaughn-wyrembek-adoption-custody-case/



Robin October 12, 2010, 7:24 PM

Reproductive rights end when the child leaves your body, then the father’s PARENTAL rights kick in. The reproductive rights of the mother involve the father to the extent that the father cannot force an abortion to happen, nor stop the mother from getting one. Once you’ve made the decision to carry to term and give birth all bets are off and the father has full rights to that child, ESPECIALLY if the mother is giving up her parental rights. It’s his child too.
If the mother really cared she would have gone through the proper steps to have him surrender his rights or be found unfit before putting that child and that family through adoption hell.

Chris Thomas October 12, 2010, 7:37 PM

Nice article. This birth mother decided that she knew what was for her child and made a decision. All the Vaughn’s did was follow a designed process to adopt a child and then fell in love with that baby. They have acted in the mothers wishes from day one to protect the child from what the mother was trying to protect the child from. It amazes me so many people claim to know what happened in a closed court room. One poster has suggested that the Vaughn’s didn’t want anything to do with Grayson if they couldn’t adopt him - I am sure that this is could not be further from the truth. This is a case of the birth mother making a decision about HER child and being fortunate enough to find a loving couple to fight for whats right for Grayson. I applaud the author and the Vaughn’s and am disappointed by the opinions of the other “legal beagles” posting here.

Mom of Three October 12, 2010, 7:47 PM

Chris Thomas,

The court documents are posted online. Anyone with computer access can get them. I am disappointed in the Vaughns and their actions. They get on tv hoping to solicit sympathy but once you read the court documents you see they have lied about what they told on the tv. I am for adoptive rights but in their case they are looking out for self and want to hold onto a baby by using essentially using squatters’ rights. Give the man his baby back!

Josh Smith October 12, 2010, 7:48 PM

The misinformation on these posts is unbelievable. The GAL recommended the Vaughn’s over the birthfather twice. Once in the Probate court. Once in the Juvenile Court. In addition a PHD Child Psychologist determined irrepparable harm would happen to Grayson if he was removed from the Vaughn’s. Those are the facts from the experts. Every Judge was aware of these recommendations via court filing.

Cassi October 12, 2010, 7:49 PM

**This is a case of the birth mother making a decision about HER child and being fortunate enough to find a loving couple to fight for whats right for Grayson.***

The problem with this way of thinking is that Grayson is not, and hasn’t been since birth, only HER child. Why discount fathers and their importance in a child’s life. Why try to further take away their rights?

A woman’s reproductive rights have absolutely nothing to do with this case - research yourself on all legal standings and you will find this is true (and it doesn’t even take a “legal beagle” to find this out.) And they shouldn’t! This father’s rights should have been protected from the minute it was known that the one signing the adoption papers was not the biological father. And the Vaughns should have given Grayson back to his father the minute they knew he never wanted to give his son up for adoption.

The Vaughns, in my opinion, are the ones violating a constitutional right in this case by their constant and continual battle to keep a child that should never have been theirs in the first place

Rebecca Herman October 12, 2010, 7:56 PM

Find me ONE court case. JUST ONE. that has said a woman’s reproductive rights extend to decisions about the child’s custody AFTER the child is born. Good luck. There are plenty of cases stating an unwed father MUST be given some legal process he can choose to use if he wants to form a real relationship with his child. it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL to not offer an unwed father any legal method of establishing a relationship with his biological child. I suggest you take a look at the many court cases and you have found that it has been ruled time and time again that unwed fathers have a legal right to their children if they follow certain steps. if the father is fit and follows the correct legal processes, the mother has zero legal right to give up the child for adoption against his wishes. Once the child is out of her body, her reproductive rights end. Period.

Josh Smith October 12, 2010, 7:58 PM

The Ohio Statutes clearly state that a father must financially support the mother during her pregnancy and the child at birth. Read the court documents posted in these comments. The father never supported the mother or the baby. In fact, he states that he shouldn’t have to support his baby. Let’s stop talking about his rights and talk about his responsibilities. A man who takes his responsibilities earns his rights. Check out Lehr v Robertson and any other adoption case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rebecca Herman October 12, 2010, 7:58 PM

For those interested you can see every supreme court of ohio document here. many of the earlier documents from lower courts and other states are attached to various documents: http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Clerk/ecms/resultsbycasenumber.asp?type=3&year=2010&number=1375&myPage=searchbycasenumber.asp

Anonymous October 12, 2010, 8:03 PM

Robin, this is an outrageous stretch.

When a birth father chooses to parent, the birth mother is not involved. She is not required to pay child support (as he would be), or raise the child with him. Your argument is contrived.

Your “facts” about the broken adoption system are also flawed. Can you cite any statistics for your claims?

Finally, you are clearly not educated on preferred adoption language. The line about “a child she doesn’t want” is full of assumptions and judgement. As the mother of two domestically adopted children, I can say they were both very much wanted by their birth parents. And further, wanting the best for them, they chose adoption.

In our adoption processes, we experienced none of the pitfalls you trump up in this mis-guided essay. But then again, we followed the law, and the Vaughn’s have not.


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