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Tuesday, January 18, 2000

Adoptive parents must hand over baby to birth father
Single man wins ruling
Yvonne Zacharias
The Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - A B.C. judge has ordered that adoptive parents hand over a 10-month-old baby to her single, 25-year-old birth father, who has been fighting to raise the girl as his own since before she was born.

The adoptive parents have until Jan. 28 to hand over baby No. 99-00733, as she is identified, or to appeal the decision handed down last Friday by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Raymond Paris.

The judge hopes they do not appeal.

"The sooner the child is transferred from one caregiver to another, the less likelihood there is of permanent harm being done," the judge wrote in a 10-page judgment that reads like a chapter from a novel. "The court is of course mindful of how painful the process will be for them."

The judgment described how the birth father and mother had a two-month relationship after meeting at work, resulting in pregnancy. None of the parties is named in the judgment and the baby is identified only by her birth registration number.

The mother, who is of Egyptian ancestry, was originally of the Coptic Orthodox religion but is now a practising Roman Catholic. Abortion was out of the question for both birth parents for moral reasons.

The father also opposed adoption, offering to either marry or live with the birth mother. Failing that, he was prepared to raise the child on his own, the judgment said.

But the mother was adamant that the child be put up for adoption and proceeded to do so through an adoption agency --though she has since changed her mind.

The baby was born last March 6 and 11 days later was placed with a couple who had been married for eight years and had been trying desperately to have children. They are described as churchgoers with large, close extended families.

"They now feel strongly attached to the child," the judge wrote, though he added they have always known the father could contest the adoption because he had not consented to it. "By all accounts, the child is happy, in good health and thriving."

But the birth father, too, has extended family ties. In fact, he has always lived at home with his parents, who moved here from Greece when he was two. With the support of family and friends, he plans to bring the child home to live with them. His 50-year-old mother has said she is willing to quit her part-time job to help raise the child.

The young father, who has fought so tenaciously for his baby girl, works in a financial institution which has a $10-a-day daycare that accepts infants.

In a closed court hearing mid-December, the mother testified she now feels she made a mistake in placing the child for adoption.

In retrospect, the unemployed university-educated woman feels she was placed under inordinate pressure to give up her child by her own mother, who made her feel embarrassed and ashamed of her situation, and by a social worker at the agency.

She said the social worker discouraged her from naming the birth father on the baby's registration papers, warning her that if she included it, he could block the adoption.

Though she has another boyfriend and has no intention of resuming a relationship with her baby's father, she wants some access to the child herself, a request deemed acceptable to the judge.

Judge Paris pointed out that all the adults contesting custody seemed to be good candidates for parenthood and to have a sincere desire to raise the child.

But he drew heavily on the expertise of Dr. William Koch, a clinical consulting and forensic psychologist, who got to know the adults in the case. Dr. Koch said there is no scientific evidence that separation from the adoptive parents is likely to have long-term adverse effects on the child, according to the judgment.

In the end, because all factors seemed "pretty much in balance" except for the biological link, he turned to something as basic as "lessons of ordinary human experience."

"The birth father should have custody of the child," he concluded. "I so order."

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