When you see injustice all the time, as I do every day at work, you get used to it. It's a sad reality of my profession, where I too often witness bad results for victims of horrible crimes. But rarely do I see such disgusting manifestations of system failures as I did this past week in two cases. The first, the one I'm exploring today, is the case of Baby Vanessa. The second example will be up tomorrow, in part two of this post.
These two cases make one think of flipping through the Discovery Channel, TruTV, or the like, where one encounters unbelievably sensational crimes and incredible wrongs. I worry that we live in a disheartened, blasé society -- one that prefers to ignore critical issues rather than engage and change them. It's painful to watch our system fail our citizens, and I refuse to stand on the sidelines. This is important, and these two cases are happening now!
The battle for baby Vanessa made headlines last week when a local KNBC Los Angeles journalist, Tara Wallis Finestone, got wind of the heartbreaking tug-of-war between the adoptive mother Stacey Doss (right) and birth father Benjamin Mills, Jr.
Doss adopted Vanessa at birth with the help of an adoption agency. This was a legitimate adoption. Unfortunately, however, the birth mother lied - under penalty of perjury - on the forms when she stated the child was as a result of a “one night stand” and that she had no idea of the birth father's identity.
Baby Vanessa, now two years old, has been ordered to return to Ohio where she will be cared for by her paternal grandmother, whom she has never met. Stacey Doss, Vanessa’s adoptive mother, was given until July 16 to turn over the child.
Since birth, little Vanessa has lived with the only mother she knows - Stacey Doss - in Southern California. Baby Vanessa has been safe and happy and has an extended family of loving grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins with the Doss family. Stacey is being challenged by the birth father, who is African-American; Toddler Vanessa is bi-racial . While Stacey is Caucasian, her extended family includes bi-racial children and marriages . The big question is why does the birth father want to uproot Vanessa from her loving home with Stacy? What are his motives?
“I ask all decent people from both California and Ohio to help me in this cause, not only to ensure Vanessa stays permanently with the only loving family she has ever known, but to bring situations like this to the attention of the public for all adoptive parents who are fighting a fight like this,” said Stacey. “I'm frightened for my daughter and have cried endlessly at the thought of her being taken away from me and placed with complete strangers. How would you feel? In this instance the law has lost its common sense and regard for human decency . . . children are not a commodity that you put in a warehouse until a decision is made as to where to place them!” As you can tell, Stacy is distraught and at her wits end with trying to fight this.
Stacey has said, “Even though this case has been gut wrenching, the decision to adopt Vanessa is still the best decision I ever made.” Stacy plans to commit the rest of her life to adoption reform, making it easier, faster and more affordable so that no one suffers needlessly the way she and her daughter have.
Regardless of where you fall on the question of whether an adoptive mom should trump a biological parent – how about considering the best interest of the child? After all, in family court cases that's the exact standard that we use to determine the custody orders of natural parents when there is a divorce. In this case, it's not even a close call. The best interest of this child is with Stacey Doss.