Family Bonds, by Elizabeth Bartholet
This past August, a screaming two-and-a-half-year-old child was taken from her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and sent to live with strangers in Iowa. The case, which received national media attention, involved a Michigan couple, the DeBoers, who had been fighting to keep the little girl they had raised since birth, and the girl’s biological parents, the Schmidts, who had been trying to get her back since shortly after she was first given up for adoption. With neither side willing to bend, both couples had hired lawyers and fought their way through almost every state court in Michigan and Iowa.
To most people, the outcome, which took the child away from the only parents she had known and deposited her with complete strangers, must seem utterly sinister and baffling. Yet while the DeBoers have suffered grievously, their claim to sympathy is somewhat clouded by the fact that they knew within three weeks of bringing the child home that her biological parents wanted her back. They were also warned that, because the biological father, Dan Schmidt, had never relinquished his own parental rights, the law—in Iowa, at least—was stacked against them. Although it would have been difficult for them to return the child at any time, the baby would undoubtedly have been better off if she had been given over at an early stage and been spared what must now be the nightmare of her life.
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