A father has been reunited with his 22-month-old daughter who was given up for adoption at birth without his knowledge. After a grueling custody battle between the army drill sergeant, Terry Archane, and the Frei family who had adopted his daughter, a Utah judge ruled that the girl must be returned to her biological father.
"I'm just happy right now. I'm with my daughter," Sgt. Terry Achane told "Good Morning America."
Achane was stationed in South Carolina when his now ex-wife, Tira Bland, gave birth to their daughter Leah (who he calls Teleah) in March 2011. He expected to return to his wife and baby in Texas, where he expected the birth would take place, after the child was born, the Salt Lake Tribune reported in December. But Bland delivered Leah in Utah, instead, and gave her up for adoption just two days later. It was weeks before Achane knew his daughter had been placed for adoption.
"Utah's laws appeal to people who want to get it done quick, rather than to people who want to get it done right," Adam Pertman, executive director at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, told GMA.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Jared and Kristi Frei were aware that Achane did not consent to the adoption. But, they proceeded because he "abandoned the natural mother during her pregnancy" and "had not developed a substantial relationship [with his daughter]," the paper reported. When Achane began a legal battle for custody of his daughter, the Frei family started a blog and has since raised over $22,000 for legal fees.
Judge Darold McDade of Provo, Utah ruled in November that Leah must be returned to her father within 60 days. The Judge wrote that he was “astonished and deeply troubled” that the agency proceeded with the adoption without Achane's consent. According to ABC, the Utah Supreme Court denied a request by the Frei family to overturn that decision.
Over the weekend, Leah was united with her father. And now, he has a few new things to worry about. "Potty training and me combing hair," Achane told GMA.