What happened to the best interest of the child? Why do some states care about the best interest of children and others do not? The best interest of children, while a default standard in family law cases (i.e. divorce), seems not to matter to some states when it comes to adoption. Baby Vaughn is a case in point.
I wish this were this was the first time I was writing about an Ohio adoption gone awry. But, as some of you may recall, I recently wrote about a heartbreakingly similar case of mother Stacey Doss with Baby Vanessa. (See my article on Stacey Doss who is fighting to keep her child -- who was also adopted in Ohio.) What is going on in Ohio and why don't the judges care about what is objectively in the best interests of their children?
Three years ago in Toledo, Ohio Drucilla Bocvarov decided to give up her child, conceived while she was having an extramarital affair with Benjamin Wyrembek. She terminated her parental rights to allow Christy and Jason Vaughn to adopt the baby through an Ohio adoption agency. She carried the child with the intention of giving him up for adoption and chose the Vaughns to be his parents. Christy Vaughn was the first one to hold that child, brought him home nine days after his birth, and has been his mother ever since. That child, now Grayson Thomas Vaughn to me and Grayson Bocvarov to others, is three years old and may be ripped from the only family he has ever known: Christy and Jason Vaughn -- his mom and dad.
The details of this case are fairly complex because the legal issues have involved numerous courts at several different levels and are being played out in two states: Ohio and Indiana. The Vaughns live in Sellersburg, Indiana but the adoption of Grayson occurred in Ohio. The biological father, Ben Wyrembek, lives in Ohio and it is the Ohio Juvenile Court that wants to take away Baby Vaughn from his family. This is a critical moment for Grayson's family. The Ohio Supreme Court now has the authority to stop Grayson's removal from his home, but the court seems to be choosing to ignore the law and the best interest of this child.
An adoption in Ohio is a two-step process, which involves first a determination whether parental consent is required, and, second, whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. In general a child in the adoption process has the right to "early permanence and stability". The Ohio legislature supposedly designed their adoption process to promote this concept, but the law in practice does not measure up. The current adoption statutes provide for a hearing to weigh evidence on the birthfather's showing of support to the mother and unborn child and decide the best interests for a baby within a few months of the filing of a petition for adoption after birth. But in Grayson's case he is now three years old and there is still no resolution. The "early permanence" Grayson is enjoying with his loving adoptive family threatens to be crushed with the Ohio court's order to make Grayson return to his bio dad.
The decision by the Ohio court is just plain wrong. A leading national group, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, is against the Ohio decision and filed a brief to the Court asking it to reconsider the ruling. In the decision the Court's dissenting opinion said in fact there was "nothing in the adoption statutes that allows for a birth father to attack the adoption simply by establishing paternity."
Even the Ohio legislature recognizes their law is wrong. So why isn't the judging applying the law that is IN effect? Current law reads "a man who has intercourse with a woman is on notice that if a child is born as a result and the man is the putative [purported] father, the child may be adopted without his consent." Current law also states that if a biological father does not register with the Putative Father Registry thirty days after the birth then legal consent by the father was not required.
While courts are tossing Grayson around like a piece of chattel one cannot help to thing about Grayson. Permanent damage would be done to this three year old child if he were to be removed from his parents, Christy and Jason Vaughn and that reality cannot be discounted.
Psychologist Kathleen Kirby, after performing a child and family evaluation concludes that "in the case of Grayson Thomas Vaughn, the likelihood of irreparable harm is more than likely; it is inevitable." Indeed Grayson has been endangered by the very judges involved in his case who are supposed to be "guardians of his care." What can these parents do when a Judge's order has endangered their child? This is a critical issue and is not the first time Ohio has ruled arbitrarily and unfairly on the putative father issue in an adoption case.
The black robes of the court have actually cast a dark shadow on the care, treatment and protection provided to the children and families in the Floyd County Circuit Court. We can only hope that the attention of Grayson's case will shine some light. We must discuss and reveal the injustices adoptive children and families are suffering with the unfair application of the adoptions law everywhere but IMMEDIATELY in Ohio.
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