Stay Denied in Utah

I’ve been following a case from Utah for some time now.   You can read those earlier posts but the basic outlines are simple.

Terry Achane was married and his wife was pregnant.   She wished to give the child up for adoption and he did not.  When the army moved him from Texas (where they lived) to South Carolina the wife stayed behind.  Eventually, she went to Utah to give birth.  Utah law grants very limited parentage rights to unmarried men and, though Achane was married, it seems that the wife took advantage of this feature.   (The marriage was apparently ending.)   She placed the child for adoption and the little girl ended up with a couple named Frei.   It took Achane some months to locate the child but in time he did and in October a court affirmed his rights as a legal parent.   By that time the child was around 20 months old.

In terms of remedy going forward, the problem is that, rightly or wrongly, Achane is a total stranger to the child.  The Freis are the only parents the child has ever known.   Transferring custody is therefore a delicate matter even when it is the right thing to do.

The Freis sought to stay the transfer pending appeal–after all, if the order transferring custody turns out to be mistaken, then transferring actual custody of the child now will create an additional layer of disruption–because custody would then be transferred back to the Freis when they win on appeal.

Achane has a fine counter-argument on the stay.  If the order recognizing him as the sole legal parent of the child is correct, then the sooner the transfer is accomplished, the better.   And since he was not an unmarried father but rather a married one, the harsh provisions of Utah law should never have been applied to him.  (Marital status is crucial to determination of legal parentage in many states.)

Yesterday the judge in Utah refused to grant the Freis request for a stay.   He left intact the January 16 deadline by which the child must be turned over to Achane.   I would understand the denial of a stay as a determination by the judge that his initial decision recognizing Achane as the sole legal parent of the child is likely correct.    (If the judge thought there were good reasons to doubt the correctness of his ruling, he might grant the stay for the reasons argued by the Freis.)

The Freis apparently plan to appeal, but obviously there’s a short time-frame here.  I imagine they’ll ask the appellate court for a stay pending appeal.

One other note–the article reports that there have been some efforts to raise money to defray legal costs of both parties.   Surprisingly (at least, to me), the Freis have been more successful than has Achane.   Of course, the money may come from friends/acquaintances/community members of the Freis, but I’m surprised because in general it seems to me that the sympathies here run more to Achane.   I guess that could just be my view of things, though.

Stay tuned.

 

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15 responses to “Stay Denied in Utah

  1. “Surprisingly (at least, to me), the Freis have been more successful than has Achane.”

    Julie – if you go back to the comments in the old posts you will see that money was raised before this hit the news AND the Fries sanitized their blog solicting donations.

  2. The problem regarding donations is that the lawyers didn’t have a site set up when the story first hit the news. Many people initially wanted to donate but there was no real way to do so without contacting the lawyers directly.

    Another problem is that many sites consider this story to be over and don’t realize that they can drag this out in appeal for YEARS.

  3. I also got the impression that the Freis were banking on the support of members of their religious denomination, while Achane has no such affiliation.

    • Fedup with Utah Adoption Corruption

      They may get donations from their immediate church members, but as a whole, members of the LDS Church think what they are doing is appaling and very wrong.

  4. How much do you remember from when you were two? I’m sorry but look at time served versus time remaining. To leave the child with these people who obviously don’t care about her rights at all just because they took care of her for a couple of years is ridiculous when she could have 16 years living with her own family with her own father performing his parental duties which is what she’s owed.

    Does every child have the right to be adopted? Does every child at least have the right to expect to be cared for by their own parents and then if they fail maybe be adopted but she has a right to be with her own family

    • I think most pscyhologists would say it is not about specific memory but about ability to bond properly. It’s called attachment. Human infants are primed to attach to an adult caretaker (and adults caretakers form a corresponding attachment to the child). Some say it is a survival of the species technique, because human infants require so much care. In any event, I think it is very widely agreed that the disruption of these attachments can cause lasting harm. I’m no expert, but I think the research suggests that this is true no matter why the attachment is disrupted–whether by death or choice or whatever. But the reasons also matter.

      In any event, this is the concern any time you are dealing with relocating very young children. If the child is strongly attached to the person you’re moving them away from I think you have to proceed with care and senstivity. And surely it helps if everyone is working with the program.

      Anyway, as I said, I am not an expert. But I do think the psychological concept of attachment (which is not a particularly controversial notion) is what is at issue here. So the fact that most of us don’t have any conscious memory from before two or three years old is not the only thing to consider. There’s a ton of stuff out there to read and I have no idea what to start with, but I offer one option that looks credible to me: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2169321/

  5. 20 months? Kids stay in foster care longer than that waiting for their parents to complete drug programs or whatnot if they’re not quite capable of raising their offspring.

    This father never seemed incapable of raising his offspring. It is a shame he had to wait for 20 months, though. This should have been clear from day 1.

    And this father was clearly “invested” in this child during her mother’s pregnancy. while the mother was not. Which makes me think your argument a few posts ago was simplistic and sexist. And I’m a woman who has given birth to two children so far.

    • It’s true that many children are separated from parental figures for more than 20 months, but this hardly means it is a good thing. It is (as I just wrote in response to Marilyn’s comment) about attachment theory. Assuming the Frei’s have done a decent job as parents (and putting aside what we think about how the acquired the child), she will have formed a strong attachment to them. That’s a good thing for her–children who do not form these early attachments often become troubled adults. But it also poses problems. I do not mean to suggest that now she must stay with the Frei’s, but any change of custody must be handled with this in mind. I don’t know how you do that, but I know that you need to get some serious help in figuring it out.

      In the same way, there’s nothing good in bouncing the child back and forth between households. That’s way it makes sense for the judge to think about hhow sure he is he is right. If he thought there were a 50/50 chance he’d be reversed than it might make sense to leave things as they are to minimize the possiblity of two disruptive moves. But if it’s likely he is right (and I think it is) then he might as well just order it done. And this is what the appellate court will do as well.

      About investment by the father–first of all, I don’t really know the facts to know what sorts of investment there might have been. So I have no specific response, really.

      But in general it seems to me there are two different kinds of things to think about and I might think about them differently. You can be emotionally invested in something and do nothing much to manifest the investment. This seems to me somewhat different from actually investing in ways that might benefit the child–say by taking a parenting class or starting to arrange childcare. I’m more inclined to credit the latter (I suppose this is the ‘actions speak louder than words’ principle?). There might be something sexist (or at least gendered) in all this. There’s no doubt that it is harder for a non-pregnant prospective parent to manifest investment. But I’m not sure what to do about it.

      • It means that she can bond again. Children don’t just form bonds with their primary caregivers. They form all sorts of bonds with people around them. I’ve had some children under my care form extremely tight bonds to me and would sometimes prefer me to their parents. (Yay nanny work!) With a good therapist, building a bond to her father won’t be a major issue. If the Frei’s keep stalling tho, it will be more traumatic, but she will adapt.

        It’s the children who never had that initial caregiver bond who are in danger of having serious trouble later down the road.

        • Yes, she certainly can bond again. I didn’t mean to doubt that. And surely never having that sort of attachment is worse than having it and having it disrupted. But perhaps we can also agree that disrupting that bond is non-trivial–that doing so should concern us at least a little.

          In that vein, I meant to emphasize two things: First, that disrupting the bond that has formed is a serious thing even if the child will have no conscious memory of it and it should be done with care. Second, that the judge is probably right to think in terms of the probabilty that he will be affirmed, because when the child is placed with Achane she will bond with him and if in the end that bond, too, is disrupted it will be worse for her.

          • Of course it isn’t trivial to the child and many parents who are contesting adoptions know this. Yet PAPs are always using bonding as the main reason they should maintain custody and have a vested interested in the public and the courts believing that a healthy child will never ever recover from being moved.

            • Doubtless you are right. I suppose it means one must strike the right balance between recognizing the importance of bonding but also recognizing the reslience of children. And perhaps one must always be wary of the arguments of all the involved parties as they inevitably tend to paint things as more black/white than they really are.

              • See…that’s the especially tricky part. Who do you listen to? There really isn’t a lot of research out there on transferring a bond. The stuff that I did was find was evo-psych or flat-out conjecture by social workers. There is a real need for research in this area. Talking to foster parents and such during research for my case, I’ve found that social workers and bonding experts are fickle about promoting one view over the other. Which view they pick tends to fall on the side of what the social worker or expert wants to happen and THAT is based on how their opinions about the opposing parties is formed and if they have any prejudices about what constitutes a fit parent.

                Anecdotally, Baby Jessica and Richard did just fine. Noah Levy Bond from Missouri is doing fantastic. No update has been heard about Grayson. I myself was taken from my bio parents at almost 4 and bonded well to my aunt and uncle (I did have abandonment issues later on that weren’t related to that bond but to the fact that your bio parents are supposed to do anything for you, so why didn’t they fight to keep me?). In fact, I actually lost all 4 parents at one point in my life and I adapted. My aunt left my uncle for a year or so and my uncle then went to jail when I was 14. It wasn’t easy and therapy would have made it worlds better, but it is what it is.

                In my case, my husband has a misdemeanor record that is over 14 years old, and as soon as the social workers found that out, they completely stopped following the law (and just admitted to us in an email that they failed and are refusing to rectify) and totally ignored reunification with him. Yet before they knew anything about him, they were more than happy to move the child to us. Meanwhile, the law says that his record isn’t a reason to deny placement and an independent investigation by the Office of Child Advocate said that there was no reason not to reunify him with his daughter. At no time has any of the numerous social workers investigated us past the background check, regardless of how many letters of reference we give them along with the numbers of many people who have no problem talking about us. *headdesk*

  6. Attachment and the ablity to attach does affect the child and throughout the child’s life.

    I came home at 2.5 months and there is no knowledge of where I was, if I bonded (attached), or not, well cared for or abused. I would not be calmed by mom and apparently took well over 6 months before I could be. Dad – I attached to immediately, and whether it was based on similarities between us, or that initial bond, or a combination of the two – my bond to dad has always been the dominant sustaining bond. Not saying this to dismiss mom – just the reality.

    Off topic sort of: In the document Julie linked to is also an important aspect – the stress hormone regulation and specifically the fact that how your system is regulated early is how it is for life. This is the area that I think is missing in adoption, especially domestic infant. The mother is (generally) under ongoing stress of giving her baby away – which is how the baby will be wired as well. That disregulation will impact how well, or not, the baby will attach simply because if the new mother to the baby is stressed, it will be over-amplified in the baby – and perhaps why dad was able to get me to attach because he was an old hand at babies due to his profession, and he was never one to get excited or stressed.

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