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Adoption in the News

A May 2014 adoption battle in Dickson, Tennessee recently became a topic of popular attention when nine-year-old Sonya was removed from her adoptive parent's home on January 30, 2014. Sonya, who has been living with the Hodgins since the age of two was adopted by the family in 2008. The child's birth father plead guilty to transporting firearms prior to the adoption finalization in 2008, and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

According to Tennessee law, the birth father's parental rights were automatically terminated. The law says that anyone incarcerated for more than ten years is unable to have parental rights to a child under the age of eight. Due to a deal the birth father was able to cut, his sentence was reduced to 7.5 years, which allowed his parental rights to remain intact, as well as fight to reverse the 2008 adoption.

When the adoption was reversed in 2008, Sonya was removed from her adoptive parents' Tennessee home in May, and was sent to live with her birth father in Omaha, Nebraska. Although Sonya lived in the Hodgins' loving home for a number of years, and hardly knows her birth father, Tennessee law says that birth parents have the right to raise their child.

Since the father's rights were never fully terminated, the court has no choice, but to return the child to her birth father. According to Tennessee's grounds for terminating parental rights, the birth father has not violated any of them. Although this case happened in Tennessee, Pennsylvania has it's own grounds regarding the termination of a birth parent's rights such as "the parent has been convicted of committing a serious crime against one of his/her children." Other grounds include, "the court removed the child from the parent's custody or the child was removed under a voluntary agreement for at least 12 months, the conditions requiring removal still exist and termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest" (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2511(a)).

Each state has its own grounds for terminating parental rights. Although these grounds might seem unfair, the court has to look at all sides of the law when
making its final decision. 

The above article was written by Katherine Toll, Summer law clerk at The Law office of Diana C. Schimmel, Esqurie.  Kate is a student at Franklin and Marshall College, studying Sociology and English. She recently interned at Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster. Kate has an interest in family law, humans rights, and child advocacy. When she is not working Kate enjoys yoga, tennis, and reading. 

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