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A Small–and Lucky–Victory

January 9th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

But a victory nevertheless.

Back in June, an Ohio woman, Tabitha Potter, left the little girl shown above in a storage container outside the First Baptist Church of Bellville.  She was less than one day old.  Through some miracle the little girl didn’t die and spent the next three weeks in the hospital before being placed in foster care.

Another miracle occurred when Potter’s relatives told friends of Jason Wilkins he might be the father.  Wilkins found an attorney and got a DNA test which proved he was.

But of course as things go in so many family court systems in this country, that didn’t mean he had any rights to the child.  Children Services of Richland County didn’t want the child removed from foster care.  I mean, why trust the actual father, who is not only ready, willing and able but “excited” about the prospect of caring for his daughter, when you can find strangers to do the job?

But lo and behold, it looks like Wilkins will get custody after all.  The court has given him the right to visit the little girl, now named Madalyn Grace, for the purpose of father-child bonding.  The judge in the case now anticipates that Children Services will relent and recommend that Wilkins be given custody of his child.

Meanwhile Potter has been charged with two misdemeanor counts stemming from her abandonment of Madalyn Grace.  Ohio is one of many states with a “safe haven” law.  Under it, mothers may turn over a newborn infant to EMS, police or a hospital within 72 hours of birth without any legal consequences.  Apparently even this was beyond the mother who simply left the child in front of a church to survive or die as fate willed.

Reading between the lines of these articles, it’s easy to see how close Wilkins came to losing his daughter.  First, she could have died there in her box outside the church.  Second, Children Services apparently had neither the obligation nor the inclination to locate Wilkins.  As they saw it, their job was to find an appropriate set of foster parents and let it go at that.  It was just luck that he ever learned about his daughter.

Third, Wilkins’ attorney said “Jason had trouble getting a paternity test.”  Now why would that be?  Why would a man, claiming to be the child’s father and desiring custody have trouble getting permission to do the one thing necessary to prove paternity?  You’d think the court and Childrens Services would welcome such an event.  Apparently not.  As usual, single fathers are perceived to be a dangerous impediment to placing the child for adoption.

But for now at least it seems that, come January 12, Jason Wilkins and Madalyn Grace will begin their life together.  And that’s a victory – a big one – for them both.

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