A photo of Terry Achane and his daughter Teleah. (Courtesy Achane/FacebooK)
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) -
The story of a baby girl that grabbed national attention continues to unfold for a South Carolina soldier after his daughter was adopted in Utah without his knowledge while he served states away.
Teleah is 22 months old now and was named by her birth father Terry Achane. Achane is a Army soldier based at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC, and until last weekend, his daughter lived with her adoptive family the Freis in Utah.
Both families have spent months in court because Achane said Teleah was adopted without his consent until last weekend, when she flew back to South Carolina after a judge gave him full custody.
But Achane's fight for Teleah is far from over.
The Frei family said they adopted Teleah after her birth mother Tira Bland chose their profile through an adoption agency. The Freis have blogged about their adoption of Teleah. One of their blog post's stated that Bland's husband, Achane, abandoned her in their home state of Texas and she chose to an adoption plan was best for their child.
FOX Carolina spoke with Achane's Utah lawyer Mark Wiser via Skype, who said Achane was transferred to Fort Jackson to begin work as a drill instructor when his wife decided on adoption.
"We found out that 10 days after he left for military duty, she [Bland] contacted a Utah agency and placed the child for adoption claiming she and the child had been abandoned which isn't true," Wiser said.
Wiser said Achane was unable to find his wife or what happened to their child for months. When he found out about the adoption, he demanded Teleah be returned to him. After months of legal battles, a judge ordered she be returned to him in December.
However, that order is being contested by Teleah's adoptive family.
"This is a father who was married to his wife; it is frightening that in Utah, his wife was able to give up their child without notice to the father," Wiser said.
"Adoptions are two parts, they are social work and legal work melded together," said June Bond with Adoption Advocacy in Spartanburg, SC.
She said those looking to grow their families through adoption or make an adoption plan for their child should carefully examine the agencies and attorneys they work with.
In Teleah's case, the judge found that the adoption agency that placed her never contacted Achane, even though they knew he was married to Bland. The judge's order also blasted the adoption agency of choice for refusing to return her to her birth father once he refused to sign away his parental rights.
"Any time you use a good adoption attorney or agency your chances of problems are going to go way down," Bond said.
Bond said people can research agencies and attorneys through the Better Business Bureau, state licensing agencies and even online chat rooms dedicated to adoption.
"When you have a failed adoption, it is like a death," Bond said.
Bond, like the judge in this case, said both Achane and the Frei families are victims. She also said she understands why Teleah's adoptive family is fighting to keep her.
"Because for them it is their baby," Bond said. "And there comes a point where you say 'are we up for the fight' ... it's a moral dilemma."
Bond said the outcome of the case will shape both families and Teleah's life forever. It may also affect the amount of scrutiny placed on all future adoptions to prevent something like this happening again.
The Freis have filed paperwork to bring Teleah back to Utah. Until the case is resolved, they have visitation rights with Teleah in South Carolina.
Bond said there is something specific birth fathers can do to keep this from happening to them in South Carolina. She said the Responsible Father Registry went into effect in 2010 and unmarried men can put the name of their child's mother and their contact information on the registry. If the woman makes an adoption plan for the couple's child, the father must be contacted by law.
Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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