COMMENTARY | The Lookout is reporting that a judge in Utah has ordered that Terry Achane’s daughter should be returned to him within 60 days. In a case riddled with reprehensible behavior and bad decisions, the judge’s ruling looks to be the first right choice in the situation.
The story , as first told in the Salt Lake Tribune, is a sad one: Achane and his wife, Tira Bland, began having marital troubles during her pregnancy. Achane was stationed in South Carolina, and Bland decided not to join him there, electing instead to remain in Texas, where she gave birth to their daughter and allowed the child to be adopted without Achane’s knowledge or consent.
The child, known as Teleah by her biological father and Leah by her adoptive parents, went to Utah to become the sixth child of Jared and Kristi Frei. The biological mother claimed that the father had abandoned her, though he was planning to be present at the birth of the baby. The Freis, believing God had selected this child to be theirs, have now raised more than $20,000 to fight Achane’s efforts to have custody of his daughter. They have done this in spite of the adoption agency’s disclosure that the father’s consent had not been obtained and that the father likely would not consent to the adoption.
I am an adoptive parent. I would do anything for my child, because she is truly my child. And the situation that the Freis have found themselves in is every adoptive parent’s nightmare: what if you find this child and you grow to love this child only to later have the biological parent return to take the child away?
The problem with what the Freis are doing is the fact that this little girl is not their child. Because she has a father who never consented to the adoption and does not wish to consent to it, she was not available to be their child. I can well imagine that this is a very difficult situation for them, particularly since the child has been with them through birth and infancy.
The Freis, in their desperation to keep this child, have stated that he abandoned the baby’s natural mother, hasn’t developed a substantial relationship with the child and is not fit to parent her. It isn’t their decision to make, though. Further, as the Salt Lake Tribune rightly points out, Achane was not legally obligated to prove his fitness as a parent. The law gives him the same rights to his child as are granted to the biological mother.
At this point, Terry Achane has missed so many of his daughter’s first milestones. Time continues to pass with distance between this father and child and the adoptive parents have vowed to continue their fight. They shouldn’t. As rough as it is to let her go — and there are few things that can be rougher than that — for the sake of rightness, they need to do it. Because she isn’t theirs. She never was.