I’m proud to serve with a dedicated group of volunteers working for child welfare. We came together because of the Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl case, and we’re fighting together again to Bring Sonya Home. We don’t have a name, or a charter, or a meeting place. We do have members with very different talents – we’re designers, photographers, child welfare advocates, attorneys, PR professionals, stay at home moms, and psychologists…. We’re white and brown and all colors in between—and biological parents, adoptive parents, and non-parents. We’re liberals and conservatives. We’re Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Hindu, Jewish, and we’re all over the country. It’s a group that may not be put together for any other cause, but fighting for these two little girls has bonded us.
Our group grew organically out of a case that outraged people across the country, and even throughout the world. It grew primarily through Facebook. And many of us, though strangers before the battles, have found wonderful friends who share our values.
Our first case
In Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, a child whose biological mother hand-picked an adoptive couple after the biological father refused to support the child, but four months later, changed his mind. He took the child when she was two. The case ascended all the way to the Supreme Court of the US, which returned her to her adoptive parents when she was four.
The second case
Our second case started three months after the happy resolution of the first case. Nine year-old Sonya Hodgin of Dickson, TN had a pretty rough first year of her life, being passed around to various caregivers. She settled, though, with Kim and David Hodgin, and was with them for eight years. Her parents adopted her while her biological father was in prison; his rights were automatically terminated because he was serving a 15 year prison sentence. However, when he testified in a murder investigation and his sentence was reduced to 7.5 years, the adoption was reversed and, after he got out of prison (and a few years after that) the courts ordered the nine year old Sonya turned over to him, though she had never spent any time with him since she was an infant.
I can’t speak for everyone in the group – again, we have no stated mission or any sort of organization, but I think the unifying principle is that we want children’s rights to be considered above any adult’s right in every single custody, foster or adoption case. We’re child-centric. When a transition from a stable, loving home is necessary, the child’s mental health should be considered every time, and a gradual, sensitive transition should occur.
Interestingly, as our group of volunteers came together on these two cases, a core, but smaller, group of activists formed on the opposing side of the issue, advocating for the fathers in both cases. The internet has been a major force for organization on each side. Facebook seems to have been absolutely essential in our communications, allowing us to work in unison. Petitions on Change.org ensue. Our messages have spread quickly through our social networks, and the populace gets to decide how it feels about each case.
As a group, we write to politicians and bureaucrats. Although political systems are often corrupt, there is still influence in numbers, and politicians listen when their voters speak. It’s the beauty of the intersection of the democratic system with Facebook. We can disagree, and do it in a civil manner, using facts to bolster our opinions.
In Adoptive Couple vs. Baby Girl, our activism literally changed case law, and made it more likely that Native American children will be treated not as property of the tribe but as people who deserve their rights to be considered first. We hope that our activism in the Sonya Hodgin case will, similarly, encourage the courts to always consider the best interest of the child first in every case, every time.
February 24, 2014