South Carolina Sargent Terry Achane (pictured left) received a wonderful gift this past week: a judge granted him custody of his daughter who was given up for adoption without his consent or knowledge.
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After a judge ruled in his favor in a Provo, Utah, courtroom Friday, Achane took 22-month-old Teleah (pictured right, below) home.
“I got my daughter back,” Achane told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m very happy. It’s 22 months too long, but the wait was worth it.”
The end result was bittersweet for the couple Teleah was initially placed with. Jared and Kristi Frei reportedly exited the courtroom through the back to avoid reporters, because they were dismayed at losing the girl they’d taken care of for much of her short life. An attorney for the Freis noted that it was an “extremely difficult” time for them and that they were missing “the little girl whom they considered part of their family for these past 22 months.”
Back in 2010, Achane married Tira Bland, Tealeh’s mother. The couple’s marriage soon turned rocky and was strained further by Achane’s transfer to South Carolina from their Texas home to serve as a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson, court documents say. During their marital struggles, Bland apparently worried that Achane would abandon her and the soon-to-arrive Tealeah.
Shortly after Achane left in January 2011, Bland gave birth to Tealeah without his knowledge and contacted the Adoption Center Of Choice in American Fork. Bland didn’t notify Achane of what she’d done until June 2011, according to the New York Daily News.
Archane began searching for Tealeah, who’d then been placed with the Freis. The Utah residents claim they tried serving Achane with an adoption petition, but he didn’t accept it.
“To our great shock and dismay, he objected to our petition and intervened to stop the adoption,” the Freis wrote on their blog dedicated to Teleah.
Over the last 19 months, despite the law requiring that a Father show interest in his child and at least attempt regular communication to establish a bond, the father has never shown any interest in Leah other than to hire an attorney. He has never sent her clothes or toys, or even a gift on Christmas or her birthday. He’s never inquired into her health and well-being, or other details like when she started crawling, walking, talking, or cutting her first tooth. In short, he hasn’t shown any of the natural affection or interest of a parent.
In spite of the Freis’ perception of Achane, judge Harold McDonald ruled that Achane had custodial rights, with the judge adding that he was “astonished and deeply troubled” that the Adoption Center Of Choice would ignore Teleah’s father. This cleared the way for Teleah to unite with her father. On Saturday, Achane took his daughter to Fort Jackson to see his family for the first time.
The Freis have appealed McDonald’s decision. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for March.
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