Part 2: A Birth Mother Changes Her Mind, Plus Baby

On Monday, we profiled Ilyssa from New Jersey who, with her husband Ben, waited for their newborn son for weeks until their birth mother changed her mind during labor and disappeared with her child.

“Devastated we returned home to pick up the pieces. Even our agency was horrified, they called the police but to no avail. Nothing could be done — the baby was gone. Two days later, my social worker called and said we had to move on and she promised to help us find another baby,” recalls Ilyssa, who asked that her last name not be used.

“Five days later, on January 30th, still in mourning for a child I would never see, my amazing social worker called and said a baby girl had been born but the birth mother was a drug addict and was waffling about giving up her newborn for adoption. Since the baby girl was born with drugs in her system, the agency was working hard to place the child.

“We drive and took custody of our baby girl that week but we had to stay in a hotel because the drug-addicted mother was battling us in court… ” The family’s legal fees mounted as they stayed in the hotel room for over a month to maintain custody of the newborn daughter.

The family’s legal fees eventually topped the $100,000 mark because they had to meet in court over 20 hearings. Thankfully baby * Rose remained with her adoptive family for over a year while the battle raged.  Something else happened during this tumultuous legal battle: Another newborn baby, an African-American boy, was also put for adoption. “We began simultaneous adoption proceedings for a second baby boy, a preemie, slightly younger than baby *Rose,” says Ilyssa.

Barely a month apart, Ilyssa and Ben eventually took home two precious children just about two years ago and have been so happy with them since. “On our 4-year anniversary, we had these two beautiful babies when I had to give my husband his very unique and amazing anniversary present,” remembers Ilyssa with a laugh.

Ilyssa was pregnant! Fast-forward two years and Ilyssa says, “I am now a stay-at-home mother to three toddlers all within 11 months apart and all under four!”

Ilyssa’s best advice to adoptive parents:

“Whatever happens during adoption is meant to be. You can’t plan everything out in life; you’ve got to learn how to roll with it. “

How’s that for an adoption story? Thanks to sisters Lori and Ilyssa for feeding us great adoption fodder over the last two weeks! Do you have a good adoption story too?

Updated: We’ve removed the family’s last name, photo, and some other details from this post in order to respect their request for greater privacy.

Add a Comment
Back To The Adoption Diaries, by Nicole Dorsey-Straff
  1. by BobbiJo

    On August 27, 2011 at 2:12 am

    This real life story has a wonderful ending….A blended family is truly a wonderful experience. The children will experince life from a different perspective on racial equality, which can only help the world at large. I have raised a blended family and the love and respect they have for each other is enormous….Thank you for sharing your life story. May God give your family many happy blessings through the years to come……

  2. by TJ

    On August 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Why in the world would this be a good thing? A mother wanting to keep her child … could someone not try to help the mother so she and her baby weren’t separated? Why would you fight to separate mother and child. All of that money that could have gone to saving the family unit instead of ripping it apart!?!?! Wow, this world is messed up!

  3. by nicole Dorsey

    On August 27, 2011 at 10:45 am

    TJ — what is so great about a drug addicted mom (who’s had several other drug addicted kids in foster care FYI) fighting to get her child back?

    I think Ilyssa and family HEROIC for fighting for this daughter. A family is ripped apart as son as mom does illegal drugs and puts it into her newborn’s system. That is criminal, TJ, and you must pay for that.

  4. by CG

    On August 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    wow! This family spent over $100,000 to fight a woman that wanted to keep her child? that is so messed up ! I would never ever want to keep a child or fight for a child that is not mine if the birth mother wants this child. This is awful. I would feel guilty for the rest of my life if i had done that. A mother that wants to keep her child deserves help!

  5. by Kathleen Walker

    On August 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    When to try and take a child from a parent, however poor, who has not relinquished it, isn’t that called kidnapping?

  6. by Tanya

    On August 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    The issue is not that the mother was poor (or not). The issue was that this mother gave birth to a child addicted to drugs. The child should have been taken, and better that the child went to a loving home rather than cycled thru the foster care system at great cost to the public and more often than not, to the child’s mental health. Letting a mother who didn’t bother to stop using drugs during her pregnancy or attempt to get clean would have resulted in a neglected child living with an addict, both of them probably on welfare (which taxpayers pay for), while the mother slowly killed herself with drugs making no attempt to live a productive life and get off public assistance. As a receptionist in a peds office, I sadly have to watch this story play out day after day. I hope for the kids I see going thru it that they will eventually be taken away and adopted by loving parents.

  7. by Caitlyn

    On August 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    I don’t understand how so many people are angry with this family… Yes, the birth mother wanted her. However, that cannot and should not always be enough. Would you feel the same if a mother wanted her daughter after she put a needle in her arm and helped her shoot up? What if she put drugs in her system knowingly after birth? Why is it any different because it was before birth? Her mother couldn’t provide a safe pregnancy, why would anyone assume she could provide a safe home?

  8. by Deborah

    On September 4, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Wow. This would not be legal in Canada. We have support systems for mothers with addictions (which is a medical and social issue, not a moral issue.) Only after significant effort is made are children apprehended.And having a child return is a huge motivator to go through rehab, if it is available. Nice family photo, but what are these adoptive parents going to do if the child inherits a predisposition to addiction and then gets pregnant as teenager with drugs in her system?

  9. by Tricia

    On September 6, 2011 at 8:22 am

    It would be so horrible to have to fight complete strangers who have $100,000 to spare for custody of a child I gave birth to. This really doesn’t seem like a happy ending to me. It seems like kidnapping.

  10. by Sarah

    On September 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    This whole thing left a very bad taste in my mouth. The adoption agency called the police on the first mother – for what? That is her baby and they don’t get to coerce her into giving him away.

    And, spending over a year fighting a birth mother for her baby instead of attempting to get her help is just wrong. CPS did not even try to help the mother get back on her feet before trying to terminate her parental rights. I thought that reunification was the goal, not appeasing rich couples. They’re supposed to try to rehabilitate the mother first and they didn’t because they felt bad for the adoptive parents. How do you live with yourself knowing that you’ve separated a desperate mother from her child instead of helping her?

    The fact is that this couple wanted a baby no matter the cost to anyone else. Did they even care about any of these birth mothers or appreciate how hard it is to walk away from your child? Adoption cannot be successful if adoptive parents don’t appreciate the difficulty and pain the birth family feels.

  11. by Pencils

    On September 9, 2011 at 1:52 am

    I’d really like to hear the other side of this story, from the birth mother’s perspective. You don’t know what drugs she was taking–and, BTW, if the birth mother was on narcotics while pregnant, it’s actually safer to remain on a maintenance amount of the drug than to stop taking it. Sudden withdrawal can cause fetal death. We don’t know anything about the birth mother, all we know is that the child had drugs in her system at birth. It’s a terrible thing, but is it enough to justify stealing a child and never giving the mother a chance to clean up her act and be a parent to that child? Is that what we do in this country, steal babies from poor minority women to place with nice white middle class couples? I didn’t realize that was still going on. By all means, if a child is living in a dangerous situation and the parents are unable to be responsible, then take the child away. But it seems like the middle-class couple’s desire for a newborn has trumped the birth mother’s parental rights.

  12. by Molly

    On September 9, 2011 at 7:12 am

    A mother who wants her child should not have to give it up. With that being said, the key words here were ” they fought a legal battle for over a year.” That means the birth mother had an entire year to pull her life together and clean up and failed to do so. They don’t just take babies. The addict is given many oppurtunities and even resources to get help. And eventually, after still getting high, they lose. But I’m glad the baby is safe and happy and loved.

  13. by Lisa

    On September 9, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I’m not sure what to think of this story. It does seem the children will have a nice, comfortable upbringing and that is important.

    However, like others have said, my understanding of CPS’ role was to encourage family reunification. Was the birth mother ever given a chance to turn her life around?

    Regarding the first case, why on Earth would the police be called? During the adoption process, the birth mother has the option to change her mind at any time. It is a fact. I know it is very heart-breaking to the adoptive family – extremely sad. But not criminal.

  14. by ann

    On September 9, 2011 at 8:28 am

    whilst I’m sure these people are good parents this story reeks of money buying what you want. People wait years and years to adopt, especially babies, yet this woman got the offer of a baby within 5 days of the first falling thru and another not long after that..All of this shortly after they were married. I don’t know about the girls birth mother but the speed which the Maisanos were offered the child suggests the authorities were not interested in giving her a chance. the fact the mother continued to fight for her daughter shows she wanted her and I hope that the decision not to grant her custody was for the right reasons.

  15. by nicole Dorsey

    On September 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    One thing for sure? You guys have BIG OPINIONS! Some things are not on the record for this story, however, I do know the birth mother had four other drug addicted (crack) babies taken away from her in previous years. That has something to do with the battle waged to keep her baby safe and adopted… and how

  16. by CHerzog

    On September 13, 2011 at 7:28 am

    to the author,
    while it’s admirable that you came on to defend your article, the above posters have some valid points. First, if the baby was positive, CPS should have gotten involved immediately, not an adoption agency. $100,000 really? and they want sympathy? All for that all time must have goal of obtaining a newborn. How about the nearly quarter of a million children in foster care? ALL READY TO GO clear and free? That mother had EVERY RIGHT to want her baby and you’d think someone would step in and help her, as for your accusations about other babies, you didn’t mention that in the original story, or did I miss it? And a previous comment about a second newborn being immediately offered… no way. There’s something fishy there too. Ask any of the thousands of adoptive parents who wait a min. of 2 years to even a get one call from one agency. Your reporting is biased and immature. BTW, what’s the point of blurring the girls face, when the rest of the family is so recognizable? I’m having a *duh* moment here. I’d like to know who has money to live in a hotel for a month. This couple obviously, plus another $100k for court fees. Having been involved with CPS and FC for 4 years, I can tell you there are no 20 hearings on ANY case. I’d like to meet this judge, exactly which county was this in? All you naysayers to what I’m saying need a wuc. This story is fishy start to finish. Think for yourselves people. Irresponsible journalism is dumbing down America. Because it’s in print and on the internet, doesn’t make it true, just one sided.