March 19th, 2008
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Categories: Current News, Ethics

Remember just yesterday? (Okay, I don’t remember what I wore or ate yesterday. Let me clarify.) Remember just yesterday when I talked about holding agencies, attorneys and the like to an ethical standard? And what would happen if our country imparted actual punishments to those who try to get past red tape and act in totally unethical and inappropriate manners? Did you think the sky would fall first, too?

Welcome to Ohio in 2008.

Not only did this show up in my news alerts but I had three people e-mail it to me and a friend from the area in which this paper is published actually phoned me. I’m not the only one who is realizing that this is big, big news.


We’ve spoken at length about the Stephanie Bennett case on this blog in the past. Quite frankly, I didn’t predict any good resolution nor did I fantasize that the agency would be held responsible for any wrong-doings. Well, I’ll be. I was half-right, half-wrong. The agency through which Bennett placed obviously was evaluated and researched regarding the case at hand. Because of that research? Well…

The state is seeking to shut down a local adoption agency, citing numerous violations, including placing a child in an uncertified foster home and not documenting background checks.

[The agency] of Copley Township was notified last week in a 12-page letter that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services won’t renew its certification and plans to revoke its license.

Goodness. I mean, it was obvious in my head. If the agency had such little regard for ethics in the Bennett case, they were probably skimping on the crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s in other cases as well. Looks like that hunch was right. Do you know how scary it is as a birth mother that an agency is “not documenting background checks.” Sure, maybe they are actually taking place but maybe they’re not. How hard is it to document something that is taking place? Exactly. How very worried I would be had I gone through that particular agency. Alarming.

However, the news in Bennett’s case is not so happy. She lost the case. Why?

A magistrate determined that there was no duress involved, Bennett’s attorney, Jennifer Lowry, said. Lowry said she is appealing the decision.

Yes, in Ohio, in order to overturn an adoption after the signing of the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR), one has to prove fraud or duress. Apparently the magistrate doesn’t see school officials overstepping their boundaries as any form of a duress. I will be interested to hear how the appeal goes. That said, the article states that there were procedural errors and violations with that specific adoption. Yet again, in Ohio, that is not enough to overturn an adoption.

Bennett’s mother, Judy, puts it best with this quote:

“I’m kind of glad that they lost their license and they are being shut down,” said Judy Bennett, Stephanie’s mother. “If they wanted to be in business, they shouldn’t have started doing things (improperly).”

Amen. I hope that other agencies take a lesson from this one and from Bennett’s case. Cross you t’s, dot your i’s and don’t run the risk of treating even one family unethically if you have a history of botched paperwork and violations. (Or, you know, ever.) Eventually, someone will speak up. It takes only one voice sometimes.

My heart goes out to the Bennett family in the wake of this “official” news.

For more on Stephanie Bennett’s case, read these posts.

Photo Credit.

2 Responses to “Agency Closing and Case Update”

  1. MamaS says:

    Jenna, I have a question. Do you think the agency’s behavior would have been acceptable if Stephanie had been a few months older, and was ALREADY 18? Same scenario — single, financially dependent, in high school, living with parents, but already had that magical birthday.
    Please note that I mean morally acceptable (ethical) NOT “legal” which it probably would have been.

  2. deb donatti says:

    Not that this makes what the agency did right (I am also surprised and pleased to hear they will be held accountable for any errors), but a part of me has wondered through out this if Stephanie really just did not want to parent at all.
    It does seem that we are only hearing from her parents in the news, and not Stephanie herself about the situation.
    Could her parents have been pushing her to parent?
    You hear about fathers blocking adoptions that the mother chooses, but then not helping her to parent or raise the child.
    This situation has made me think about the under age mother who does not want to parent, but whose own parents or gaurdians have other ideas and perhaps the ability to decide for her.
    I don’t think anyone should be pushed to give up a child, but I also do not think anyone should be pushed to parent if they do not wish to.
    I would really love to hear from Stephanie herself in this case (with out her parents hovering nearby.)

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