A would-be adoptive mother from California said she's prepared to violate a court order to turn a toddler into foster care while she fights the little girl's birth father for custody.
"She's my family and she's my whole life," Stacy Doss said of 2-year-old Vanessa.
After 10 years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, Doss brought home Vanessa shortly after the little girl's birth and is the only "parent" she knows.
But a bitter custody dispute sparked by the reappearance of Vanessa's birth father before Doss was able to complete the adoption has her head spinning. She has filed an emergency appeal but time is running out.
A judge has ordered Vanessa to be seized from Doss next week and placed in foster care in Ohio, where she was born, while the courts decide custody.
"We're hoping that the appeals court will see us before July 16 and freeze the order," she said.
But if that doesn't happen, Doss said she's willing to do whatever's needed to keep the girl, possibly even violate the court order to bring Vanessa to Ohio.
"It's something that's crossed my mind. I think it's that important," Doss said."I feel she's in harm's way. I do."
Doss said that when the adoption process began two years ago, the agency told her that the birth mother, Andrea Conley, had said she didn't know who the father was. That turned out to be untrue.
Benjamin Mills said he's Vanessa's father and wants his daughter back.
Through his attorney, Mills released a statement saying "he trusts the court will continue to issue appropriate orders to protect his daughter's best interest."
Doss said that when Mills visited California recently to see Venessa, he hugged and kissed the girl while she screamed and grabbed for Doss.
Doss said, "I was really hoping we could negotiation something and we could figure out how to make a difficult situation a little bit better," she said. "I found out early on he was not going to be someone we could negotiate with."
Conley has also begun to weigh in, supporting Doss. She wrote on her MySpace page Tuesday, "My heart goes out to the true victims of this awful ordeal."
Former Los Angeles County prosecutor Robin Sax said it's disheartening that the adoption courts are focusing on the technicalities of Doss' case. In divorce court, she noted, "the standard is the best interest of the child."
Sax said a comparison of Doss' clean record with Mills' allegedly troubled one should be enough to convince a judge that Vanessa belongs with the only mother figure she has ever known.
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