A hotly-contested custody case that has garnered national attention is heading from Orange County, California, back to where it started – here in Dayton.
Stacey Doss, a single woman from Orange County, adopted daughter Vanessa at birth in June 2008. Vanessa was born in Dayton and her birth mother had been matched with Doss through a California adoption agency. Although the birth mother signed a document under penalty of perjury stating that she did not know who the birth father was, she was lying. While Stacey took Vanessa back home with her to California, thinking all was well, the child’s birth father Benjamin Mills, Jr., began taking steps to try and get her back. Because of this, Stacey’s adoption of Vanessa has never been finalized, and now Vanessa is in danger of being taken from the only home she has ever known.
If the facts about Benjamin Mills, Jr. were not the facts, I might be outraged for him. After all, his biological child was put up for adoption without his knowledge. But the facts are these: Mr. Mills has four other children, none of whom he has custody of. (His mother has custody of Vanessa’s two full-siblings). Mr. Mills has a felony criminal record, (which if you’re so inclined you can look up on Montg0mery County’s website) including a conviction for domestic violence against the birth mother for which he served eight months in prison. (It has been reported by several media outlets that in this instance Mr. Mills pulled the birth mother around by the hair so violently that police found clumps of bloody hair strewn about when they arrived.) Mr. Mills has a child endangerment charge on his record. Mr. Mills has a very long misdemeanor record. The Dayton Daily News has reported that Montgomery County Children Services currently has an open case involving Mr. Mills’ older children. With these being the facts about Mr. Mills, it seems clear to me that he never would have received custody of Vanessa at the time she was born – so why should he receive it now? And why is he fighting to have his daughter taken away from a loving, stable home, when he clearly cannot provide this for her?
On July 2, California courts ruled that this case belongs in Ohio – and so does Vanessa. Stacey Doss has been told she has until July 16th to surrender her daughter, who will then be taken by Montgomery County officials and placed in foster care here. This, to me, is the truly mind-boggling element of this case – why traumatize a two-year-old child by putting her in foster care when she has a perfectly happy home to live in while this case is decided? It is cruel and unusual punishment to take this child from Stacey Doss’ home – temporarily or permanently.
Doss has filed an emergency appeal to keep Vanessa with her in California with hopes that it will be heard before the 16th. In support of Stacey and Vanessa Doss, some Dayton locals, including myself, will be holding a candlelight vigil on Thursday July 15th (the eve of the deadline for Vanessa to return to Ohio) from 8:30-9:30 at the Deeds Carillon. I hope that many of you can join us for what is a support rally not only for Vanessa, but for the best interests of the child in cases like these.
Vanessa’s custody case will be heard in Montgomery County courts on July 29th and 30th, and tensions in the community, and between the the parties involved will surely be heating up between now and then. The question is, who will Montgomery County law and judges protect – the “rights” of an unfit biological parent, or the best interests of an innocent child? Only time will tell if justice will be done for Vanessa.
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