' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: At last: LDS Family Services and fellow travelers sued in adoption scam

Thursday, January 2, 2014

At last: LDS Family Services and fellow travelers sued in adoption scam

Jake Strickland, 26, in what was to be his son's nursery (Salt Lake Tribune)
Utah's anti-birth father practices and laws are the target of a lawsuit claiming $130 million in damages to an Arizona man who says he was tricked out of raising his son by the boy's mother, adoption attorneys and LDS Family Services. 

We say: Here we go again. Utah has the most anti-father and pro-adoption laws in the country, designed to whisk children away from biological parents as soon as possible, and specifically, to prevent birth fathers from being able to raise their children. 

The lawsuit is brought under a federal act typically used to sue gang members and others involved in organized crime as a way of focusing how the rights of birth fathers in Utah are routinely trampled, despite a feeble effort a few years ago to give at least a veneer of legitimacy to them. Jake Strickland brought the lawsuit Friday in federal court alleging that the woman who bore his son, Whitney Vivian Pettersson, at the end of 2010 kept him in the dark about her real plans and led him on via text even on the day the boy was born.  

What happened during the pregnancy is particularly repugnant. Though their relationship had cooled,
Strickland always made it plain he wanted to raise the child. When he told Pettersson he planned to sign up with Utah’s putative father registry, he says she became furious and threatened not to let him see the baby. Since the typical attorney fees to make sure everything is properly done cost around $3,000, he took her at her word, and set up a baby fund instead. In an apparent attempt to fool Strickland, she went along with his plan to share parenting. She took groceries and cash from him to cover medical bills and help support her and a child from another relationship. Strickland accompanied her to doctor’s visits, and was present when an ultrasound revealed she was carrying a boy. The two even settled on a name for their son, Jack. Before Christmas, they attended a party together and a baby shower for their baby, hosted by Strickland's family. He had been told the baby would be delivered by C-section on January 12. They went to a movie together Dec. 27.  The next day they toured the holiday lights at the LDS Church’s Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. There was no reason to worry. The day after that, Dec. 29, Strickland exchanged text messages with Pettersson. She even suggested they have sex to make the baby come sooner, but he texted back he didn't think that "would turn out so well." It was mid-afternoon when he sent his last text. She did not reply. 

In fact, she gave birth that evening after 9 p.m., and a day later--27 minutes passed the mandatory 24 hour wait--she signed the relinquishment papers placing the baby for adoption. Though Pettersson had said she was not married, she was, and in fact, and her husband had been threatened with child support, the suit alleges, by an LDS Family Services social worker if he did not also sign--though everyone knew he was not the biological father of the son. The chicanery just piles up like a cord of wood. But Kyle Rathjen, the estranged husband in question, while agreeing to the adoption, also checked the box denying paternity. Rathjen's conscience bothered him, and he sent Strickland copies of the papers. Pettersson insisted they were false; Strickland believed her. And she continued to pretend, via text that nothing was amiss. On Jan. 3 she wrote that she had not yet given birth. Strickland asked how she was, and she wrote back: "Good, no change." He wrote back that he was looking forward to the birth and asked if everything all right: "Yep," she replied. 

On Jan. 5 she called Strickland and came clean--that she had already given birth and placed their son with an adoptive couple. That was also when she admitted she was still legally married, and thus, her husband had the right to sign the relinquishment papers. Strickland was so shocked he sank to the floor. The next day he filed a paternity suit. 

Wes Hutchins

Wesley Hutchins, the Salt Lake City attorney bringing the federal lawsuit, filed papers last Friday--three years to the day Pettersson signed the relinquishment papers--accusing her, LDS Family Services, an LDS Family Services employee, the child's adoptive parents and the attorneys from the law firm Kirton McKonkie, who aided in the adoption of "racketeering" and "kidnapping." They also allege that the parties are guilty of wire fraud, human trafficking and selling a child. You gotta love this guy. 

"It's really an issue of accountability," Hutchins told the station KSL in Utah. "With these fraudulent adoption schemes you find that they are fraudulent, there are co-conspirators involved—most notably adoption attorneys, adoption agencies and adoptive mothers that are engaged in an enterprise," he said. "We've cited those other cases as a necessary element to RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) to show a pattern of unlawful conduct." 

While the lawsuit hinges on Strickland, Hutchins pointed to numerous other cases of alleged fraud in the lawsuit as well to demonstrate that the birth mother's fraud was part of what he claims is a larger pattern found among adoption agencies and attorneys in the state. We have written about several cases of child-snatching in Utah designed to look like honest adoption in the state of Utah. The lawsuit also alleges that attorneys David Hardy and Larry Jenkins (lawyers with Kirton McKonkie) failed the inform the adoption court about a stipulation in a paternity case recognizing Strickland as the biological father, and left him in the dark about the proceedings as they rushed the adoption. 

 "Under the Utah Adoption Act, you can commit fraud, and it is not a basis to overturn an otherwise illegal adoption, you can sue for damages.…So you can't get your child back if there's a fraudulent adoption, but you can get money," Hutchins said. Hardy and Jenkins, the attorneys involved with LDS, declined to comment, as did LDS Family Services. We are not surprised--what could they say? We uphold the right to fraudulently steal a child from his father? They do, in fact, their actions show they do. Incidentally, Hardy is president of the Utah Adoption Council, and helped write a recent revision of the Utah adoption law, but that hardly made the law less onerous to fathers hoping to raise their children if the mothers wish to have them adopted. According to the Kirton McKonkie website, Jenkins has a "strong and thriving adoption practice." 

During a hearing in May, Strickland's attorney in the paternity suit, Cory Wall, laid out Pettersson's numerous deceptions, but Hardy argued Strickland failed to protect his rights under Utah law and, because the child was born to a married mother, lacked standing to bring a paternity action. He also disputed Strickland's assertion that Pettersson assured him they would parent together. 
But 3rd District Judge Terry Christiansen called the situation a "very troubling case" and refused to dismiss Strickland's petition. Assuming the text messages are accurate, he said, "there is a deliberate attempt by Ms. Pettersson to deceive Mr. Strickland as it relates to the birth of this child. There were obvious fraud and misrepresentations occurring." But, after noting Utah's draconian laws regarding paternity if the parties are not married, he added, "No matter what I do, I'm either sanctioning a fraud toward Mr. Strickland or I'm depriving adoptive parents of a child I'm sure they've grown to love and appreciate."
Because the adoptive parents had initiated an adoption proceeding in 2nd District Court, Christiansen asked attorneys to consolidate the cases and figure out which judge should hear them. He put the paternity action on hold. In the meantime, the boy turned three on Dec. 29.--lorraine 
Tomorrow: LDS, Utah and adoption ethics

Uwed father alleges racketeering in adoption lawsuit
Utah dad alleges ‘deceit,’ takes fight for son to federal court
Would-be Utah dad says misplaced trust cost him his son
Stopping an adoption: In Utah, unwed fathers rarely win
Adoption in Utah: No place for birth fathers
Utah adoption attorney exposes corruption in Utah adoption agencies
Utah's anti-father policies an offshoot of Mormon agenda
Utah to Birth Fathers: Go Back to the Grave!
Utah Supreme Court delays return of Baby Teleah to her father
'Baby Veronica' adoption will go forward

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  1. I was waiting for your post on this today. I read it earlier this morning, and I can't decide if I'm more furious or heartbroken.

    I'm so very, very tired of the often trotted out "but the adoptive parents love him" or "the adoptive parents have had the baby since he was born" or, the worst one, "they are the only parents he has ever known."

    Unless kidnappers are able to use those arguments as reasons to keep a child once their crime has been discovered, then they hold no water. It infuriates me soooo much. The child is of supreme importance here, and denying a child his biological parent who is fit and willing and loving and wanting is criminal. IF the adoptive parents didn't know about the deception (and who adopts in Utah and then pleads ignorance?? Call me skeptical.), then I am so very sorry for them. But it doesn't mean a child should suffer the loss of his family.

    Utah is the hell-hole of adoption, and I want to know how many of these stories must we endure of children being kidnapped before something changes?!

    It would seem furious is the winning emotion for the moment.

    (Adoptive Mom.)

  2. Hey Lorraine,

    Thanks for putting this up!

    All I can say is Pettersson better not be back in 20 years whining on some website or other about the loss of her relinquished child and she damn well better not try to align herself with us (other first parents). Because she is not us..........not by a long shot.

    In fact, it grinds me to use the term "first parent" in the same sentence as her name.

    Signing Anonymous in Michigan

  3. I did a lot of reading last night on this case. It would appear that the APs (I use that term for lack of any other, but I don't consider them to be parents)at least knew within several weeks that the adoption was being contested as Jake filed within 10 days of the birth, if not even sooner than that. So, I take back my earlier comment (even though it was skeptical) that they might not have known.

    It also turns out that Jake's parents know the APs family- Jake's mother used to babysit the adoptive father! She reached out to the adoptive grandparents when this happened, and they talked briefly. But then the attorney for the family told them not to talk to Jake's family, and they have never talked again. The adoptive family has even refused medical information from Jake!! In a weird twist, Jake's grandfather sees the adoptive grandparents quite frequently as they are friends.

    Jake and his family are being very nice, in public, to the APs, not releasing their names, etc. I personally think the so-called APs are scum, so I genuinely commend him for being able to do that. After reading Jake's website (getbabyjackback dot com), I felt physically ill. I have been doing a lot of reading lately about human trafficking and how rampant it is here in the US. Well, right here, we have some legal human trafficking. A child was sold to a couple who wanted a baby, and the presence of a loving and capable parent meant nothing at all, even in the legal system. It is horrifying to me to see such blatant kidnapping classified as a legal adoption. It makes legal what is morally reprehensible on every level. The callous disregard for baby Jack is so completely appalling to me as a parent... I just cannot fathom being a mother and KNOWING each and every day that my child's father wanted and loved him and was fighting to get him back, and that he was capable and able to be a good father and provide a good home. I cannot begin to understand that depth of selfishness. They are truly terrible, horrible people and are wholly and completely undeserving of any child.

  4. This is horrible and it's past time for the laws of Utah and some other states as well to change. Where are the adoptive parents? Are they offering visiting at least? Are they opening the relationship for this father at a minimum? It's completely wrong that father's have no rights. I'm furious for this father and heartbroken for this child. There are enough of these stories that I'm amazed people keep going there to adopt. There can be no good outcome for those involved in this case. I can only hope that maybe there's finally enough publicity to generate outrage that demands change. That's dreaming pretty big though.

  5. Tiffany: Thank you for the link. As you may have seen, the next post elaborates about not only this case, but others in Utah.

    If LDS Family Services ends adoption, it won't be soon enough

  6. LDSFS ought to change its name to LDS Fertility Snatch... after all, isn't that what it is?

  7. I would love to see my sons father join this lawsuit. Only so that we can get the laws changed in Utah.

    My sons father tried to get our son. I stole from him. I believed the marketing of the adoption agency and relinquished our son. I followed the attorneys(adoptive parents attorneys) and kept his name off the BC. Which made it financially impossible to fight the system.

    Does anyone have any info?

  8. Does anyone know how to view papers from a closed adoption in 1969. ???

  9. Anon @ 12:27

    There's three main sources of records: birth certificates, court records, and adoption agency/attorney records. These are sealed and require an order from a judge to access them. In some states birth certificates are available to adoptees. In Oregon court records are open to adoptees as well.

    For more, see my January 6, 2014 post
    Exactly what are 'adoption records' and who can access them?

  10. The real problem is that these people are having babies outside of wedlock. When you do that, you need to be prepared to accept the consequences. It's hard to feel a lot of sympathy for people who complain about the consequences of their actions when they didn't do things the right way in the first place.

  11. Sergei, does LDSFS request that the couples who apply to adopt swear on the Bible that they were virgins before they were married? Using your standard, any couple who engaged in sex before marriage should be ineligible to adopt someone else's baby resulting from unmarried sex. And if the prospective parents lie about their pre-marriage virginity, they are as great 'sinners' as the young unmarried parents you are so quick to condemn.

    Incidentally, Sergei, would YOU be eligible to adopt under those rules?



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