GASTONIA A controversial case of two couples who wanted the same baby has been resolved bringing happiness to one side and sorrow to the other.
The quandary started last year when the Gaston County Department of Social Services removed a toddler from his Gaston foster family and placed the child with another couple in Concord. DSS gave no reason for its actions.
Five weeks later, the DSS director overturned the Adoption Committees decision and the child was returned to the original couple. Gaston officials said they are taking steps to reduce the chance of something like this happening again.
Meanwhile, Chrissy Smith and her husband tried to regain custody of the child theyd had for five weeks.
The Smiths filed a court petition challenging the other couples adoption plans, but a judge overruled the action.
In late December, DSS finalized the adoption, and David and Michelle Buchanan became legal parents of the boy theyd fostered for nearly two years. The Gastonia couple couldnt be reached for comment.
When Chrissy Smith of Concord learned shed lost the custody fight, it was a sickening feeling, she said. It was the final blow.
Unable to have children of their own, the Smiths had decided to adopt a child through the Childrens Home Society of North Carolina, a faster process than becoming foster parents.
Because they were an interracial couple, the Smiths asked for a biracial boy.
In late August, they were told that a 22-month-old biracial toddler was being removed from the Gastonia foster home where hed been since birth.
The Smiths met with the Gastonia DSS Adoption Committee on Aug. 29 and were chosen as the childs adoptive parents.
The Smiths said they immediately bonded with the child. But in early October, they got a call from DSS that new evidence had been presented in the case and theyd be there in two hours to take the toddler back to the foster parents.
In the meantime, the Smiths read about earlier developments in the case as reported by the Gaston Gazette.
According to the newspaper, the DSS Adoption Committee took the child away from the Buchanans without explanation. Under state law, meetings are private and the information confidential.
In North Carolina, foster parents are considered service providers and have no legal rights regarding children in their care.
Along with a group of supporters, including other foster parents, the Buchanans went to a Gaston County commissioners meeting and complained about the decision.
DSS director Keith Moon was at the meeting. Later, he reviewed the Adoption Committees decision with the help of a consultant. He overruled the committees original decision and returned the child to the Buchanans.
In an earlier interview with the Observer, Moon wouldnt discuss the case, citing confidentiality laws. But he did say that people raised concerns which we responded to.
He reorganized the committee and reassigned four social workers who served on the committee. Moon said it wasnt a disciplinary action but a chance to get a fresh start.
While still declining to discuss the case, Moon said this week that the recent outcome was in the best interest of the child.
He called the Smiths good people who just got caught in a tough situation. I wish them well.
Chrissy Smith said she and her husband have decided to move on.
Theyre pursuing adoption plans again, this time looking out of state and for a child who is totally legally free, Smith said. We were really burnt in North Carolina.
She and her husband are seeing a counselor and are moving into a new residence. The old one has too many memories of the child.
I wanted something new and fresh that would give my mind peace, Chrissy Smith said.
Early on, the couple had bought Christmas gifts for the toddler they expected to adopt. Some went into storage while others were donated to an underprivileged child, Chrissy Smith said.
Smith said she expects to sue DSS.