The blood flowing through 3-year-old Braelynn’s veins in not from the ones she calls mom and dad. Erica Smith is the biological mother of the little girl whose custody battle has gained national attention.
“Please just listen to Braelynn’s voice. And give my baby a shot at a normal, fulfilling, happy life that she deserves,” Smith told WBTV, the Observer’s news partner.
She doesn’t hide the mistakes she’s made and admits her child was taken when Braelynn tested positive for drugs. Erica said she went to rehab hoping to regain custody. But she soon realized that wouldn’t happen and Braelynn would continue to live in the care of the Department of Social Services.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. But I just wanted the best for Braelynn,” she said.
The best, to Erica, was for her child to become a permanent part of Tammy and Ed Dalsing’s family. The couple had been fostering Braelynn since she was 3 weeks old.
Erica gave up her parental rights while Braelynn’s biological father, Andrew Myers, was in prison. According to court documents, a Union County, S.C., judge terminated his rights, saying he had made no effort to visit or support Braelynn.
In September 2015, Braelynn was officially adopted by the Dalsings. But a year later, the adoption order was vacated by the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Myers’ rights were reinstated, stating he did try to be a part of her life. According to the Dalsings, one letter was sent by Myers through an attorney when Braelynn was 18-months-old.
WBTV has made multiple offers to Andrew Myers’ attorney, Nathan Sheldon, to do an on-camera interview. The station was told they are unable to speak about an open case. Sheldon released the following statement:
“Mr. Myers is very pleased with the outcome in the Court of Appeals. He has tried to remain positive throughout this ordeal. In defeat, he quietly persevered through the appellate process. In victory, he patiently awaits the next step. It is extremely unfortunate that a case that should have been kept so private to protect this young child has become so public at no fault of Mr. Myers or this young child. The social media footprint that has been created by the defeated party in this case will forever haunt this child and be available for all to see for years and years to come. It is extremely selfish and will never be in the best interest of any child.”
Erica is a part of Braelynn’s life as the little girl is still living with the Dalsings. She says they allow her to visit whenever she’d like. But she worries her daughter could soon be taken away again.
“I can’t fathom the thought of Braelynn being jerked away from this family,” she said.
The Dalsings have requested a re-hearing from the Court of Appeals, and a decision could come any day.