In U-turn

Adoptive Family Wins Custody of Ethiopian Child

Court rejects suit by the boy’s aunt that biological ties should take precedence over foster parenthood.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a young boy born to an Ethiopian-immigrant mother should remain with his non-Ethiopian foster parents rather than be returned to his biological family, overturning its own previous ruling in August. The ruling enables the foster parents to complete the adoption process.

The vote on the expanded panel of seven justices was 5-2.

The mother of the boy, who is nearly three, suffers from a mental illness and the father’s identity is unknown.

The boy has been with the foster family since February 2012. In April 2013 a family court cleared him for adoption and the foster parents were told that adoption request would be approved. But a maternal aunt of the child said she and her husband wanted to adopt the boy, triggering a legal battle.

The aunt argued that her biological tie to the child should take precedence over his ties to the foster parents.

Supreme Court Vice President Miriam Naor, who wrote the majority opinion, said with regard to this claim: “Sometimes the claims before us, unfortunately, also had an ethnic ring to them.”

Naor said her position as a rule in cases of adoption is to prefer biological ties. However, “under the circumstances of the matter before us, in my opinion and in light of the expert opinions given in this case, the wheel cannot be turned backward and the child torn from the one family he has ever known – the couple who are candidates as adoptive parents.” Naor also said she believed giving the child to his biological family would not be in the boy’s best interests.

“We are excited and grateful that common sense and what was best for our son prevailed. The Supreme Court did our son great kindness in understanding that his welfare and normal development will be possible only with us – his parents, as all the welfare authorities, experts and the attorney general thought,” the prospective adoptive parents said after the verdict was announced.

“With us, our son received confidence, a warm and loving home, and his trust in people returned. We received him with great love and out of desire to sacrifice and give the baby in the most difficult medical and emotional condition, and with a complicated genetic heritage; and after a long journey that lasted some two years and that slowly transformed into a smiling, loving, emotional and normal child like all other children.”

Tomer Appelbaum