Monday, April 29, 2002

Adoptive parents suing over mentally ill son

The Associated Press

        MEDINA, Ohio — The adoptive parents of a baby boy who later was diagnosed as mentally ill are suing Medina County for $1.6 million to compensate for the expense and pain of raising him.

        George and Kathy Sirca, married eight years and childless, spent three years on a waiting list before baby John arrived.

        “He is their dream come true,” county social worker Betty Rose scribbled in her notes after telling the Sircas they could keep the child, for whom they had been foster parents.

        Now, 22 years later, the Sircas say the county lied about John, whose mental illnesses, behavioral problems and drug abuse caused him to drop out of school, put him in jail and made him dependent on his parents.

        Their wrongful adoption lawsuit was scheduled to begin today with jury selection in Medina County Common Pleas Court.

        County lawyers will argue that no child comes with a warranty.

        The Sircas, of Wadsworth, 32 miles south of Cleveland, said they never would have adopted John if his social worker had told them that his biological mother was a schizophrenic drug abuser and runaway.

        Ohio law restricts access to adoption records, but requires adoption agencies to give adopting parents all non-identifying facts about the child and the biological parents.

        According to court documents, the Sircas were told John's mother was a 21-year-old high school dropout who enjoyed traveling and sports, and who was “disoriented, emotionally unstable.”

        In 1995, when John was in a hospital, the Sircas discovered for the first time that his biological mother had been hospitalized four times with schizophrenia.

        John has pulled a knife on classmates on a bus, was kicked out of one high school and abused drugs, court documents say.

        “We did everything possible to be good parents,” George Sirca said in a court deposition. “But I fear some day the doorbell will ring and John's body will be on our porch.”

        The Sircas love their son, who has been diagnosed with bipolar and adjustment disorders, but cannot afford to provide for him the rest of his life, their attorney, Dennis Paul, said in a pretrial brief.

        Timothy Reid, the county's lawyer, said the Sircas were given enough information about John to make an educated decision about the risks and rewards of adopting him.

        The Sircas' case is unusual, but not unique.

        Similar lawsuits are spawned by adoption practices shrouded in secrecy, said Marley Greiner, executive director of Bastard Nation, which advocates for open access to adoption records.

        She said that until recently, medical histories of birth parents often were skimpy outlines that left out the most important information, while including worthless notes such as “mother wore glasses.”

        Agencies owe adopting parents and the child complete medical histories, but prospective parents ought to realize that every foster child is, in some way, a special needs child, said Rita Soronen of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.


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