OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - An Overland Park couple is frustrated by their 15-month battle to bring home a little girl they thought they had an airtight plan to adopt. They are speaking out in the hopes of drawing attention to what they said is a broken system, and one they believe may be working against them because they are gay.
“I would be interested to find out if every person, no matter what they're orientation was, would have to go through the same thing,” Mike Parsons said in an interview at the couple’s home on Friday.
Parsons and his partner of 11 years, Brian Davis, had what they believed to be a settled plan to adopt the daughter of a woman they had met through a mutual friend last summer. The mother had five children already, and interviewed the couple at length to see if they might be better equipped to raise her coming daughter, Parsons said.
“[The mother] called us on Christmas Eve and said hey - we picked you guys,” Parsons said. “We loved you right from the get-go.”
Parsons and Davis attended and paid for prenatal doctor’s visits, and were present when the baby girl, who they named Shyla, was born in June. A hospital social worker signed off on their safety plan to take the girl home, and her biological parents relinquished their parental rights.
But problems started early. A few days later, the couple was asked to keep the girl in Missouri, not at their split-level home in a quiet, Overland Park subdivision. At a temporary custody hearing, when Shyla was just one-month-old, they were shell-shocked when a Jackson County judge ordered them to turn the girl over.
“The judge said that although we didn't break the law intentionally, the law had still been broken. And that the safety plan that was issued by a licensed social worker out of Clay County was not legal,” Parsons said.
Since then, the couple has been trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare. They claim to have been subjected to five separate home-studies. They have become licensed foster parents in Kansas, and they have argued that a nine-year-old DUI conviction on Davis’ record was not relevant to their fitness as parents.
Meanwhile Shyla remains in “kinship” custody in Jackson County at the home of a married couple the men are friends with. They have been allowed to stay over at times, at other times they are allowed only to visit. At first, they were paying all the girl’s expenses, but now, by law, taxpayers do.
“We've tried to support this little girl all along financially. Buying her diapers, feeding her, her formula, things of that nature,” Parsons said. “Never asked for Medicaid, never asked for WIC. Anything. Which has all now been issued, which the taxpayers are paying for. We just want to love her and bring her home and start our lives.”
41 Action News contacted the couple’s social worker for more detail and was referred to the state’s department of social services.
A spokesperson for Missouri’s Department of Social Services in Jefferson City could not be reached by phone, but responded to emailed questions Friday.
“Information pertaining to adoption of children is closed under the law. Under the law, the Juvenile Court makes the decision whether or not a child can be adopted,” Communications Director Rebecca Woelfel wrote.
The Department of Social Services does not have the authority under state law to take a child into custody. Under Missouri law the decision to remove a child can only be made by a law enforcement officer, a physician, a juvenile officer or Juvenile Court judge. See 210.125.RSMo .
Missouri law does not prohibit adoption by same-sex couples.
The couple is refiling their adoption paperwork this week, hoping for a different outcome.
“I think the whole system needs to be looked at, for many reasons, just to protect everyone's kids,” Parsons said.