Stolen Child: Father’s Rights-Legal

This is not your ordinary story.  This is a story about a father that desperately wants to have a relationship with his daughter. This is a story about an unwed father's lack of rights. This is a story about an industry that puts profits above basic human and family values. This is a story about outdated laws that are being used to protect the adoption industry over the God given rights of the legitimate  father. Most of these type of stories you hear involve a custody battle between two parents, typically biological, but not always. Our story is about a father battling a private, for profit adoption agency and the multi-billion dollar a year private adoption industry. 

We are raising money to  continue to fight a legal battle for our son's right to raise or be a part of his child's life. A child that the mother did not even want but gave the child to a private adoption agency  so they could sell her for a sizable profit. This was done without the father's knowledge or consent. Our family has never asked for assistance outside of the occasional prayers for the health of loved ones. It is a struggle for us to put our name on a website where we are asking for financial assistance. As of now we have no choice if we are to be successful in helping our son in his efforts to know and love his daughter. The same for us as it is our only grandchild.

In late June of 2013, our son, Venson Westgate became a father. This would have been exciting news for him and us except that the child's mother conspired, with the aid of a private adoption agency, to steal the child from her father and place her with another family to make a profit for the agency.

This is not happening in some foreign or third world country. It happens right here in the U.S.A. In the State of North Carolina unwed fathers have very little in the way of rights regarding their children. Exercising what few rights they do have generally requires hiring an attorney and fighting a long uphill legal battle. This is rarely done due to costs and legal precedents that exist. Until now.

Certainly you might feel that our son should have known or researched North Carolina law regarding his rights and that would be a valid argument if he or even the mother lived in North Carolina. But the fact is that he and the mother are both residents of Illinois. The mother only went to North Carolina long enough to give birth and sign the papers giving the baby away.

He took the mother to prenatal care. Bought baby items. He made it very well known to the mother that he wanted to be a father to his child. He even bought a ring and asked her to marry him. She rejected his offer of marriage. 

But even though she rejected his offer of marriage, she continued to be dishonest with him about the future of the child. She continuously told him through private messages that if it turned out he was the father that she would certainly allow him to be a father. But the reality was that she was planning to drive 700 miles away to another state and give the baby up for adoption all along. In fact when he found out on social media that she had left the state and had just given birth, he was finally able to contact the mother. The mother falsely implied that the baby had a heart condition and was in ICU. We suspect that she was getting ready to claim that the child had died.

There is much more to this story and details along with all the legal documents, expenses and more  are being added on a website (currently a work in progress). The story involves fraud perpetrated by the mother, perhaps with some coaching by the adoption agency. The adoption agency itself has a checkered past that includes the N.C. Bar Association recommending that one of the owners have his license to practice law revoked for fraud. The result was a slap on the wrist.

Back to our case. We fought this in the district court in Wake County, NC. This was after the first five or six family law attorneys we talked to told us that unwed fathers had no chance of winning against the private adoption industry in North Carolina. We were very lucky and found an attorney that believed in our case. But with caution, he told us that we probably could not win in District Court but that our case had some interesting facts that might give us some chance on appeal.

Well we did win in District Court on several issues on more than one occasion as the adoption agency was adamant that they wanted to keep their fee as opposed to allowing the child to be with her biological father. There was never a question as to paternity. As for our son's character, one of the character witnesses, the Sheriff from his home town drove the 1,400-mile round trip from Illinois to North Carolina, on his own time, to testify on his behalf. His employer also made the trip. Our attorney stated that law enforcement officials never get involved in these types of cases as character witnesses and that he rarely can get an employer to drive 14 minutes across town let alone make a 1,400-mile trip to be a character witness.

The District Court victory was short lived. The folks in North Carolina appealed to the State Appellate Court. More delays and more legal costs but we were again successful. Twice in fact, as they had appealed two rulings to the Appellate Court. The Appellate Court eventually ruled unanimously in our favor and agreed with the District Court that his permission was required for the adoption to proceed. They also agreed that his rights as a parent should not be terminated.

The unanimous appellate court decision meant that the NC Supreme Court did not even have to hear the case when the agency and the folks holding the child appealed to the highest state court. However, as their attorney stated to the NC Supreme Court during the hearing "allowing the father to have his child would deal a serious blow to the private adoption industry in North Carolina".

The private adoption industry is commonly ran by attorneys. Market research shows that this industry generated over $14 billion in profits in 2015 ($14,000,000,000.00 in case you wanted to see all the zeros). Giving one child to the father that loves and wants her would just be too risky.

Well we eventually lost in a 4-3 split decision in the North Carolina Supreme Court and are now back to the Wake County District Court on issues that the court chose not to rule on the first time around as that judge had ruled in our favor and felt the other issues were moot. 

Although the adoption agency was unsuccessful in terminating his paternal rights, the Supreme Court ruling at the moment is that his consent is not required for the adoption to proceed. Unbelievable, right? So technically his paternal rights are still intact. Thus, he continues to make monthly support payments for her welfare in order to keep his so called paternal rights intact. But he is not allowed to visit his daughter. Not allowed to participate in any aspect of her life. He is not even allowed to let her know that he is her father. 

The main portion of the remaining issues is the Constitutional Right to Due Process. This is both a state issue and a 14th Amendment U.S. Constitutional issue. This now means that to continue the legal battle we need legal counsel regarding Constitutional issues at both the state and federal levels. Our family law attorney, as good as he has been is just not the Constitutional law expert we need now, although he remains part of our team.

Not that the legal battle so far has been cheap but we are now getting to the point that we need financial help to carry on this fight. The most important issue for our family is being united and complete. But we are conscious that there may be a bigger picture in play here.

For better or worse the country is changing. There are now more people in this country cohabiting than getting married. For this reason and others, this legal battle should go forward. To the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Light needs to be shed on this issue and the rights of unwed fathers need to reflect the world we live in. In the past, most unwed fathers would not have had the financial resources to take this fight this far.  Likely they would have been discouraged when trying to find an attorney to take their case.  We sometimes even wonder if we were put in this situation for a reason that is bigger than ourselves since we have been able, at least so far, to find the right attorney and fund this legal battle on our own.

We have already retained legal counsel in North Carolina and in Washington, D.C. Our D.C. firm tells us that there are around 7,000 cases per year that are presented to the U.S. Supreme Court. They typically elect to hear between 100 and 150 of those. They tell us that our case has a lot of merit and they give it a fighting chance to be heard. I have known people in this firm for several years through my work and I selected them because I felt that they would not string us along if we had no chance.

We have never asked for help on anything and are quite humbled to be asking now. We have fought this battle on our own since the beginning to the point where we have used up our savings. Now that it has turned into a constitutional challenge, the legal specialists required and extended time to win this are beyond what we can handle on our own. We humbly ask for any help that we might be able to get as this has become the most important battle in our lives. Don't get us wrong. My wife would sell the house and move into a trailer park if it meant that our son could be a father to his child and thus allow us to be grandparents to our only grandchild.

If you are able to help. Thank you.

Please share this story, donate if you can. 

We have created a website where many of the details,  back story, court rulings and our expenses to date are listed. Please visit it if you want more information. It is a work in progress for now but I will work diligently in my spare time to get everything posted there.

The attorney’s cost estimates:

To get the State Due Process challenge through the NC District, Appellate and Supreme Courts (regardless of which side wins in the lower courts the other side will appeal). - $100,000.

To get the 14th Amendment Due Process case in a position to be selected by the U.S. Supreme Court. This includes soliciting father’s rights groups across the country for vocal support and assisting with amicus briefs. - $100,000.

To try the case in the U.S. Supreme Court should we be able to get them to hear the case. - $100,000 to $150,000.

We are not doing this for any kind of profit and if at any point that contributions meet our expenses we will suspend this page. Additionally, in the unlikely event that contributions should exceed our expenses, any surplus will be donated to a suitable father's rights group(s).
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Organizer and beneficiary

Sam Westgate 
Effingham, IL
Samuel Westgate 

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