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Kentucky Court holds a child's future in its hands



Published: Mon, February 18, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Children get a lot of lip service in the United States.

The phrase "Leave No Child Behind" has been embraced by liberals and conservatives alike in recent years. Social Security reform and deficit reduction have both been urged for the sakes of our children and grandchildren.

But it is not often that a state supreme court has the opportunity to give just one child everything he could possibly ask for: loving parents, a devoted brother, a stable home, fine local schools, the support of family, church and community.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has such an opportunity now in the case of Justin Asente.

A year and a half ago we praised the Kentucky Court of Appeals for the common sense and compassionate ruling it made in the case of Justin Asente, who was then 3 years old. That court finally asked the question other courts should have asked in adoption disputes: What's best for the child.

Easy answer: And the court answered that it would be best for Justin to stay with his adoptive parents, Richard and Cheryl Asente in their Girard home, along with his older biological brother, Joey, whom the Asentes had adopted in 1995.

The Asente case broke a mold that had shaped similar custody disputes in other parts of the country. In those cases, a nation watched in horror as distraught toddlers were wrenched from the arms of the only parents they had ever known to be given back to birth parents for whom the most important word in their vocabulary was "mine."

The Kentucky court of appeals overturned a Kentucky circuit court ruling that had ordered the return of Justin to his biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Kentucky. They had given him up for adoption in February 1998, when Justin was 11 months old. In November 1997, Moore had asked the Asentes, who had adopted her son Joey three years earlier, to adopt Justin.

Then, more than a month after adoption papers were signed, Moore and Dorning said they had changed their minds. Incredibly, they're claiming that they didn't understand what they were doing, despite their previous experience with adoption.

Justin Asente is an integral part of the only stable family unit he has ever known, and it is in Girard, not Kentucky.

Let's hope the Kentucky Supreme Court, as did the appeals court, can see past state lines and over disputable legal claims to focus on only thing that is really important here: what's best for Justin.




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