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GIRARD Year goes by with no ruling on adoption



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The focus of a two-state adoption case turns 6 the last day of the month.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- Saturday marks a year since the Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments on an adoption dispute involving a Girard couple.

Hear My Voice, a Michigan-based national child advocacy group, terms the lack of a ruling shameful.

"There is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the Kentucky Supreme Court," said Debbie Grabarkiewicz, the group's director of case advocacy.

Rich and Cheryl Asente of Girard adopted Justin nearly six years ago after he was born in Kentucky.

He will be 6 on Feb. 28.

The biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Kentucky, who were not married to each other, gave up Justin in February 1998.

The Asentes previously adopted Justin's older brother, Joey, who is now 7.

Moore and Dorning gave up Joey for adoption in 1995, and he's not at issue in the adoption dispute.

The legal wrangling began 4 1/2 years ago when the Kentucky couple changed their minds about giving up Justin, sending the case through Ohio and Kentucky courts.

The Asentes' legal bills have mounted to more than $500,000.

A long wait

Every month, the Girard couple, reporters and others interested in the case call the Kentucky high court and are told to call back the next month. The court hands down rulings monthly.

Grabarkiewicz said she is "boggled" by the time it has taken to settle the case, while Justin grows.

"We're good at living one day at a time," said Cheryl Asente, noting that not knowing what the outcome will be is stressful. "We pray a lot.

"No ruling is better than a bad ruling. We do have a lot of good things in our life."

She pointed to a quick Ohio Supreme Court ruling that went against them. She believes the court didn't take enough time to thoroughly review the case.

Court-ordered visitation for Justin, who is now in kindergarten, has become easier for the Asentes. Initially, they would have to travel every week to Kentucky so he could visit his birth parents. They now make the trip every other week.

The Asentes are not permitted to discuss visitation.

She said she and her husband are trying to make visits with the birth parents go smoothly for Justin.

"At some point there will have to be forgiveness between them and us," she said.

What's happened

The Asentes were awarded custody by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which ruled Moore and Dorning realized what they were doing when they agreed to the adoption.

The biological parents appealed to their state's Supreme Court.

The case has been featured on television programs such as "Oprah," "20/20" and "The Today Show."

yovich@vindy.com




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