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O.C. mother wins right to keep Baby Vanessa in a case followed by legal scholars

A toddler in the middle of a contentious interstate custody battle will remain with an Orange County woman after a settlement was reached in an Ohio courtroom Monday.

Stacey Doss, 46, of Rancho Santa Margarita said she will drop her petition to adopt 2½-year-old Vanessa, who has lived with Doss since birth. Doss now has full custody of the child.

Rena Jordan, Vanessa’s grandmother, will be granted visitation rights. Vanessa’s father, Benjamin Mills Jr., and Jordan of Dayton, Ohio, have been fighting for custody of Vanessa for more than two years.

Doss began the process to adopt Vanessa months before the child was born. When Vanessa was less than a month old, Mills filed for custody, halting the adoption proceedings.

Vanessa’s mother, Andrea Conley, said her pregnancy was the result of a one-night stand and that Mills was not the father, but genetic tests proved otherwise. In 2005, court records showed that Mills served time in jail for domestic violence.

In Ohio, a custody trial was scheduled after the two parties failed to reach an agreement in mediation. In July, Doss was ordered to return Vanessa to Ohio. She appealed that decision and was granted a stay to keep the child until further notice.

The settlement could end legal proceedings in the case, which legal scholars believed had the potential to go to the Supreme Court to explore the issue of children’s rights in foster care situations.

Doss said she is relieved that she can officially call herself Vanessa’s mother. “I may sleep for the first time in two and a half years,” she said.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Comments () | Archives (25)

So glad to hear of this outcome for Stacey and Vanessa! I've been following this story and it broke my heart to hear of the child being taken from Stacey. It was a sad truth, but obviously neither of her birth parents wanted her nor were fit to care for her. Best of luck to Vanessa amd Stacey!

Thank goodness for this. Fantastic news.

That's great news congratulations to Stacey and Vanessa! :)

Can't tell you how happy I'm to know this is over!! Lub you both!!!

BEST headline ever!!!

I have been following this story and I am SOOOOO happy that Stacy got full custody...... YEAH!!!!!

Thank God - it is nice to see the courts do something right - though she still should be allowed to adopt. And Vanessa's so-called "father" is just a total louse.

You people supporting this decision are sick. It makes me sick that at one point you seek equal treatment, all while claiming that you are not equal.

This father had EVERY right to claim his child. The child did not come to life on his own. It required his sperm and her reproductive organs. She does NOT have more rights than the father.

It makes no sense that she has the authority to put the child up for adoption without four getting consent from the father, irrespective if the child was the product of a one night stand.....it was the product of TWO people not one...but TWO!

Twisted and vile decision to strip the father of his rights to his child.

I don't think it is fair to conclude that the mother "did not want Vanessa." It does not appear that she fought to take her away from the only mother the child has known (unless you count life in the womb). Because this child was conceived with the wrong guy, she felt it only fair to relinquish her. But she acted responsibly under the circumstances. It is the "sperm donor" who was acting in an inappropriate manner, from what I can see here. Allowing the grandmother visitation may not be all bad -- after all there is a biological connection and she was an innocent party in the situation, as grandparents tend to be. So fine. Maybe at least she is Conley's mother and not the mother of the nasty Mr. Mills. She may have entered into the proceedings to thwart the dad.

But the misery caused to the adoptive mother was seemingly all of a piece with the sperm donor's history with women.

too bad......Mr. Mills is gonna miss out on the welfare he was looking forward to receiving.

Hey Alex - I live back in the Dayton area where the court hearing unfolded. His oldest son was taken away from him. "All" of his other children live with their grandmother. He is unemployed and spent time in jail for domestic violence.
We the people here in the Montgomery County area payed for him to go see his daughter Vanessa in California. He didn't go on one of the visits and on another visit demanded more money because he wanted a better hotel and more money for food while traveling. Great father, huh, Alex?

The biological father, B. Mills, served time in jail for domestic violence in 2005. A man like this does not deserve to be around a child; he obviously has a temper and makes poor decisions when it comes to relationships. It takes more than your sperm to be a real father to a child.

I'm happy that Stacey Doss has won full custody of Vanessa...congratulations!

Best thing I've read in a LONG time! Congratulations to Stacey!

Absolutely wonderful that Vanessa will have a Mother that loves her and that her domestic life will not be disrupted. Very disappointing to read these comments that just have so much contempt and resentment of men - I'm looking at you Jane. To reduce men to nothing but sperm donors is a remarkable turn of objectifying them. Congrats.

What kind of ruling is this? The child has been stripped of its identity and given to a stranger. Terrible decision. The best interest of a child is with bio parents and if they are not "good enough" then it becomes our responsibility to assist them, not throw them out of the picture so someone else can step in. This is a paternalistic, old school decision and ignores all the data we have on the benefits of keeping biologically related families together. What about all those do-gooders in religion who so love to "help"? Why can't they assist the bio parents in whatever means necessary? In fact why can't this do-gooder custody woman step in and do the right thing for the child she stole and supposedly loves so much? Social work mentality at play here. Sad we have learned so little over the years and still think taking kids from bio parents is the only answer at times. It isn't.

Wonderful news about Vanessa being able to stay with her Mother. I tried to post earlier that it is very disappointing to read these comments that have so much anger and contempt directed at Men. In particular the explicit objectifying of men by the commenter Jane. Not sure why The Times won't allow posts that are critical of these comments.

What a mess. The most important factor should be the well-being and stability of the baby, and we don't know all the facts.

I think it's obvious that this woman won custody because she is a white lady getting custody from a black man. It would never work the opposite way if the roles were swapped.

Hey Alex....it may not be right...but for the child, it's fair and she is better off.

Let's not act like this guy is a saint. He has a domestic violence charge on his record.

Considering that you males have billions and billions of sperm, and we ladies have only a relative set number of eggs, I will always side with a female in cases of pregnancy and birth and children.

Get off your reverse male bashing high horse!

A biological father deserves the right to raise his own child, Stacey Doss and her public relations machinery unfairly depict Mr Mills as an unfit person to care for a little child. What it avoids is the larger question whether the whole adoption process was done right from the beginning.

Ms Doss need to answer whether she and her adoption agency diligently researched the case of baby Vanessa from the state's Putative Father Registry. If they did, they would have known that Mr Mills has already filed a claim to the infant long before the adoption process was completed.

Just because she had already invested so much material and emotional cost to raising baby Vanessa, it does not sit right for Ms Doss to rob Mr Mills of his inherent right as a parent.

To Alex: What gives the "father" the right to this one child when he has several others that he doesn't even support? Children are human beings not property!

To TMiller: Race was not the issue in this case. The entire issue is about Vanessa and HER well being. Is it really in her well being to be given to a man who served time in PRISON for battering the mother of his children? Race an issue? I think not, character was the issue here.

This mother is the best thing that could've happened to Vanessa. Now we need to let them live their lives in peace. They've earned it.

I am so very thankful that the child's rights to permanancy and stablity won in this case. Biology should never be the deciding factor when it comes to custody. I am happy for Vanessa and Stacey...but I believe we still have the issue of child's best interest vs bioloigcal parents' rights. I believe that birthmothers should have the right to make a life plan for their unborn child if the birthfather has not taken responsibility for the unborn child. Everyone has rights however, whose rights trump another's rights? Should a biological father's right trump the rights of the child and the birthmother only because of his biological link? Should't there be some accountablity placed on him for his communication and support, or lack thereof, for the child before and after birth? This is certainly a win for children's rights to stay with their families they have known all of their lives. I wish our baby had had the same opportunity in the courts in Ohio. I wish the court in Lucas County had had the same compassion for baby Grayson as did this court in Vanessa's case.

Unlike many of you, I have not been following this story and have only gleaned the "facts" from this article and your comments. According to this article, the bio father filed for custody of Baby Vanessa when she was less than one month old. Regardless of his past (or current situation), if proper procedures were not followed, then it would be wrong to take away his parental rights without due process. I'm sure Doss is a wonderful mother, and it would have been heart-wrenching to relinquish what ever "rights" she had to the child, but keeping the child for 2.5 years knowing that there was a dispute and the father had not reliquished his parental rights (and thus consented to the adoption) was thoughtless. Yes, Doss is the only parent the child has known, but Doss made certain that was the case. It seems wrong for that to be taken into account simply because you refused to reliquish physical custody of the child. She was certainly taking a chance on the well-being of that child had she lost.

We should all be wary. Flawed people have kids all the time. Unless they act criminally toward that child, they don't usually lose their parental rights because someone else could be a better parent.

Happy they settled and reached an agreement as this case could only have made for bad law, regardless of the eventual decision.

Before you condemn the birth mom for lying, consider these harrowing facts: Benjamin Mills, Jr. has four other children (none of which he has custody of); he has a child endangerment charge on his record; and he has been imprisoned for domestic violence - once pulling the birth mother so hard by the hair that when the police arrived at the house, they discovered bloody clumps of hair all over the floor. So when the mother could not care for baby Vanessa, do you blame her for not listing this man as the father on the adoption papers?

Read more:

@ A DAD Mr. Mills is an unfit parent. Look him up and you will see.


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