Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:As a child, Delvon Bulby Campbell never once experienced what it felt like to celebrate a birthday.
He recalls at Christmas eating dinner from a plastic bowl and drinking syrup from an aluminum cup while seated on a verandah. “My adopted mother was a domestic helper and was not allowed to sit at her employer’s dinner table,” he told Outlook.
He has carried the memory of one particular Christmas dinner for almost 40 years.
“I was 16 at the time, when a member of my adopted family – a pretty wealthy prominent doctor – invited us to dinner. When we got to his house, I remembered seeing a very long table in a very large dining room with so much food that I had never seen before,” he reminisced.
Everyone was eventually invited to the table and, Campbell, felt he, too, was invited.
“As soon as I sat down, I was asked to leave the table and sit outside on this very large patio overlooking the city. I could see everyone eating, and I was never offered a bite,” he recalled.
LEARNING TO LOVE
That form of discrimination never got the better of him. Instead, it taught him how to love the less fortunate.
Campbell’s story is one that numerous children born in Jamaica in the late ’50s can relate to. In those days, it was common for parents to give away their children to relatives, friends, neighbours, and even strangers.
Born in Highgate, St Mary, Campbell’s biological mother was a 16-year-old helper, impregnated by her rich boss Oswald Campbell, whose wife knew everything that went on in her house but had little or no power to do anything about it.
“My father’s wife named me Delvon, and 11 months later, when my sister was born, she named her Delores,” Campbell told Outlook from his home in Miami, Florida.
Both he and his sister Delores were given away by their father. Their mother, Icilda Wallace, had no say in the matter. Her role, essentially, was that of a bedmate at nights and domestic during the days.
Campbell’s childhood was very difficult. At age 14, he was sent to St Patrick’s Place of Safety, where he spent eight months before he was transferred to Alpha Boys’ School, where he became a trumpeter. After leaving Alpha, he joined the Jamaica Defence Force, where he spent six years before migtrating to the United States.
A year ago, Campbell found out about his 24 other siblings whom he never knew existed.
Campbell, who operates a mobile grooming company in Florida, tellsOutlook that, on Christmas Eve of 2012, he and his wife, Marsha, were walking in the Florida Keys
Outlet Mall when he saw a store that looked Jamaican, called Natural Vibes (now Concept).
“I was searching for a Usain Bolt PUMA shoes at the time, so I asked the guy in the store if he had any. He didn’t have, but offered to source a pair and call me.”
Campbell said when he gave the proprietor, Andrew Roberts, his name and number, something clicked in the young man’s eyes.
“When I looked at him, he looked like one of my grand-uncles,” Roberts told Outlook.
He decided to call his mother. “I told my mom and she said he must be one of the sons that her uncle had gone back to Jamaica looking for between 1989 and 1991.”
Roberts said that, within half an hour, he knew Campbell was his relative. “He looks exactly like his father. When I looked in his eyes, I saw his dad.” The family began a round-up, bringing together Oswald Campbell’s children living in the United Kingdom, St Martin, and Jamaica.
While alive, Oswald Campbell visited Jamaica twice, trying to find the two children he had left in Jamaica. He found Delores, who now resides in Old Harbour. However, Delvon had moved to the United States.
Two weeks after finding his relatives, Campbell’s older sister, Lorna Campbell, who lives in the United Kingdom, was on a plane to Miami to meet her baby brother.
“When the phone call came through last Christmas that he was found, it was mind-blowing,” she told Outlook. “I, too, was given away as a baby. We had an immediate connection – I couldn’t even understand [it] myself. It was like I already knew him,” she stated.
“We had so much in common, compared to the other siblings. The love that emanated from him was different,” she said.
She recalled that it was impossible to contain herself en route to Miami. “I had a lot of questions: what is he like, what is his wife going to be like – it was amazing.” When she met her brother in the airport, she said they hugged tightly. “It was overwhelming. I just wanted to know everything about him.”
Her trip to Florida was scheduled for two weeks, but she extended her stay for an extra week, while they caught up on 53 years of not seeing each other.
“I didn’t want to leave when the time came around,” she quipped.
Also born in Highgate, Lorna’s life took a different path as she was ‘adopted’ by an uncle and his wife. Seven months after being discovered, Delvon went to England to meet the rest of his family.
His sister Lorna described that visit as phenomenal. “We had a family reunion of over 50 people,” she recalled. Now the local councillor of the London Borough of Lambeth and Cabinet member for equalities and communities, she told Outlook that she was not always this happy about what had happened in her life.
“At first, I was very upset and bitter, because I felt I was denied the opportunity to grow with my siblings, but I have reached a stage in my life where I have been able to forgive,” she says.
She said her baby brother has inspired her. “He is not bitter, he hasn’t dwelled on it. He is living his life to the fullest. He has so much love to give. He just loves humanity.”
On Christmas Day 2013, Delvon Campbell got his lifetime wish of having dinner with his family. He and his wife – and their two dogs – hosted 20 family members at Christmas dinner.
“I get the chance to host my first Christmas dinner with my biological family for the first time in my life. I am very grateful to the Almighty that I have gotten that chance while I am still alive to have this experience. I have never forgotten from whence I came. I was taken care of the best way they knew how to in those days,” he wrote on his Facebook page, two days before Christmas.
Yes, Delvon Campbell has forgiven his father for giving him away to total strangers!
Jake Strickland prepared for the birth of his son in December 2010, showing off a stroller that was bought for the boy.
A dad whose newborn son was given up for adoption by the birth mother — without his knowledge — is seeking $130 million in a lawsuit testing the boundaries of a biological father’s rights in Utah.
The adoption of Jake Strickland’s son just after he was born Dec. 29, 2010, was illegal and done “through gross misdirection and … clandestine conduct,” claims the suit filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Utah.
Strickland alleges the mother, Whitney Pettersson, conspired with the adoptive parents, the adoption agency and attorneys to give up the boy — named “Baby Jack” in the suit — without allowing him to seek custody.
The complaint also strikes at Utah’s parenting laws, accusing them of being “pro-adoption and anti-birth father.”
Attorney Wes Hutchins, speaking on behalf of Strickland, said his client just missed his son’s third birthday on Sunday — and is devastated that he can’t share important milestones in the boy’s life.
“It’s pulling him apart,” Hutchins told NBC News on Tuesday.
On his son’s birthday, Strickland and his family gathered around a candle to sing “Happy Birthday” to his absent son, Hutchins said.
“They still think about him even though they don’t have contact,” he added.
Strickland and Pettersson first met in 2009 as co-workers at a restaurant, according to court documents. Strickland said Pettersson was having problems with her marriage, and she later told him she got divorced. They began dating, and three months later, she texted him that she was pregnant.
Strickland left Utah for a temp job in Texas, but said he assured Pettersson that he wanted to be present in their child’s life, according to the lawsuit. He started a fund for the baby boy. The couple came up with a name: Jack.
A nursery that was set up in 2010 for Jake Strickland’s baby, whom he named Jack.
But after Strickland returned to Utah, the romance dissolved. They began discussing parenting options. He said he told Pettersson that he would consider signing up with Utah’s putative father registry, which is how unmarried men can document with the state that they want parental rights.
But Strickland didn’t register. According to Hutchins, Pettersson warned him that if he did, she “would view it as an act of distrust” and keep his child from him.
“I don’t know if it was done as an act of vindictiveness,” Hutchins said.
Pettersson couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, and attorneys involved in the adoption weren’t immediately available. The adoption agency, LDS Family Services, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, Strickland continued to financially support Pettersson, who also had a child from another relationship, until her alleged lies about their son began to unravel.
On Jan. 5, 2011, Strickland said he was astonished to learn that Pettersson had given birth a week earlier — unbeknownst to him. He also learned she was still legally married, which meant her estranged husband was the presumed father under state law.
The most devastating discovery, Strickland said in the lawsuit, was that Pettersson had already given up their child for adoption.
She even got her then-husband to agree to the adoption by telling him that he would be the one saddled with child support payments if she kept the boy, according to Hutchins.
Strickland, who now lives in Arizona, mounted a paternity claim. But his fight was complicated because he had never registered with the state for his paternal rights.
Despite contesting the adoption, Strickland learned in November 2011 that it was completed.
After a 2nd U.S. District judge shot down Strickland’s bid to gain custody, he filed an appeal to the state. His case is still under review.
Concurrently, Strickland’s federal lawsuit is seeking $30 million for the loss of the parent-child relationship caused by the adoption and $100 million as a deterrent to ensure another dad doesn’t suffer his fate.
Hutchins said Utah’s laws are onerous on biological fathers who try to gain custody, noting that they must file a paternity petition, get a sworn affidavit, create a detailed child care plan and prove they were financially invested in the pregnancy, among other requirements.
Strickland’s custody case, meanwhile, isn’t the only one gaining attention in Utah. In another high-profile petition, Colorado dad Robert Manzanares is fighting for sole custody of his daughter, whom he claims was unfairly given up by her birth mother when the woman fled to Utah.
Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler told NBC affiliate KSL-TV that despite the increased interest in the issue, he’s not persuaded that Utah laws need to be dramatically overhauled.
“What we’re looking at in this lawsuit and a few other high-profile lawsuits are one or two bad examples out of 10,000,” Weiler said. “I don’t think it’s good policy for the state to look at one or two exceptions and say, ‘Let’s change the laws for everyone.’”
BROCKTON, Mass. —Dozens of children — smiling, dancing, laughing and eating — filled a room on the third floor of Brockton District Court.Adoption
There were red, white, pink and blue balloons twisted into cats, dogs, bicycles and more. Bags of glittery presents sparkled on tables. Cameras were everywhere, taking photos and videos, preserving a joyful and momentous occasion, the Enterprise reported.
Welcome to Southeastern Massachusetts National Adoption Day.
On Friday morning, 21 children were adopted by 19 families at Brockton District Court. There are still 102,000 children in foster care across the nation waiting to find permanent, loving families.
“We always knew before we were married that adoption was a path we wanted to follow,” said Jennifer Murray of Kingston. She and her husband, Mike, adopted Soleil, 21 months old, on Friday. They already have three biological children: Ryan, 12, Grace, 10, and Bennett, 8.
“She’s teaching our other kids patience,” said Mike Murray, who teaches high school in Pembroke. “They are getting a big kick out of seeing all the funny things she does as a baby.”
Dressed in a deep-purple dress with glittery tights and ballet flats covered in silver sequins, Soleil ran around the room chasing her siblings with balloons, peeking around tables and smiling widely for the camera.
“She’s always happy. I love playing with her because I’ve always wanted a sister,” said Grace Murray, who was wearing a gold and pink “Big Sister” necklace.
Across the state Friday, six courthouses, including Brockton, opened their doors to legalize the adoptions of 130 children. More than 44,000 children have been adopted on National Adoption Days nationwide.
Juliana, 11, and her sister Melanie, 9, have been waiting to be adopted by their foster parents, Sam and Gina Michini of Pembroke. Their dream came true Friday.
“We were waiting for three years for this day,” said Juliana.
“We are really happy,” added Melanie.
Hundreds of family members, friends and children’s advocates attended the event.
After a lavish breakfast, there was an opening ceremony with speakers and a musical performance by the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School Marching Band. Then the families went into court to legalize the adoptions.
Ann and Bob Almeida live in the Taunton area. They have three biological children and two foster children.
On Friday, the Almeidas made 4-year-old Bryce a permanent member of their family.
During the adoption ceremony for Bryce, the judge issued a decree saying, “They will always be Mummy and Daddy to you,” at which point Bryce threw his arms around his mother’s neck and hugged her.
Three doors down, in Courtroom 6, the Murray family’s adoption was under way.
After Jennifer and Mike Murray signed the adoption papers, Soleil marched through the swinging court doors with her new family.
“She’s coming out as a Murray,” said Mike Murray with a large smile.
This is truly sad for all involved. Once you have a child in your life, you can’t imagine them being taken away for any reason. But this is about the difference between right and wrong. I’m also native american and grew up not knowing much about my true culture. I always wanted to know what it truly meant to be native america but wasn’t really brought up knowing that part of my heritage. However, I’m more than grateful for the life and opportunities given me. I’m not sure how much better or worse things would have been if I was raised knowing more about my native culture. In this case I believe the issue is Veronica’s birth father, Dusten Brown, signed away his parental rights. No one forced him to do that. While he may regret it, he will have to live with it. We all have to come to terms with and take responsibility for the choices we make in our lives. I’m certain that Veronica’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, will continue to love her as they did when they initially started the adoption rules. May all those involved find happiness in their lives and focus on all that is important. Move past the pain of any loss and allow the growth and nurturing of beautiful young Veronica to happen.