Mo. court sides with immigrant in adoption appeal

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The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that state adoption laws were not followed in terminating the parental rights of a Guatemalan woman who was caught up in a 2007 immigration raid and allowing her son to be adopted by an American couple.

But the decision doesn't automatically return the now 4-year-old child to his birth mother, Encarnacion Bail Romero. The court instead ordered the completion of mandatory reports about Romero, the adoptive parents and the boy, and a new trial regarding Romero's parental rights.

Judge Patricia Breckenridge, who wrote the majority opinion for the seven-member court, said another hearing would be required because the evidence in the case suggested abandonment. In a footnote, Breckenridge expressed concern about how the case played out, and three other judges indicated they would have reversed the adoption.

"Every member of this court agrees that this case is a travesty in its egregious procedural errors, its long duration and its impact on mother, adoptive parents and, most importantly, child," Breckenridge wrote.

Romero was arrested during an immigration sweep at a poultry plant, and sentenced to two years in a federal prison after pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft. Since leaving prison last year, she has been seeking to regain custody of her son, Carlos, who has lived with Seth and Melinda Moser, of Carthage, since he was about 1 year old.

Another couple who had been helping Romero's family care for Carlos after his mother's arrest had contacted the Mosers about adopting him. The boy was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen. Romero was not immediately deported after serving her sentence so she could challenge the adoption, according to her attorneys.

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