Birth Mother Denied Custody in Baby Switch
ATLANTA (AP) _ A woman whose infant was accidentally switched at a hospital with another baby has lost a court battle for custody of the boy.
A judge Thursday awarded custody of Melvin Eugene Moore, who will be 8 on Monday, to the couple who adopted him and allowed liberal visitation to the birth mother, Jodie Pope.
Eugene and Edith Moore, stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., were given Melvin and the Popes received the child the Moores were supposed to adopt.
In Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Frank M. Eldridge ruled that while the Popes remain ″the biological, natural and legal parents″ of Melvin, the Moores have vested rights that must be balanced.
The mix-up began when the two boys were born hours apart Oct. 7, 1983, in Griffin-Spalding Hospital and were accidentally switched the day their mothers were released. The switch wasn’t discovered until five years later, when Mrs. Pope and her husband, Walter, had blood tests in connection with their divorce after Pope claimed the child wasn’t his.
The Moores claimed the error should have been discovered three months before the adoption when Melvin visited the hospital and his charts showed a different blood type than he had at birth.
Mrs. Moore said she immediately suspected the baby was the wrong one when she first saw him because she was supposed to be adopting a mixed-race baby. She is white and her husband is black.
When she mentioned that the child appeared to be white, hospital nurses told her the baby would begin to look darker-skinned in a few weeks, Mrs. Moore said.
Since learning that neither she nor her husband could be the parents of the boy they took home, Mrs. Pope has been fighting to regain custody of her son. In the meantime, she has adopted Cameron, the boy she has raised.
Eldridge ordered the Moores to pay half Melvin’s medical, educational and extracurricular activity expenses. The Popes each will be responsible for 25 percent. The Moores will have final say on Melvin’s education and health care, but the judge told them to consult Mrs. Pope on major decisions.
Pope, who has never sought custody, was given limited visitation during the times when Melvin will be with Mrs. Pope. Mrs. Pope will have the boy for two months each summer. In addition, Mrs. Pope can have Melvin visit during spring breaks, Thanksgiving and a portion of the Christmas holidays if the Moores are living in the United States.
Mrs. Pope refused to comment after the ruling. Her attorney, Thomas Malone, said an appeal is likely.
Malone also said Griffin-Spalding Hospital, under new ownership since the baby switch, has settled with the Moores and Mrs. Pope for $900,000, although they haven’t decided how to divide the money.
Still pending are lawsuits by the Moores and the Popes against the state Department of Human Resources, whose employees arranged the adoption.
The hospital has refused to comment over the years.