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Man Claims Foster Parents, County Conspired To Steal Daughter

April 4, 1993 GMT

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Gavin O’Hara says his daughter was stolen from him before she was born, and for 5 1/2 years he’s been trying to get her back.

O’Hara believes his daughter was channeled into a foster home as part of a social worker’s plot to help her own childless sister adopt a baby.

The sister and her husband, Robert and Lise Adatto, acknowledge that there were irregularities in the way the girl came to their custody. But they say they still should be allowed to adopt Jazmon O’Hara, now 6.

The state Supreme Court decided Thursday it would hear the case.

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In the meantime, Jazmon, a tiny girl with blue eyes and reddish-brown hair, lives with the Adattos. She calls both Adatto and O’Hara ″Daddy.″

Her biological mother, Debi Pasco, grew up in 13 different foster homes and was under the supervision of San Diego County social worker Debbie Reid. When Ms. Pasco was 17, she was living with O’Hara, 25, and became pregnant.

Ms. Reid counseled her during the pregnancy and, shortly after Jazmon’s birth on Dec. 14, 1986, told her she was not mature enough to care for the child and should give her up for adoption.

″She always talked about this wonderful Jewish family and how perfect they would be,″ Ms. Pasco says. ″She just neglected to tell me she was related to them.″

Her relationship with O’Hara fell apart in April 1987. In June 1987, Ms. Pasco surrendered the baby.

The Adattos, unable to have children of their own, weren’t licensed to be foster parents but got an emergency certificate to accept the child.

O’Hara and Ms. Pasco were given what is known as a reunification plan, a set of conditions they would have to meet to regain custody of Jazmon. The plans included drug testing and parenting classes.

Ms. Pasco soon dropped out of the plan, but O’Hara completed it.

He couldn’t understand why the county still wanted to sever his rights as a father. Then at a 1989 court hearing, it came out that Ms. Reid and Lise Adatto are sisters.

″There was this whole conspiracy. The courts didn’t know about this for two years, and neither did I,″ said O’Hara, now 31.

The county Department of Social Services reprimanded Ms. Reid and labeled her actions ″ethically inappropriate,″ according to court documents. Still, the county did not remove Jazmon from the Adattos’ custody, though Ms. Reid is no longer on the case.

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Ms. Reid and other Social Services officials cannot discuss cases involving juveniles.

The Adattos concede that Jazmon’s biological parents should have been told of their relationship with Ms. Reid sooner.

″But even if the county had said this in the beginning, it would have changed nothing,″ Adatto said. ″Gavin O’Hara would still be an unfit parent.″

The couple claim O’Hara is narcissistic and cannot forge a father-daughter bond with the girl.

The Adattos have been described by the courts and the county as ideal parents. Their house revolves around Jazmon. Photographs of her are everywhere, as are her arts and crafts.

In December, California’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Jazmon should be returned to O’Hara, finding no reason why he was unfit to raise her. The Adattos appealed to state Supreme Court.

Until the Supreme Court acts, Jazmon will remain with the Adattos, with O’Hara receiving visitation rights.