This story, followed by the entire country like a soap opera, exposed many problems in the adoption laws. It turned out that a child can simply be taken away from adoptive parents at the first biological mother's request. But an ordinary married couple stepped in to fight for the baby girl and managed to defeat the system.
Early in the 1970s, Olga Scarpetta, then 32, went to New York from Colombia, South America, to give birth to her out‐of‐wedlock child, Lenore. By that time the woman had graduated from a university, made a pretty good career, worked as an office manager in a large multinational corporation, and was fluent in English. But she couldn't find a husband.
As single moms were looked down on in a Latin American Catholic society, when Olga realized that she was pregnant, she knew that she would be despised.
The woman had no intention of becoming a mother. But her family insisted on Olga's keeping the baby. However, they suggested that the delivery should take place not in Colombia, but in the United States.
Since Olga's married lover disappeared when he heard about the pregnancy, Scarpetta was convinced that it was the only way out.
At that time there were public agencies looking for expectant mothers all over the world who were willing to put up their babies for adoption in America. The mother-to-be was promised legal entry to the USA, a possibility to get a residence permit, medical assistance, and a decent amount of money. After the baby was born, the woman had to give it up for adoption.
On May 18, 1970, baby Lenore was born. Olga Scarpetta signed all the necessary papers and was discharged from the hospital without the baby.
And six months later, she came to the office of the agency, brought back all the money she had been paid under the contract and demanded her daughter back.
As the heroine of the story argued, she did not feel any special feelings as she prepared to give birth to an unwanted child. But after giving birth, Olga realized she was a mother. She allegedly tried to withdraw from the conditions imposed by the contract but was threatened that if she violated the previously signed agreements, she would be deprived of both the child and the money, and moreover, would be deported from the United States.
With the money she received for her baby, Scarpetta hired a whole team of attorneys and filed a lawsuit against the adoption agency. However, they no longer had Lenore because she was placed with a New York couple.
Nick and Jean De Martino, then 30, were given custody of the newborn baby and the right to adopt her.
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Scarpetta's lawyers sued the De Martino family to get the baby back.
A year after Lenore was born, the New York court sided with Scarpetta. It turned out that state law was entirely on the side of the natural mother. The guardians had no rights to the child at all. But even if the De Martino couple had had time to adopt the child, the natural mother, unless she was deprived of parental rights, could still take the child until a certain age.
The adoptive parents disagreed and filed counterclaims. They went to court. At the same time, Scarpetta and the De Martino spouses appeared on endless TV talk shows. Both parties asserted their constitutional rights as well as their love for the child.
In November 1972, the United States Supreme Court backed the legal rights of adoptive parents.
This practice was approved in the U.S. as well as in most countries of the world. The natural mother has the right to return the rejected child, but only as long as the new adoptive parents do not legally register the child for themselves. After that the child can't be taken back.
What happened to the characters of the story? Scarpetta stayed in the USA, got married, received citizenship. She became a doctor of sciences and a professor at Harvard University. She had no more children.
The De Martino spouses eventually adopted Lenore and gave her their last name. The girl grew up with a sense of real hatred for her biological mother. When journalists asked about her, Lenore was not shy in her expressions and flatly refused to meet her. She even received a court order that Olga Scarpetta could not approach her own daughter.
In 1994, the adoptive mother Jean De Martino put herself to death because of a serious illness. And a few months later, Olga Scarpetta passed away from breast cancer. The two mothers passed away almost simultaneously.
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