Baby Jessica case
The "Baby Jessica" case, was a well-publicized custody battle in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 1990s between Jan and Roberta DeBoer, the couple who attempted to adopt the child, and her biological parents, Dan Schmidt and Cara Clausen. In August, 1993, the supreme courts of Iowa and Michigan ordered her returned to Schmidt, who named her Anna Jacqueline Schmidt. The case was widely publicized as the "Baby Jessica" case after the name given her by the DeBoers. The case name is In re Clausen 442 Mich. 648 (1993).
Anna was born in 1991 to Cara Clausen, who placed her for adoption with Jan and Roberta DeBoer without telling Schmidt that he was the father. She also put a different man's name on the birth certificate, further obscuring paternity. The adoption process was handled by the DeBoers' attorney, whom Clausen erroneously thought was also her attorney. Five days after the birth, Clausen changed her mind, informed Schmidt of his paternity, and told the DeBoers that she wanted to cancel the adoption.
Clausen had already relinquished her parental rights so there was nothing that she could do. But Schmidt had not relinquished his parental rights so he could and did stop the adoption proceedings. The DeBoers, however, refused to accept that the adoption would not be completed, and returned home to Ann Arbor.
Clausen and Schmidt later married, and Schmidt went to court to get Anna returned to them. The DeBoers, who had named the baby "Jessica", battled to keep the child for 2½ years, but ultimately lost. Because the adoption process had never been completed, the Michigan court had no choice but to give full faith and credit to the sister state judgment from Iowa and order "Jessica/Anna" to be returned to her biological parents.
Roberta "Robby" DeBoer later wrote a book called Losing Jessica about the case and the DeBoers established a child advocacy group called Hear My Voice that advocates for children involved in difficult custody cases, with a pro-adoptive parent angle. A TV movie dramatizing the events, Whose Child Is This? The War for Baby Jessica was produced, but was criticized for being biased in favor of the DeBoers. In the film, the DeBoers, who were better educated than the Schmidts and had a better financial position, were portrayed as an affluent, ideal family for the child, while the Schmidts were portrayed as low-class, unsuitable parents living in squalid conditions.
Anna said in 2003 that she has no memory of the DeBoers and was doing well with her biological family.
- "Baby Jessica Case Updates". Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan, USA). 2001–2003. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- Martin Guggenheim (2005). "Getting and Losing Parental Rights: The "Baby Jessica" case". What's Wrong With Children's Rights?. Harvard University Press. pp. 50–96. ISBN 0-674-01721-8.