When Army Staff Sgt. Terry Achane was accepted into the Army’s Drill Sgt. school, he left his pregnant wife behind in Texas while he PCSed to South Carolina. The couple’s communication was, at the very least, not very good, and the pair gives conflicting stories about just how what happened next went down. But two things are clear:
First, the child’s mom and Achane’s wife, Tira Bland, “felt alone and abandoned.” And, second, she put the baby up for adoption without his knowledge or consent.
When the couple finally connected over the phone four months after the birth (you can read all about the he-said, she-said here regarding why they didn’t talk while she was pregnant or afterwards), Achane was astounded to learn that his baby girl had born and given up for adoption. The law in Utah allows for adoptions in some instances without the father’s consent.
Achane said he was dumbfounded by the news and called the Adoption Center of Choice that same day seeking information about his child, which they declined to provide. An attorney for the agency subsequently contacted Achane and asked him to consent to the adoption. He refused and intervened in the adoption proceeding the Freis initiated in July 2011, which culminated in a two-day hearing in October.
The adoptive parents, who are not affiliated with the military, have declined to return the baby to her biological dad. Achane and the adoptive family are now going through a legal fight, each claiming the best interest of the child.
But let’s focus on two things — first the mom, then the dad.
Since there’s no way to know what actually happened — whether Bland really was abandoned by Achane and feared that she would be left a single mom (something she said she had experienced in the past) like she says, or whether Achane was continuing to support and attempt to contact her, like he says — let’s just assume that Bland did, in fact, feel abandoned when Achane left to start their PCS, like she says.
First, as a commenter here and our friend Janine Boldren (very wisely) pointed out to us, there is no reason for any spouse to ever feel abandoned — at least financially. As an Army wife (they have since divorced), she had rights to housing help, parental support and more. Contacting his command would’ve been enough to get his forced assistance, if necessary.
But perhaps her feelings were more about emotional than financial abandonment. Who among us hasn’t felt just a little alone (whether rightfully or wrongly) during a long separation? Still, you have to wonder what she expected from a life as an Army wife. And adopting out their child without his consent wasn’t the right solution to those feelings.
Second, this case highlights a battle many servicemembers wage to maintain their parental rights over the course of PCS moves, deployments and TDYs. How do you make sure your kid’s caretaker stays within the law when you’re far away and not watching them? How can you make sure your wife doesn’t adopt out your children?
So tell us what you think. The father and the adoptive parents are now battling over who gets to keep the child, and the results could set some serious legal precedence with consequences for more than just military dads looking to make sure their children still belong to them when they get back.
Is the dad right to want his kid back? Is he right to expect his wife to wait for him regardless of their communication? Or was his wife’s reaction — feeling alone and trapped between choosing life as a single mom or adopting out her kid — reasonable?