Boy caught between two families

January 13, 2009 8:29:35 PM PST
An adoption battle that's pit a biological father against a foster familyAn adoption battle has put a teenager's biological father against the foster family that raised him. The 16-year-old is caught in the middle, and at the heart of it all is a failure in the foster care system.

A biological father fights to gain custody of his son, and gets it. He seems to be a man trying to do the right thing and become a good father. But now several years later his son is pleading to be reunited with his former foster family.

6 years ago Hal and Pat Wilcox had to give up custody of their 10-year-old foster son, Darryl, despite raising him since he was an infant.

"It was like ripping my heart out. I went to a state of depression, it was unreal," Pat said.

They said the Department of Human Services told them they'd be able to adopt him but first DHS would have to find Darryl's biological parents and terminate their rights. It never happened.

Years went by and the family's bond grew stronger. Foster brother Eric became especially close with Darryl.

"He was always there for me and I really miss him," Eric said.

Their tight knit family unraveled in 1999 when Darryl's biological father, Darryl Davis, surfaced and wanted to gain custody of his son. That began a 3-year battle in the courts. Davis won. Hal explained what that decision did to young Darryl.

"He was kicking and screaming. I bet you there was more tears than ever shed on Harrison Avenue," Hal said.

For 4 years, the Wilcox's never heard or saw Darryl. But then they got a call from him and began to secretly meet with him.

In October, 16-year-old Darryl ran away from his Dad's Germantown home and landed in Morrisville, New Jersey with the Wilcox's. Darryl claimed he'd been physically and verbally abused.

Action News spoke to Davis outside his home. He wouldn't say why he gave up his son but acknowledged past mistakes.

He said he's not another absent father but rather one who's fought for his son.

"I love my son and he shouldn't have to stay in foster care and it's not his fault where he was."

Davis denies he ever abused Darryl and all parties in the case admit no abuse was ever proven. He said he is a disciplinarian and at times, Darryl has been reluctant to accept it. But he also partly blames Hal and Pat Wilcox. He said their secret meetings with Darryl have undermined the progress he's trying to make with his son.

"They should realize that I'm somebody and I fought hard to get my son. When we first met we never started off on a good foot."

The Wilcox's have a hearing in family court in February. Despite a judge already ruling on the case, they're once again petitioning for custody rights for Darryl.

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