Single man can adopt baby girl

August 24, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. -- A judge has ordered a 10-month-old girl returned to a man who had lost custody of the child after his wife died last month.

Orphans Court Judge Leonard B. Sokolove said yesterday that the baby's needs would be best met by allowing Keith Lussier, 28, of the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga, N.Y., to adopt her even though he is now single. Judge Sokolove ordered that the South Korean baby be returned to Mr. Lussier by Sunday.

The baby is living with a Massachusetts couple, who already have an adopted Korean child.

When the judge announced his decision, Mr. Lussier slumped his shoulders and sighed. In seconds, he was enveloped by relatives, who hugged and kissed him while tears rolled down his and their cheeks.

"I can't believe it," Mr. Lussier said afterward. "I'm so happy to get my daughter back. I was praying the judge would do the right thing and give her back to me."

Judge Sokolove's ruling made Mr. Lussier the legal father of the baby that he and his wife, Kimberly, obtained in February through a private, nonprofit Bucks County adoption agency, Love the Children.

The Lussiers named the baby Brittany and intended to adopt her after a six-month waiting period.

Kimberly Lussier, 27, died of uterine cancer July 17, about a month before the adoption was to be finalized.

Six days later, the Quakertown adoption agency removed the baby on the ground that Mr. Lussier was now single, and thus ineligible under agency rules to adopt her.

The agency's executive director testified that she decided to remove Brittany from Mr. Lussier's home because he was a widower and because of the trauma the baby suffered with Kimberly Lussier's death.

Judge Sokolove said he found "inadequate evidence" that the agency had investigated what type of home Mr. Lussier could provide Brittany.

"I believe what they did in this case was inappropriate, but I believe it was a mistake," the judge said.

The judge noted that testimony showed that the Lussiers had notified a Love the Children social worker of Kimberly's illness, but that the social worker had not relayed the information to her superiors.

"It was an unfortunate combination of circumstances, including the failure of the social worker to give early and adequate information to the agency headquarters," the judge said.

The adoption agency's lawyer asked for a stay of the judge's order while the agency decided whether to appeal. Judge Sokolove denied the request. Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Mr. Lussier said that as he heard the judge read the decision, he was picturing Brittany in her crib again and "running through the kitchen."

He said he could not wait to "kiss her and hug her and take her for a walk. Just the two of us."

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