A teenage couple were reunited with their baby after a judge ruled an adoption agency had browbeat the father into giving the child up for adoption.
Heather and David Vogel walked out of court Tuesday, cradling their 2-month-old son, Jeffrey Allen."I got my baby back," the 17-year-old mother said. "We're just going to love him."
"I'm just glad we got him back," said the 18-year-old father.
Superior Court Judge Leah Sears-Collins had concluded the adoption agency, Friends of Children Inc., used "irresponsible and careless threats" to get the young father to sign adoption papers.
The judge ordered the agency to return the baby even though the Vogels missed by three days a deadline for changing their minds about giving the boy up.
"It would be cruel for a society devoted to the welfare of children to say that you cannot reclaim your given word and your flesh and blood all because you made a miscalculation or a misstep," Sears-Collins said.
The judge ruled that Heather Vogel voluntarily surrendered her son for adoption on Feb. 5, the day after he was born but said the father signed the papers under duress.
Vogel testified Monday that an agency caseworker told him the baby would be "in peril" and he would be responsible for about $1,300 in medical expenses if he did not sign.
The agency's attorney, Mark Booz, refused to comment on the ruling except to say he would appeal.
Booz asked the judge for a stay that would have kept the baby in foster care pending the appeal, but she refused, saying the child cannot remain "caught between a rock and a hard place."
The couple split up before the birth but married about five weeks after the baby was born.
Under state law, they had 10 days to change their minds about the adoption. The period ran out Feb. 15, but the Vogels said they thought the deadline was Saturday, Feb. 16.
They said they further assumed the deadline would be extended to the following business day, Monday, Feb. 18, and went to the agency that day to ask for the baby back.
In her ruling, the judge chastised the agency for not including the exact date of the deadline in the adoption papers. The documents stated that the Vogels had 10 days in which to change their minds but did not give a date.