When Samuel Gerome Dye got the news, he says he went crazy with joy: He ran, he danced, he screamed, he sang in the street.
And then Dye made a beeline for Utah, driving nonstop from Dallas through a blizzard in New Mexico and arriving last Friday to retrieve his 2-year-old son, whom a judge in Utah’s 4th District Court decided last week had been improperly placed for adoption here in July.
On Saturday, Dye and his son Samir traveled home together, putting miles and a nightmare behind them.
"I’m just so happy," Dye said as Samir cuddled on his lap at the Legacy Recreation Center in Lehi. "Since he’s been gone, my life hasn’t been the same. I was miserable, not able to cope. Everyone around me could tell."
Dye, 29, is sharing his story to alert others about what he describes as a flawed system in Utah that allows adoption agencies to make minimal effort to contact and verify information about birth fathers — or, even worse, to ignore their rights and perpetuate false claims.
It’s a case that "highlights that some adoption agencies are still ignoring what is going on in home states and potentially even coaching birth moms in hopes that birth fathers won’t go to the time and expense of challenging these cases," said Wes Hutchins, the Utah attorney who represented Dye.
Adds Adam Pertman, president of The Donaldson Adoption Institute based in New York, who spoke in general terms after hearing the story: "It’s critically important that men who want to step up and serve as fathers be allowed to do that, in law and in ethical practice. ... When we talk about parental rights, fathers are parents, too."
"Since day one" » Dye met and began dating the birth mother, whose name is being withheld by The Salt Lake Tribune, in the spring of 2010. They had been together about a year when she got pregnant.
She broke the news at a tumultuous time for Dye. In April 2011, he was shot five times and left for dead during a home-invasion robbery.
"I didn’t find out [about the pregnancy] until after I woke up after being shot," he said.
Dye, who at the time operated his own landscaping business, spent five weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries, including relearning how to walk. He and his girlfriend moved in with his parents for a time and then into their own apartment while he continued to recuperate. The girlfriend began working at a daycare center owned by Debra Byrd, Dye’s mother.
On November 25, 2011, Dye helped welcome Samir Oscar Dye — whose middle name is a tribute to his 94-year-old great-grandfather — into the world.
"I’ve been there since day one," Dye said.
The couple faced an immediate setback: Both Dye’s girlfriend and his newborn son allegedly tested positive for marijuana after the birth.
Texas child welfare officials intervened and, because Dye still needed assistance and could not care for the baby on his own, the couple agreed to give temporary legal custody of the infant to two of Dye’s relatives.
Before leaving the hospital, they filled out an acknowledgement of Dye’s paternity and his name was included on his son’s birth certificate.
Dye attended parenting classes with his girlfriend, who initially had supervised visits with their son which were in time expanded to overnight, weekend and weeklong stays. As Dye regained full use of his arms and legs, he helped care for Samir. The state returned custody to the birth mother, then still living with Dye, when Samir was about 10-months-old.
But their relationship had rocky, on-and-off moments.
In November 2012, the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed a court action that recognized Dye’s paternity and sought to establish child support and set out a visitation and custody plan for Samir — an action set in motion automatically when a couple is separated and one party receives state aid of any kind.
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