In 1994 my sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy. At the time, she was a victim of spousal abuse and had been terrified to bring the baby home. Not to my knowledge, she had gone into labor on June 2nd and gave birth to her son. Unknown to me at the time, she had concealed her true identity due to her fear of her then-husband. She pretended to be me and signed my name to the baby’s birth certificate. I was then known as the boy’s legal birth mother. Shortly after my nephew was born, my sister had asked me to please care for the baby, as she was concerned her husband would hurt the child since he suffered from schizophrenia and paranoia. He was violent at times and would hurt their older son who was just a year old.

I took the baby and cared for him for 9 months, until my sister’s husband found out about the birth of Matthew and demanded to have his son. Having no power, no temporary order of custody, I handed the infant over to my then-brother-in-law. One week later I receive the birth certificate from my sister; it bore my name on it and when I went to see them, the baby was gone. My brother-in-law had given the boy away to an acquaintance of the family. She had promised him a job, $10k, and a house if he allowed her to have the baby. When I found out what had happened I went to get the boy back. I had with me documentation to have the baby (9 months old ) released back to myself and my sister.

The Monroe County sheriff’s office denied to honor the Queens County Family Court Writ and thus allowed the non-blood member to keep the child. I was forced to start a suit to regain custody, as she had taken the baby and filed a petition and order of protection against the entire family. Not one of us could go near the baby that belonged to us. We battled in court and the judge had forced my sister into signing away her parental rights, as well as having me sign away my rights, since I was named the mother on his birth certificate. We tried to regain my nephew back from this judge but he knew the family of the individual who took the baby and so this woman got away with kidnapping.

My sister was brokenhearted and suffered a nervous break down; I went into seclusion and my life was never the same. I think about my nephew often and I cry most of the time when I recall how he cried for me when the social worker assigned to the court took him away. He reached his little arms out to me crying “Ma ma. No, don’t leave me.” My heart never healed after that and my sister fell into a deep depression and thus has recently passed away in her sleep during Christmas. She was never the same and missed her baby everyday. We could not understand how a non-blood relative could get away with taking someone’s child and being able to keep him through the family court.

The Judge at the time believed the story that my sister tried to sell the baby to the woman who took him, but there was never any money involved. My sister never saw her son again. We had been granted visitation rights but it was too painful and the weekly trip was emotionally taxing every time we had to leave the baby behind. We knew this woman also had a criminal record of theft and was arrested and tried in a court of law for embezzlement. I could not and still do not till this day understand how a convicted criminal can get away with adopting/stealing a child and not be punished for it.

We still do not know if the boy is legally adopted or not by this person who tricked my sister and deceived a judge. I think about my sister and how she always spoke of her son. I think about him and cry. He now has two brothers and a sister. These children were raised knowing all about him, and now since my sister is gone, they are curious to see their missing brother and they are sad that they do not know how to find him.

I am telling this story for people to be aware of strangers who seem to be doing good but are only out to take what does not belong to them. A child was stolen and lost. I can only hope that this will never happen to anyone else. I had brought the local news team into the picture, but due to politics the news station was not allowed to air our story at the time. I hired an attorney who at the time did not know much about illegal adoption laws and so we had no strong tools to battle with. A weak attorney, a crooked judge, a criminal with influence and a family in the mob to back her up.

He does not have to be the only child: he has siblings who love him in heart and soul. These children and their lives were difficult growing up, living in the shadow of the memory of their brother. Nothing compared to the memory of my sister’s son. She loved him and missed him but was threatened in the court room that she would go to jail for medicaid fraud if she did not sign over an adoption paper to that woman. I was bullied into signing as well, since I was named his mother on his birth record. How did this woman manage to do all this? My sister confided in her because she believed she was a friend of hers who truly wanted to help. But she had a motive and her own agenda.

Twenty-four hours after hearing my sister’s secret about the birth certificate, she went to a crooked attorney who had pull with the judge, and they worked together in a court of law by filing a petition of abandonment and medicaid fraud against my now-deceased sister. My sister was 42 when she passed away in her sleep. Before she went to bed that night, her last words were to all of us. “Remember to hang his baby shoes on the tree tomorrow.” It was a ritual since we had nothing left of him and could not see him.

We never got any legal notification of proof of adoption nor ever heard any word of how he was doing or if he was healthy, happy, and just ok in general. He still appears as my beneficiary on my SSD benefits, which leads me to believe that perhaps that woman’s criminal record had possibly stopped the adoption from going through. There has been no monies given to me through SSD for him; I had declined the benefits 15 years ago. But still the thought lingers in my mind. What if he was never really adopted? What rights would I have as his natural aunt to gain custody back? He is now 16 years old. How can his siblings reach him? I am being tortured to think, nor do I really want to know the question that lingers in my mind.

Is Matthew dead or alive?

My sister died never knowing the answer. Life is hard. It is tearful and heartbreaking. We miss you, nephew, and we wait for the day when we can hold you in our arms and tell you that we love you.

– Rose R.