Video: Regaining custody

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/18/2005 1:40:57 PM ET 2005-01-18T18:40:57

The adoptive parents who were forced to surrender a 3 ½-year-old boy they raised to his biological mother on Monday compared the weekend handover to a death in the family and said they would continue their legal battle to regain legal custody.

“We’re almost in a state of shock,” Dawn Scott, the adoptive mother, said on NBC’s “Today” show. “We feel numb. ... It’s almost like a death.”

Scott and her husband, Gene, were ordered by a judge to turn the boy, Evan, over to his natural mother, Amanda Hopkins. The exchange occurred Saturday in the midst of a phalanx of media.

‘How can they do this to a little boy?’
After handing the boy to Hopkins, Dawn Scott dropped to the ground and repeatedly screamed, “How can they do this to a little boy?”

Video: Attorney speaks

On Monday, she said that Evan was frightened as she carried him to the car.

"He told me as I was walking out the door with him, 'Mommy I’m scared. Mommy, I’m scared’ … And I said  it’s going to be OK. Mommy and daddy will do everything they can to bring you back home."

Evan, who could be heard wailing inside the home, appeared calm after he was placed in a car seat in a van driven by Hopkins’ husband, Michael. Amanda Hopkins scolded photographers taking pictures of the child: “Leave him alone. He’s just a little boy.”

The child’s biological father and grandfather pushed a television cameraman out of the way during the transfer.

The Scotts had appealed Friday to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, asking the court to let them keep the child. But their attorney, Susan Pniewski, said Monday on the “Today” show that the court had not yet ruled on the request for an emergency intervention.

In the meantime, she said, the court that ordered the transfer made no provision for the Scotts to be allowed to visit Evan.

“They’ve just been completely dismissed,” she said. “It’s as if they’re nobody.”

Mother agreed to private adoption
The case began about 3½ years ago when the childless Scotts met Hopkins, who was pregnant. She agreed to a private adoption, according to court files.

The Scotts watched Evan’s birth in May 2001, and he was placed with them two days later.

The adoption was supposed to be final in August 2001. But a month before that, the boy’s biological father, Stephen White, filed a motion demanding custody. The Scotts claimed White should not be able to block the adoption, but a judge disagreed.

Hopkins supported the adoption until it appeared the court might grant White’s request for custody. Late last month, she was awarded custody and White was given liberal visitation rights.

Amanda Hopkins lives in Illinois with her infant daughter and husband Michael, a member of the U.S. Navy based at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, near Chicago.

Garrett Barket, an attorney for White, said the biological parents had lunch together after picking up Evan, and the boy was smiling and in a good mood.

Boy said to be ‘happy to be home’
Hopkins also told reporters that Evan was "happy to be home."

The Scotts have argued in court filings that Evan would be "safer" living with them, and on their "Today" show appearance charged that the boy had told them that he had been hit during visits with his biological father.

The Scotts also defended their decision to videotape their conversation with Evan when they told him they were going to have to send him away to live with Hopkins.

"I don’t believe that it’s exploiting him," said Dawn Scott. "There’s no other way to prove to the court how much this is hurting him."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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