A young Toledo father got a much deserved early Christmas present. David Woodbury welcomed his 14-month-old son home for the first time ever. It took everything he had to fight for custody of a child he barely knows but with whom he yearns to spend a lifetime. The saga of little Tyler Rangel has ended happily in his father's loving hands, but his story puts the state to shame.
Instead of supporting young fathers like Mr. Woodbury who wanted to take responsibility for the child he and ex-girlfriend Theresa Rangel produced, the state put him through hell. And he wasn't the only one. Hours after Ms. Rangel gave birth to Tyler Oct. 6, 2000, he was adopted by a Sandusky couple.
The adoption should never have been allowed. Mr. Woodbury did exactly what he was supposed to do under Ohio law to protect his rights as the biological father and block any adoption from proceeding. His name on the Ohio Putative Father Registry should have been a red flag to officials at Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services. They should have informed him that an adoption was being contemplated if he intended to contest it.
But because of an inexcusable blunder on the part of the state, Mr. Woodbury was never told of the planned adoption. He only found out after a chance contact by the Lucas County child support enforcement agency telling him he was a father. The adoption was days away from completion.
Thus began a legal scramble by the 21-year-old father to reclaim his son. The emotional toll was great not only for him but heartbreaking for the prospective adoptive parents, who had to relinquish a baby they had called their own for several months.
Lucas County Juvenile Court magistrate Denny Parish awarded legal and residential custody of Tyler to his father. Ms. Rangel, whose lawyer has appealed the ruling, apparently filed wrong information in Probate Court to deny Mr. Woodbury his parental rights. In reaching its decision, the court questioned whether she would honor those same rights if she were given permanent custody of her son. She has been given visitation rights.
No thanks to a bungling state agency, David Woodbury can finally close a painful chapter in his life. Finally, he has won a hard-fought, bittersweet victory to bring his son home in time for Christmas.
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