Couple sues Bolingbrook adoption agency over alleged botched ado - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Couple sues Bolingbrook adoption agency over alleged botched adoption

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BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

In summer 2011, a Channahon couple welcomed a new member to their family.

John and Denise Steller brought home a toddler who needed a home and whom they wanted to adopt as their own son.

About 10 months later, they had to give the boy up because the adoption agency did not properly notify his biological father, according to a lawsuit they filed this spring.

Now the licensing division of the Department of Children and Family Services is investigating the agency.

The Stellers were connected with the boy through Sunny Ridge Family Center in Bolingbrook, where the couple had first discussed adopting an African-American child during the fall of 2010.

In May 2011, Sunny Ridge staff told the Stellers that the boy would be ready for adoption within a month, the lawsuit states.

During a six-month placement period that began June 23, 2011, the 21-month-old boy became part of their family.

The toddler celebrated his second birthday with his new family, bonded with the couple's child and was treated as their own son, according to court records.

After the placement period ended, just before Christmas 2011, the Stellers began official adoption proceedings in Will County.

But their push to adopt the boy was cut short. On April 9, 2012, the boy was removed from the Stellers' home because his biological father challenged the proceeding, the lawsuit claims.

The complaint the couple filed April 2 in Will County accuses Sunny Ridge of negligence, breach of contract and fraud.

They say the agency failed to check the boy's birth certificate to determine the legal status of his birth father, and that the agency should have known the boy was not available for adoption.

In January 2012, a Cook County court found Sunny Ridge did not seek the consent of the boy's father on the adoption and did not properly terminate the father's parental rights, the lawsuit states.

Now the Stellers want Sunny Ridge to pay for the expenses they incurred — monetary and emotional — and seek more than $50,000 on each of the five counts in the complaint, as well as court costs.

Besides the money spent caring for the boy, the couple paid Sunny Ridge a $19,000 placement fee.

Rockford attorney Raymond Melton, who represents the Stellers, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it speaks for itself.

Amy Trotter, executive director of programs for Sunny Ridge, also declined to comment on the lawsuit while the matter is pending.

"Obviously, this lawsuit is a concern to us. We have placed over 3,000 children and we've been doing adoptions for the past 30 years," Trotter said. "Our greatest priority is the well-being and privacy of the child and the families."

Dave Clarkin, spokesman for DCFS, said the department's licensing division began investigating Sunny Ridge in April. He would not provide details because the investigation is ongoing.

Sunny Ridge has been licensed with the department since July 2006, and the department has received no prior complaints about the agency, Clarkin said.

The case is scheduled for an initial appearance in Will County court on July 22.

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