April 27, 2006– Vol. 41, No. 37

County officials deny transracial adoption

Maryclaire Dale

PHILADELPHIA — A white couple who want to adopt a black foster child they raised for nearly two years went to federal court last week to get him back, saying county officials are biased against transracial adoptions.

Susan and Randy Borelly cared for the 4-year-old until Chester County officials showed up on April 5 — with police in tow — and unexpectedly removed him. He was then placed with a black family.

County officials say the Borellys were turned down because they were also adopting a niece, and invoked a policy that prohibits families from adopting more than one child per year. The policy is designed to make sure each child has time to settle in with the family, they said.

The Borellys, who took in the foster son in May 2004, call the policy a “pretext.” They called two longtime county adoption workers to the stand Friday to testify that they were unaware of the one-a-year limit.

“There was no such policy in place and there is no written policy about one adoption per family per year. This statement was a pretext to avoid placing (the boy) in a transracial home,” the Borellys said in their lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge James T. Giles heard more testimony from county workers last week before deciding whether to issue a temporary injunction blocking the new placement.

Gertrude King, the boy’s biological great-grandmother, supports the Borellys, saying the boy seemed to thrive in their care. The child’s mother had her parental rights terminated in September.

“They’re a loving family,” King, who has seen the boy occasionally, said outside the courtroom Friday. “They’re a Christian family. He calls them Mommy and Daddy.”

Randy Borelly, a manufacturing manager, testified about his bond with the boy, saying both enjoyed tools and machines.

“I told my wife that if I had to design a son with all the qualities and all the things that a son could possess, he’s nailed it. Kevin’s nailed it,” Borelly testified.

County adoption worker John LeVan testified that he was told by a colleague that Diane Horsey, the placement manager of the county’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, did not approve of approve of transracial adoptions. Horsey is black.

Lawyer Guy Donatelli, who represents the agency, said Horsey denies making any such comments. Agency officials will also deny that race was a factor in the Borelly case when they testify, he said.

The Borellys were told repeatedly over the past year about the county’s limit on adoptions, he said.

“They understood that policy,” Donatelli said. “They agreed it made sense, but thought they should be an exception.”

The Borellys have been married for seven years. Their family includes Susan Borelly’s two children from a prior marriage and the niece, who is about nine. The girl was adopted by the couple after her mother died and has lived with them off and on for several years.

(Associated Press)




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