Monday, March 29, 1999

Supporters to rally for adoptive parents

Focus on issues in Justin's case

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — A group of Greater Cincinnati residents wants to see “Justice for Justin” ribbons and lots of children when they rally outside the Kenton County building at 11:30 a.m. today. They are showing support for 2-year-old Justin and Rich and Cheryl Asente, who want to adopt him. The Girard, Ohio, couple are battling efforts by Justin's biological parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Covington, to regain custody.

        The rally at Court Avenue and Third Street follows two weekend visits with Justin by his biological parents at the Asente home.

        Today's rally also will focus on children's rights and the legal issues in the case.

        Kenton Circuit Judge Patricia Summe decided last month that Justin should be returned to Ms. Moore and Mr. Dorning. The unmarried Covington couple agreed Justin could live with the Asentes 13 months ago. “They had no legal right to ask for Justin back,” said rally organizer Ann Abbott of Newport. She wants Kentucky laws to put a greater emphasis on the best interest of children and less on the rights of biological parents.

        The Asentes had adopted Justin's brother Joey, now 3, when Ms. Moore and Mr. Dorning signed Justin's con sent-to-adopt forms. Those documents were supposed to be irrevocable after 20 days.

        In February, Judge Summe invalidated the consents and ordered that Justin be returned to his biological parents. Judge Summe said Ms. Moore and Mr. Dorning signed the consent form with a distinct understanding they had until a special March 26, 1998, hearing to make up their minds. That was 37 days after Justin went to live with the Asentes.

        Still, the biological parents said they wanted Justin back. The Asentes refused and the custody battle ensued.

        The Asentes have appealed Judge Summe's February ruling. The Kentucky Court of Appeals is to consider that appeal Tuesday.

        While the legal battle continues, Justin began visits with his biological parents, accord ing to a representative from Hear My Voice, a children's advocacy group supporting the Asentes.

        A gag order issued by Judge Summe means that both sets of parents and their attorneys cannot talk about the visits or even confirm that they happened.

        Overnight stays at Ms. Moore's Covington home could start in about three months, but Judge Summe has ruled that Justin is to remain with the Asentes until all appeals are over.


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