When Kimberly Rossler, a 26-year-old administrator from Mobile, AL, woke up one morning last June, she had no idea that her whole life was about to change. She had no idea that would be the day when the police would knock on her door, take her 3-week-old son, and give him to a woman she barely knew.
But that’s exactly what happened.
You may remember Rossler, whose story went viral last year and ignited a discussion on unethical adoptions. After discovering she was pregnant, Rossler’s boyfriend — whom she claims was verbally abusive — pressured her to have an abortion, a choice that didn’t sit well with Rossler. “I just couldn’t go through with it,” Rossler told me. Initially she lied to her boyfriend, telling him she had the abortion, just to buy herself more time.
Eventually, knowing that her boyfriend wanted nothing to do with being a parent, the young mother pursued adoption. “He said repeatedly that a child was just not in his life plan … My biggest fear was my son growing up without his father, like I had,” she explains.
Being from a small town without a lot of resources at her disposal, she turned to Adoption Rocks. As a non-profit agency, the organization technically doesn’t operate as an adoption agency, but instead helps facilitate the entire process through private adoption attorneys, giving them a gray area to work under — and complicating cases like Rossler’s.
Rossler initially worked with attorney Donna Ames, the founder of Adoption Rocks, to be matched with a 50-year-old single businesswoman. She signed the initial paperwork that Ames gave her, including a pre-birth consent, but was told that the paperwork was just the beginning of the process and was not final. She also agreed to a “monthly allowance” from the adoptive mother which would later be used against her.
As her due date approached, Rossler grew increasingly depressed. Just the thought of giving her child up for adoption left Rossler with suicidal thoughts, and so she decided to pursue therapy. Through these sessions, she eventually realized that she wanted to keep her baby.
Her decision made, Rossler texted both Ames and the prospective adoptive mother to inform them that the adoption was off. She went on to deliver a healthy baby boy, born three weeks early on May 28, 2015, whom she named James Elliott Rossler and calls “Elliott.” She and Elliott moved in with a friend, and Rossler worked hard to build a foundation for her life as a single parent.
Until three weeks later, on June 16, when two bewildered cops knocked on her door with an order to remove her son from her care. “The sheriff apologized and said, ‘Ma’am, we’ve never had this situation,’” Rossler remembers. “I pleaded and cried and told them [that] my child is breastfed and he [had] never taken a bottle, what is going on?”
Despite Rossler’s tears, the cops presented her two choices: They could either take the baby and take Rossler to jail, or they could just take the baby. Rossler was forced to load her 3-week-old son into his car seat (the cops hadn’t thought to bring one of their own) and say good-bye to him through sobs. She chose to cooperate with the cops because, as she explains, “I figured if I was in jail there was no way for me to fight and figure it out and call lawyers.”
And fight she did.
In the months that followed, Rossler fell down a dark legal hole that, 10 months later, she’s still climbing her way out of.
Unbeknownst to Rossler, that pre-birth consent form she signed in the beginning of her adoption process was legally binding in her home state of Alabama. Only a few states in the United States recognize pre-birth consent, and although Rossler had informed both her attorney and the prospective adoptive mother that the adoption was off, she had not been informed that she must legally relinquish her consent in writing within five days after the birth as well. “I didn’t know,” Rossler said. “I had him, I am on his birth certificate, I took him home from the hospital. I had no idea.”
What this all boiled down to is that legally, the adoption was still very much a go — and everyone but Rossler knew.
As she built her case to try to get her baby back, Rossler was met with hurdle after hurdle. She would go on to discover that her ex-boyfriend, Elliott’s biological father, was working with the adoptive mother against her. And not only that, the adoption attorney used Rossler’s decision to seek therapy and accept living expenses as proof that she was mentally unstable. “It’s like a Lifetime movie,” Rossler quips sadly.
She even recalls being laughed at when she showed up to the first hearing with pumped breast milk for her baby. “The first thing I did was have my lawyer call her lawyer to talk through his care,” Rossler explains, concerned only for the welfare of her son. “She knew nothing about him.”
It has now been 11 months since Rossler has seen her child, and she is currently awaiting a re-trial after the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled her first trial invalid, as the judge who presided over it was on the board of Adoption Rocks and therefore biased. And even if a new judge rules tomorrow that Rossler should get her child back, it could still be years before she will legally have custody of him again because if the adoptive mother filed for an appeal, the baby would stay under her care until the appeal motion was heard.
Rossler, who sends her son cards and letters every week, says the first five months after the separation were the hardest. “I spent time mourning, I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I was consumed with this,” she says. “I had so much rage and hate in my heart and so many questions.”
Rossler insists that she is not against adoption, but only hopes to educate other young women who may feel pressured and uninformed of their full rights, especially when dealing with unethical adoption agencies whose aim is to capitalize on their vulnerable situations.
“It’s my goal to have the pre-birth consent outlawed to protect pregnant mothers,” says Rossler. “I believe that ethical adoptions are a wonderful thing that can build families and allow birth parents to fulfill their dreams. Unethical adoptions, like this, put a giant black mark on the whole process and they’re shameful. Taking the money out of adoption and pre-birth consent would make the adoption process much more ethical and prevent contested adoptions.”
Rossler says she will continue to fight for her baby boy. “I look forward to being a mother, being a family the most,” she says simply. “I just want to be whole again.”
Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) is currently raising funds to help Rossler cover the cost of her trial. She paid $12,000 for the first trial, which was ruled invalid, so she will be starting the process all over again as soon as the courts give her a new trial date. If you would like to donate for her legal fees, you can do so here. She also has a petition going to revoke the pre-birth consent law in Alabama to prevent future cases like hers.