A father is speaking out for the first time as he fights for custody of a daughter he never met because he was in jail. Three-year-old Braelynn has lived with her adoptive parents and their other children in South Carolina since she was three weeks old. A court ruling now says the adoption was not valid.
Three-year-old Braelynn has never met her biological father, Andrew Myers. But he said he’s always longed for the moment he could hold his little girl, reports CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez.
“I want nothing more,” Myers said. “I mean, it’s been really difficult.”
Tammy and Edward Dalsing have been taking care of Braelynn since she was three weeks old, first as a foster child, before they formally adopted her in 2015.
“Braelynn is beautiful,” said Tammy said. “And she’s bubbly and she’s a little ham.”
Braelynn’s biological mother, Erica Smith, who was battling drug addiction, gave her up for adoption.
“When I met this family, it just blew me away that my daughter could actually be part of this,” Smith said.
At the time, Myers was serving time for fraud conviction and probation violation. A judge took away his parental rights, saying he “failed to demonstrate the minimum efforts… to establish or maintain a parent child relationship,” including not paying child support.
But Myers’ mother, Sherry Powers, said she provided some financial support for Braelynn, visiting her in foster care while her son was behind bars.
“When I dropped off Andrew to be incarcerated, his last words to me were, ‘Mom, do whatever needs to be done,’” Powers said.
“I’ve got my life together and there is no reason she shouldn’t be able to come home to me,” Myers said.
“And you can take care of her?” Bojorquez asked.
“Yeah, without a doubt,” Myers said.
Late last year, a three-judge panel said the courts had wrongly stripped Myers of his parental rights, in part ruling he did try to stay in touch with the child. The Dalsings dispute that.
“He didn’t pick up the phone, he didn’t pick up a pencil,” Tammy said. “He didn’t ask about her.”
“Have you thought about if you had to give her up, what that would be like?” Bojorquez asked.
“It wouldn’t be fair to her,” an emotional Tammy said. “She — her whole world would come to an end. Everyone she knows, everything she knows would be gone.”
“I do believe that they love her and that they believe she is theirs,” Powers said.
“What would you say to those who argue that the right thing at this point though would be for her to remain with the adoptive parents?” Bojorquez asked.
“They would have to walk in my shoes,” Powers said.
“I appreciate they took care of her and gave her a loving home and all, but I really think it’s time that she came home to her real family,” Myers said.
“We are her family. We are the ones she looks up every single day and says, ‘Hi mommy, hi daddy,’” Tammy said.
“It’s time to be a real dad. It’s about Braelynn. So be a man, a true father, and do the right thing,” Edward Dalsing said.
For now, Braelynn remains with the Dalsings while everyone waits for the court’s next decision.