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Couple's adopted son was switched at birth

A 7-year-old boy who was accidentally switched with another baby born on the same day in the same hospital is caught in a legal battle between his birth mother and the couple who adopted him. Melvin Moore was adopted by Eugene and Edith Moore in 1984, when he was 6 months old. At a news conference Thursday, the couple recounted how they got into a custody battle with a Griffin, Ga., woman.

Georgia officials wrote them in 1989 and said that the Griffin-Spalding County Hospital had accidentally switched Melvin with a boy who was to be given up for adoption.

The officials said Melvin's biological mother, Jodie Pope, unwittingly went home with that boy, while the hospital handed Pope's child to the state Department of Human Resources. The Moores, who were living at Fort Stewart, Ga., at the time, adopted the baby.

At the news conference, the Moores and their attorney, David Gray, acknowledged Pope has legitimate reasons to think of Melvin as hers.

"But it's my rights, too, because I raised him," said Edith Moore.

Her husband, a staff sergeant at nearby Fort Knox, said Melvin has a happy home life and attends good schools.

The Moores said they offered Pope liberal visitation rights. Gray said she initially reacted favorably but later sued for custody.

Pope asked a Georgia judge this month to keep the Moores from taking Melvin out of Kentucky after learning that they planned to take him with them on a trip to Germany.

When Pope learned the baby she took home from the hospital was not her biological child, she adopted him. She had no trouble doing so, since the child's real mother had given up parental rights. But a Kentucky judge threw out the Moores' attempt to re-adopt Melvin, noting that his actual mother had never given him up.

The Moores and Pope have filed separate suits seeking custody of Melvin.

They also have sued the hospital where the mix-up happened and the Georgia Department for Human Resources, claiming that the switching of the babies and the resulting legal entanglements have caused them suffering.

The Moores claim the error should have been discovered three months before the adoption when Melvin's hospital charts showed a different blood type than he had at birth.

Edith Moore said she immediately suspected the baby was the wrong one when she first saw him because she was supposed to be adopting a mixed-race baby. She is white and her husband is black. When she mentioned that the child appeared to be white, hospital nurses told her the baby would begin to look darker-skinned in a few weeks, Edith Moore said.

The hospital, which has since been sold, has declined comment about the case.

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