48 Hours: Samantha's Choice

Abandoned By An Alcoholic Mom. . .

Ten-year-old Samantha Frazer has a very big decision to make. Should she live with the woman who is fighting to adopt her and whom she's grown to love, or her birth mother, who abandoned her years ago and ran off across the country? The choice is hers.

CBS News 48 Hours examines what happens when parental rights clash with a child's desire for a happy home.

48 Hours:
Samantha's Choice

Samantha has had a turbulent life. Abandoned by an alcoholic mother at age five, Samantha has lived more than half of her life in foster care, shuttled between strangers, making connections, then being abruptly sent elsewhere.

Finally, though, Samantha appears to have laid down some roots. She has made a powerful connection with her therapist, Bonnie Gladu, with whom she is not living. Bonnie and her husband Tom, who live with their children on a farm in Delaware, want to adopt Sam. For the first time in her life, Sam, as she is known, has a stable, loving home life.

But Sam's mother, Victoria Frazer, doesn't want to give up her daughter. She says that as Sam's birth mother, she has a right to raise her, and she claims that Sam is really too young to know what she wants. But Sam wants to stay with the Gladus. In an unprecedented case, she goes to the Delaware Supreme Court to fight for her right to have a voice in who should raise her.

Want more information on foster parenting? Check out this comprehensive site.
But before the Supreme Court rules, Sam must first spend two weeks with her birth mother. So when Sam goes to visit her mother, who now lives in South Carolina, the stakes are very high. At least one person will end up heartbroken.

Will Victoria persuade her daughter to grant yet another chance? Or will the Gladus' happy home prove too difficult to leave? Back in Delaware rules in Samantha's favor.

But when the visit is done, Sam decides to return to her birth mother. The Gladus, especially Bonnie, are crushed, and suggest that the courts plan was flawed. How can a ten-year-old girl make such a serious decision, she asks, on the basis of what is essentially a two-week vacation during which Victoria is on her best behavior? But she can do nothing but abide by Sam's choice. But saying goodbye to the girl who had become almost a daughter is difficult for Bonnie.

Four months later, Victoria has married her boyfriend Rocky Bone, and is working as a nurse's aide. But all is not perfect: Samantha and her sister Stephanie have been fighting. "I'll be perfectly honest," Victoria says. "I wouldn't want to see another family go through this."

And what about Bonnie? "I hope that her mom will realize how precious she is," Bonie says of Samantha, "that somebody else was actually fighting for her too, and that Samantha will come away saying, you know, what? I am worth a fight. I am worth somebody making a fuss over."

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produced by David Kohn