This past Christmas, 26-year-old Jeremiah Sampson was finally awarded what he’s been fighting for since 2010: the right to raise his son.
Sampson made it clear from the moment his ex-girlfriend became pregnant four years ago that he wanted to raise the child. When an adoption agency called him during her pregnancy, Sampson said “If I’m the father, I want it.”
But when his girlfriend gave birth to the child in September 2010, she stopped returning his calls. The hospital wouldn’t give Sampson any information, and he was greeted with a door slammed in his face when he went to her family’s house.
As he stood in the street in front of his ex-girlfriend’s house, a neighbor asked him what he was waiting for.
"Sir, is there anything I can do for you?” Sampson recalls the neighbor asking.
After explaining that he was there to see his child, the neighbor told him news that made his heart sink.
“Oh honey,” she said. “That baby was adopted three weeks ago.”
Suddenly, his ex-girlfriend’s refusal to answer his calls made sense. He immediately hired an attorney, and his legal battle to raise his son began.
"I would never walk away from my own child,” Sampson said. "I would never do that to my own flesh and blood.”
Sampson soon learned his son Hilkyah had been adopted by a couple in Florida. Under a Missouri judge’s order, the couple was ordered to bring Hilkyah to a court hearing challenging the adoption. Sampson says he’ll never forget how the adoptive parents looked at him upon seeing him in the court room.
"I saw how they looked at me," Sampson recalled. "Like I was the devil. How can anybody hate me that much? I'm the father.”
The parents put a towel over Hilkyah’s head after the boy made eye contact with his father.
“…here I am, wanting to be a father to my son," Sampson said. "And that makes me a bad guy?"
Thanks to Missouri laws that grant willing biological parents custody of their children, the adoption was nullified. Sampson and his girlfriend shared 50-50 custody of Hilkyah until Christmas of last year, when Sampson was awarded full custody of the child.
Sampson, who dropped out of college to pay his legal bills from the custody battle, is now suing the adoption agency for giving up his child when he explicitly told them not to. Nevertheless, he couldn’t be happier to be raising his son.
“He has a lot of energy,” Sampson says. “He reminds me a lot of myself.”