ADOPTION TWIST: Three mothers mourn baby’s death

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(WHOtv)  ANKENY, Ia — Three mothers are mourning a baby’s death after he was found alone in a Des Moines apartment.

Police arrested a teen Tuesday night hours after finding his 4-month-old son unresponsive.

The police report states that the baby’s mother left 17-year-old Drew Weehler-Smith with the child so that she could run errands.

But when she came back to the apartment on Chaffee Road he was gone and their son, Gabriel McFarland was unresponsive lying in a chair.

Paramedics rushed him to the hospital where he later died.

Weehler-Smith was arrested at his mother’s house and is currently charged with neglect of a dependent person.

Additional charges are possible pending the results of an autopsy.

The death is just as heartbreaking for an Ankeny couple. For two-and-a-half months, Gabriel McFarland was their son.

The sixteen-year-old mother had made an agreement last September to give up her baby to Rachel and Heidi McFarland of Ankeny. The McFarland’s were there with her every step of the way, and they took Gabriel home to his new room where he lived until March 13th.

“It just felt natural. When he was with us it just felt right. Like we were always meant to be moms,” Rachel said.

They had supported the mother financially through her pregnancy and had been with her at every doctor’s appointment. They repeatedly asked her “Are you sure you want to do this?” The couple say she said “yes.”

On March 13th, they got a call from their lawyer that Gabriel’s birth mother wanted him back and there was little they could do about it. They were left with nothing.

“The thing is we have been scrutinized. Our lifestyle has been scrutinized; the people that are in our lives have been scrutinized. We had to have letters of reference for this home study to make sure that we were adequate as parents, and they never had to have anything when they took him back,” Rachel says.

In Iowa, the birth mother has three months and then one additional 31-day probationary period to change her mind about giving up her baby.

Gabriel was born deaf in one ear and the McFarlands had not only fitted him for a hearing aid, they had begun to prepare to learn sign language in case he lost the hearing in his other ear.


  • karen

    I am so heart broken for these adoptive parents! That has to be so devastating for them to think there was nothing anyone could do to help them keep this baby from going back there and preventing this from happening!! Its horrible they had to be checked out thoroughly to care for this precious baby but not the 16yr old parents! Just a major tragedy

  • Jeanette Lippy

    I don’t agree with the lesbian lifestyle but in this situation the baby would’ve been in better care. This teen shouldn’t be allowed to father children until he’s proven to be responsible enough to care for them!

  • CLW

    I think the law allowing birth mothers to change their minds is completely unfair. Adoptive parents spend thousands of dollars supporting these women, and then the mother can just change her mind at the last minute? Absurd. They should have to sign a legal document giving up custody before any money changes hands, and then be held to that agreement, even if they change their mind. Or if they want the baby returned, they should be forced to pay back every cent that was spent on them. Instead, they can scam any poor couple into paying their medical bills without ever having any intention of giving their baby up. And what's even more disgraceful, is that they allowed this child to be put into the custody of teenagers, without any sort of home visit or welfare check. The state should be held just as accountable for this child's death as the parents.

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