TN Girl Taken From Adoptive Family; Given To Stranger Dad

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(Dickson, TN) A custody battle resulted in a family getting split up because of what some call a legal glitch. Sonya, 9, is begging to return to the only home she’s ever known.

“You just stay strong,” Sonya’s adoptive father Dave Hodgin said to her in a phone call.

“Everything’s going to be OK.” The call happened Jan. 30, and it was the last time Sonya’s adoptive parents heard her voice.

She had been removed from their home in Tennessee the day before.

Sonya had been in the care of Dave and Kim Hodgin since before she was 2 years old.

They adopted her in 2008.

The couple was thrilled when the adoption became final.

But that joy was short-lived. Sonya’s birth father, John McCaul, is a convicted criminal.

He pleaded guilty to transporting firearms, a felony, and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Under state law, rights were automatically terminated.

No one incarcerated for more than 10 years can have rights to a child who is less than 8 years old.

But before his daughter’s adoption was finalized, he cut a deal and got his sentence reduced to 7 1/2 years.

That deal allowed him to assert his parental rights and fight to reverse the adoption.

“She’s never laid eyes on this man,” Kim Hodgin said. “He’s a total stranger.” That total stranger managed to convince the court to reconsider.

In November 2009, one year and 12 days after she’d been legally adopted, Sonya’s adoption was reversed.

But she continued to live with the Hodgins while both sides fought for custody. Nearly five years later, a juvenile court judge ruled Sonya should be returned to her biological father. “Sonia’s crying her eyes out,” Dave Hodgin said.”Screaming bloody murder, ‘Please don’t let them do this, daddy, please mama don’t let em take me.'”

Just three hours after the judge’s ruling, Sonya was gone.

“They took her bags and that’s the last that I’ve seen her,” Kim Hodgin said. Dave Hodgin asked John McCaul to reconsider.

“I asked him to look into her eyes right now, because obviously he’s standing there, and she’s begging and pleading and crying and it didn’t matter,” Dave Hodgin said. McCaul’s lawyer said that “despite repeated efforts by the foster family to terminate this child’s father’s rights, his parental rights have never been successfully terminated and his daughter has now been returned to his care.”

Sonya’s home now is in Omaha, NE. McCaul is forbidden by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to speak publicly about the case and Sonya.

In January, the Hodgins recorded a conversation with Sonya.

She described her new life. “It’s just dirty,” Sonya said. “Dirt everywhere; I think there’s even mold.” Kim Hodgin told Sonya to be strong.

Sonya said she didn’t have clean drinking and there was dirt and cigarettes everywhere, but said her father was being nice to her. It’s a recording Dave and Kim Hodgin can’t even bring themselves to listen to.

“Anybody within their right mind would be worried,” Dave Hodgin said. “And yes, we’re terribly worried.”

The Hodgins have filed a petition asking a judge to return Sonya based on what they say is her best interest.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.


  • RBB

    Just another example of the judicial system’s uncaring and stupidity…One wonders if the judge ever asked about the man’s employment record and his ability to take proper care of the child, nor consider the child’s feelings and/or preferences…It seems to me that the father should have to earn the right to regain the custody of his daughter by remaining employed and out of trouble for a reasonable period of time before being awarded custody of the child….In my opinion, the judge in this case made terrible decisions and disrupted the child’s life in a most life altering situation.

  • Promise Fulfilled

    Birth parents still have rights. The judge made a good decision. As long as she isn’t being abused in any way. The father has the right to want his daughter. How arrogant and self centered of the adoptive parents to behave like they birthed her. If the birth father wants to care for her and he can, then why not?

    • one of 7

      You must not realize that the bond these children make are just as strong as a biological bond. I know my adoptive sister is just as much as my sister as any of my four blood sisters! I can see why they would fight for her she was 2 when they got her and now she is at least 12! All she has known is this family and this life and by forcing yourself back into it you have damaged her! What kind of message would that send to the child if the mom and dad that raised her didn’t fight to keep her? Think people! This child has been a victim of the courts and a bad birth father who didn’t stop and think what was the best way to stay a part of his child life!

    • GoodSense

      Are you joking? This family has had her for years…long enough for her to be devastated by this kind of legal move. I don’t discount the birth father’s “right” but I also think he should have been thinking about his baby when he got busted for the felony charge/s that landed him in jail. It just seems to me that ripping this child from the only home she’s ever known was a bad decision, at least in the way it happened.

      • patricia woods

        She’s now 9 – her father won custody in 2009 – 5 years ago. The drama and heartbreak in this story rests firmly at the feet of the foster family who refused to abide by the 2009 order and refused to allow this child to reunite with her birth family.

      • Peppy Walt Chrestman

        Does the law not count? If there was a good reason not to return the child to the adoptive family the judge would have done so. But the law can’t be over ruled just because we don’t like it. A little dirt in Omaha Nebraska is not a big deal. She is old enough to sweep and dust. He said she was nice to her. we can’t pick and choose what laws to follow and which to ignore.

    • Jennifee

      Arrogant? They have had her since she was 2. The father should have thought of her before he committed a felony that landed him in jail. The girl should have some say in her life at this point. A stranger does NOT deserve a chance to reunite with her. This is a reason some people dont adopt or foster children.


      Are u an idiot lol the dad is selfish lol he justvgot out of jail lol u dumb fucktard my children were takin by state over shyt I didnt do And had no knowledge of and as much as I want them I know they safe happy and healthy

  • Promise Fulfilled

    Now that I read about the dirty house, with the dirt and mold everywhere, he should be working on getting a job, if he is able to and get to.g a new place to live. Other than that, no worries.

  • Just Me

    Yes the father has all the rights because he is the biological patent, but he should have a heart to make sure this child is happy its so many other ways he could be in her life, instead of taking her away from the only parents she has known.

    • Promise Fulfilled

      The only reason why they are the only parents she had ever known is because her dad was in prison for committing a crime that has no bearing on his parenting skills. I say give him a chance. The reason why she is behaving that way is because she has not adjusted to her new life with her birth father. That is just like if my husband and I were apart when one of our kids were born, and then all of a sudden he comes back and wants to be a dad. The child would not take to them right away, and rightfully so. But does that mean he does not deserve to ever be there to take care of his child? No. And to the person who said he just wanted her back so he could molest her, sorry to burst your bubble, but she would be more likely to be molested in a foster home than her birth parent’s home. #FACTS

      • Sharlene

        Everyone is talking about the dads right. What about the childs rights? Just because he cut a plea bargin to reduce his sentence, why should that automatically give him “rights”? That doesn’t change the fact of what he did.

  • Shirley Crawford

    I am adopted. I believe if this had happened to me …. i would have died. I loved my adopted parents and i was their child. No blood needed.

  • Mark

    I new a single mom with three children under the age of 5, who was involved in a bad accident while driving drunk. She was convicted of involentary manslaughter and sentenced to ten years. Her children were adopted by three different families. She is now out of prison and wants them back. She thinks she should get them back

  • Rosine Ghawji


    Why attend the judicial forums at MUS on 5/20 & 6/3. Unconscionable!

  • Crystal Shelton

    I have two adopted children and have had them both since they were 2 days old. Yes, this father is biologically related to this child but her parents are the ones who have raised her and cared for her for all these years. Could visitation rights not be considered in this case? This breaks my heart. I don’t want to even think about the pain that her adoptive parents are going thru. Children need stability and this was just not right.

    • Promise Fulfilled

      Well, good for you. You are probably an awesome foster mom. People usually give up their parental rights due to not being able to care for their kids, unless forced to by a state agency, like CPS. (That’s another topic that I will not touch on right now). BUT…. I just wanted to say that once adoption is put into place, the birth pAREnt’s who signed the papers no longer have parental rights, as with guardianship or custody, they can still still see their kids. So, I see what you’re saying, but how is that fair to the birth father who never got a chance to be there for his child due to being in prison due to a crime he committed that has no bearing on his parental skills. While I understand your side of it, being a BIRTH MOTHER to five beautiful children who I absolutely love to pieces as you say you love your adopted kids as well, I am also viewing it from a BIRTH PARENT’s point of view.

      • jennifer smith

        I’m in shock. This poor girl is going to be so messed up. I agree dad should have rights, but to rip her from the only family she has known abruptly like that was not in her best interests. It is going to have psychological costs. I’m surprised the courts did not ease the girl into the transition. Basically this is going to have the same effect of a kidnapping. My heart goes out to this girl..

      • Marta

        Several people have commented that committing a crime has nothing to do with parenting skills. It has EVERYTHING to do with parenting skills. Committing a crime was a choice this father made. He CHOSE not to act in the best interests of his child. He CHOSE not to be there for his child. By ripping her from the only loving family she has known, he has once again chosen NOT to act in the best interests of his child. His choices are a direct reflection on his ability to parent.

  • Patches Jones (@PatchesJones)

    This is a sick judge! All Judges should be forced to live in the house they are FORCING a child to live in. Has anyone seen that disgusting dirty little house?! No Child should EVER have to live in such Squalor! This disgraceful!
    That judge should be ashamed of themself but that would require common sense and common decency! Something fewer and fewer Judges seem to have any of!
    That Father DOES NOT love his daughter! He loves himself way more than his daughter! If he Truly Loved his daughter, he would have respected her wishes and left her where she was!
    Now some lying crackpot counselor is conning her into believing she’ll be happy with that scumbag! Never! In fact she’ll forever resent him! Period! She’ll lie if she feels trapped and say she’s happy but she won’t be! But of course Mr Narcissist will believe she is because that’s what he WANTS TO BELIEVE! Never mind what the reality of the situation ACTUALLY IS! RME

  • Melissa Mulhern

    Sorry but i believe that she should of been left where she had been raised by her adoptive parents that is where she belongs at!

  • Jonathan

    I allow the father had a legal right here, and I don’t blame him for pursuing it.. he probably loved his daughter before he went to jail and wanted her back. However, I don’t like how our legal system disregards the desires of the kids. Kids may not have as developed of inhibitory system as adults do, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sentient. Their opinions are as valid as anyone else’s, just less educated. It should be up to the kid where she gets to go. Obviously if the adoptive parents keep her then they can’t go after the biological father for money, but I don’t tin that’s an issue here.

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    a cousin who lives in tx asked me several yrs ago about who she really is. She stated no way shes a natural member of the family. Dana knows she looks like noone in the family. since her adoptive mother( my aunt, my late mothers baby sister), I felt it wasnt my place to say anything. Dana was adopted back in 69 to replace my aunts fav son.

  • Clara Smith

    I am a mother of 3, grandmother of 5 and greatmother of 12 and I was a foster mother of 6 while living in TN. Children have a hard time growing up in this troubled country these days. A judge who would make this decision is not thinking about the welfair of the child. This child is old enough to decide where she wants to grow up. This judge needs to rethink this decision.

  • Rambo Jones

    The judge should have
    granted visitation rights to
    the biological father, and perhaps a few weeks in the summer or something along those lines. Legal rights or not, the adoptive parents ARE her parents. God have
    mercy on this judges soul.

  • dpooch

    There is no mention of the girl’s biological mother, where is she? If the mother was in the picture, I might understand, but this is preposterous. Also, there is a question of whether the adoptive parents were aware of the law and possibility that this could happen when daddy got out of jail. But the child’s welfare should take precedent, not the criminal dad who is possibly not a fit parent. She never knew her father, and this will mess this kid up even more than if she stayed here she belongs.

  • 122811

    It will also mess her up when she grows up wanting to know her real family……I think the foster parents and her real dad should work out an agreement so the the foster parents can remain in her also. Let her stay with the foster parents for the summer or on certian holidays.

  • donaknowsitall

    I’ve read numerous posts here that say “foster parents”, did these people not read the article? The Hodgins family ADOPTED this girl! ADOPTIVE PARENTS and FOSTER PARENTS are NOT the same thing.

  • D'Lo

    They will get her back! They just better be ready for a long and expensive fight. And a new judge!

Comments are closed.