PORTLAND, Oregon – The state of Oregon is reviewing a decision to send a 2-year-old boy to live with his grandmother in Mexico after his foster parents said they were concerned about his safety pending the release later this month of the boy's father, twice convicted of attempted rape involving a child.
Steve and Angela Brandt say they want to keep the boy with them in Toledo, a small town on the Oregon Coast, where Steve Brandt works as a Lincoln County sheriff's deputy.
"We love him so much," Steve Brandt said Wednesday. "We've had him since he was a little baby."
Brandt said he and his wife were expecting to become the boy's adoptive parents before an Oregon Department of Human Services adoption committee decided last week that the boy would be sent to Mexico to live with his paternal grandmother.
"This is not that uncommon a process, especially when you have more than one person who has offered to provide a home to a child," said Ann Snyder, department spokeswoman.
The boy's father, Roberto Valiente Martinez, 26, has twice been convicted of attempted rape involving a child — a girl — and is currently serving time for a drug-related crime, according to prosecutors and state prison officials.
He is scheduled to be released Oct. 22. Efforts to reach him through prison officials were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Federal immigration officials have said they plan to deport Valiente after his release.
Brandt said Valiente plans to live with his mother in Mexico, which should raise safety concerns.
"The last time I checked, you're not supposed to have rapists around 2-year-olds," Brandt said.
He also noted the little boy, Gabriel, was born in Oregon and is an American citizen.
"They're basically deporting him too," Brandt said.
Snyder said a second adoption committee is being formed to review the preliminary decision to send the child to Mexico, but it would likely be at least a couple of weeks before they reach a final decision.
"And the information we've all heard about the father is part of the review," Snyder said.
The boy's mother is a methamphetamine addict who lost her custody rights, Brandt said.
"He had an open bottle of Jack Daniels in his diaper bag from his mom," Brandt said, referring to whiskey he found in the boy's belongings when he and his wife took over as foster parents.
The boy's mother pleaded guilty to felony drug charges and hindering prosecution in Lincoln County last year but failed to appear for sentencing, resulting in a warrant for her arrest, court records show. She remains at large.
In addition to Gabriel, the Brandts have four other foster children, all boys, and live on a farm in the rural area along the Pacific Ocean.
"They love him, just like we do," Steve Brandt said of the other children. "He's just as happy as a kid can be. I don't know why the Department of Human Services would want to mess with that."