Three mothers mourn death of adopted 4-month-old

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ANKENY, Iowa (CNN) — 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 another set of parents. For two-and-a-half months, Gabriel McFarland was their son.

The 16-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 13.

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

adoption gabriel

Gabriel McFarland, 4 months, was found dead after his teenage father left him alone, police in Iowa say. (Photo: WHOTV)

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 says she said “yes.”

On March 13, they received 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 McFarland said.

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.

1 Comment

  • TexasAdoptionPro

    Surely Iowa laws do not permit teens to promise their children to would-be adoptive parents in advance of birth, nor allow would-be adopters to coerce and pressure those mothers by repeatedly questioning her intentions (as the two ladies who wanted to adopt this baby state they did throughout pregnancy)? The death of Baby Gabriel is a tragedy and I offer my heartfelt condolences to his young mother and father and their families. For anyone to exploit this tragedy by implying that his parents should not have had the right to raise their son themselves is very troubling, indeed.

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