Janet Jenkins is appealing to the public for help in locating her daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins.
In November, the Rutland Family Court in Vermont ordered that Jenkins’ former partner Lisa Miller transfer custody of the child to Janet Jenkins on January 1, 2010. The transfer of custody did not occur, and Isabella's and Lisa's whereabouts are unknown. Lisa's attorneys say that they have not been in touch with her for some months, and Isabella's guardian ad litem and attorney have been unable to contact her.
Isabella was born in 2002, after Janet and Lisa, then a couple, decided to have a child together. Lisa was artificially inseminated to conceive the child. The current custody and visitation case began in 2003, when Lisa filed papers in Vermont asking the court to dissolve her and Janet's civil union and decide the custody of their child. The court granted temporary custody to Lisa and visitation to Janet. The court later determined that Janet is Isabella's legal parent.
Lisa filed a new case in Virginia, seeking to have herself declared the sole parent of Isabella. After years of litigation, the Virginia Court of Appeals held that Vermont had jurisdiction over the case, and that Virginia courts must abide by the Vermont court's decisions. (A more detailed history of the case is provided below.)
The recent order transferring custody to Janet came after the Vermont court had repeatedly held Lisa in contempt for refusing to comply with court-ordered visitation. The court found that Isabella should have a relationship with both of her parents, and that Lisa was unwilling to allow Isabella to have a relationship with Janet.
"I am so worried about Isabella. I do not know where she is or whether she is okay,” said Jenkins.
“Isabella is my daughter. Lisa and I decided together to have a child, and that we would use alternative reproductive technology to do so. We picked out a donor together. I was there with Lisa when she gave birth to Isabella. We gave her both our last names, since we were both her parents. After Isabella was born, Lisa and I cared for her together. We both fed her, played with her, changed her diapers, and loved her.
“Eventually, the courts ruled that I was Isabella's parent [and] it was devastating to me, as I'm sure it was to Isabella, when Lisa withheld contact between me and my daughter.
My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa. I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents. Please help me find my child."
One of Janet's attorneys, Sarah Star, has expressed disappointment that the transfer of custody did not take place as ordered.
“For Isabella's sake, we hope that she will be found soon and reunited with Janet.”
"Our main concern remains for the safety and well-being of Isabella,” said Greg Nevins, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, who also represents Janet.
“Our client has done everything she can as a loving parent to work within the system to protect her child. Lisa Miller has repeatedly defied court orders and her behavior has been outrageous and harmful. Our thoughts are with Janet, who does not know where her daughter has been taken. This terrible situation cannot continue. Miller and Isabella must be found and the transfer of custody must take place as the court has ordered."
"We are very concerned for Isabella's safety,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia and another of Janet's lawyers. “We continue to hope that Lisa will do the right thing and comply with the court's order."
Anyone with information regarding Isabella's and Lisa's whereabouts should call the Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the Bedford County Sheriff's Office at 540-586-4800.