Dad refuses to give up newborn son with Down syndrome, wife files for divorce

Posted at 9:40 PM, Feb 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-05 22:16:59-05
leo 1

Leo Forrest. PHOTO: GoFundMe, courtesy Samuel Forrest

ARMENIA — Samuel Forrest said that he knew his life would change when he heard his son first cry, but he just didn’t know how much.

His son Leo Forrest was born Jan. 21, 2015, in Armenia.

Forrest recounts the story of the first moment he heard his son cry, when he stood waiting outside of the hospital room.

It was shortly thereafter that he received the unexpected news that his son had Down Syndrome, reported ABC news. 

Forrest said he finally got to hold his baby after hearing the news.

Leo Forrest. PHOTO: GoFundMe

Leo Forrest. PHOTO: GoFundMe

“They took me in (to) see him and I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him,” Forrest told ABC news.

But he said that his Armenian wife didn’t share the same sentiment. He said he was given the ultimatum that she would divorce him if he kept the child.

On his GoFundMepage he writes that she refused to touch little Leo, “for fear of getting attached in a society where defects are not accepted, often bringing shame on the family involved.”

Forrest, originally from New Zealand, wants to return there with his son Leo. He said that despite “little work, no money, resources or family, and now no home,” he is determined to return.

He believes that Leo “can have a quality of life and acceptance, integration into society that sadly, is not yet possible in Armenia.”

Forrest told ABC news that the paperwork was filed for the divorce and that she didn’t even speak privately to him about it.

He’s enlisted for some help on his GoFundMe page titled “Bring Leo Home”  (note, the amount donated to the fund grew by $30,000 in JUST the time it took to write this).

Forrest details the cultural stigma that surrounds babies born with defects in Armenia. He claims that health professionals estimate that 98% of all Down Syndrome babies born in Armenia are abandoned, every year. “These abandoned babies are often placed in squalid orphanages, where they live and die, rejected and forgotten by society,” he said.