Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back to Court

Corazon's adoption story continued...

We had a draft of an open adoption agreement between Corazon's mother and me. Now we needed to find out if the judge would set aside her ruling giving Corazon's mother no visitation and the grandmother 6 visits per year. It was anybody's guess what the judge would decide?

The judge rejected the agreement not because there was anything wrong with it but because there had been a challenge to the agreement from Corazon's attorney. He is the guy who had been her attorney since the day she came into foster care (almost 6 years before) and who had NEVER met her. He had also never spoken to her mother or the grandmother (even though he had seen them throughout the court hearings) but there he was standing in the way of us signing the open adoption agreement! His argument was that she would be "cut off" from the rest of her family (the one that had so little involvement in much of her life) so he objected to keeping the grandmother "out of her life." The grandmother already was out of her life and didn't seem to care whether she was or was not in her life but nonetheless everyone went back to court.

At about this time, Corazon's 16 year old sister (living with grandmother) was put in foster care. It was very sad. It turned out that that convicted child sex offender who was supposed to move out but was still living at grandmother's house (he was her son) had been sexually molesting her for years. She finally told her mother who notified social services. Corazon's attorney had been given this information by the social services attorney but he still would not change his mind about the grandmother getting visits. In court when social services presented this new information the judge really didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Corazon's attorney then asked for mother's visit to include "any relative she chose to bring" which was modified to "with adoptive mother approval." He then argued for each of her bio siblings (there are 3) to each get 2 supervised visits per year. Since each bio sibling was in a different circumstance/home/city they were potentially arguing for an agreement that required us to schedule 9 separate annual visits with various family members. The social services attorney challenged that by suggesting that the bio sister (the 16 year old) was the only one with any connection to Corazon and pleaded with the judge to consider all I had said during my testimony about my desire to ensure that Corazon had contact with as much of her family as possible as long as it served her. She encouraged the judge to trust me to do what was right for Corazon. That judge agreed that we could proceed with adoption agreement. As the proceeding ended, the judge asked to be the one who "officiated" at Corazon's adoption (whenever that took place!)

It had been 16 months since Corazon's placement in my home and we were about to sign an open adoption agreement that gave her mother one visit per year and her sister two visits per year. These visits were to be supervised and her sister's visits would require that she show evidence that she was "mentally" healthy due to her very serious mental health issues. Within days the agreement was redrafted and signed by all parties.

We could finally move forward with an adoption date.

2 comments:

SocialWkr24/7 said...

Your story is so fascinating to me! Mostly, because here in IL, there are no 'legal' open adoptions. Adoptive parents can SAY that they are willing to have contact - but are not legally bound to it. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this. Do you think having the visits laid out and legally bound is a good thing? I'm really undecided - on one hand, it seems that this would reassure bio-families and potentially allow them to feel more secure in voluntarily surrendering to adoption. I also happen to believe that children should have as much contact with their bio-family as is healthy. But then I wonder how long things like this can be dragged out in court? And, what are the legal consequences if you were to decide that someone was not appropriate to visit - such as Corazon's sister due to her mental health issues? Or in the future could her mother petition for more visitation? Like in a custody case, could you get brought back into court? I could see this possibility scaring some adoptive parents off as well...

Sorry for my long rambling comment! I'm just so interested in how other state systems work... :)

Lisa said...

Finally....I can't imagine how hard all of this was....

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