A very memorable adoption story I will always remember fondly was one involving a sweet little boy. A single woman who took care of her elderly mother was trying to adopt two young brothers who were distantly related to her. One had been in the custody of the county and the other, a boy of nine, had not. The nine year old was in the woman’s legal custody but because he was not in the custody of the county, the adoption would have to be private, unlike his younger brother. She was not in a position to pay for a private adoption and reached out to the Volunteer Lawyer’s Project.
I did not have any other pro bono cases at the time and accepted hers. Like all pro bono cases, it turned out to be much more complicated than originally presented to me. To date, it is still my favorite pro bono though. Prior to the finalization I had an idea. I find that many times, a magistrate or judge will comment on how wonderful the adopting family is. I completely agree with this; however, I also think it is necessary when a child is older to turn the tables a bit. I spoke with the adopting mother before the hearing and got some information. During the hearing, after all the formal legal questioning was complete, I asked the boy if it was true that he was so clever? And whether it was true, that if something was broke, could he fix it? And are you really the best big brother ever, as your mom says you are? And do you know how funny and smart your mother and grandmother think you are? And finally I asked him if he really understood what a blessing he was to his family and how very grateful they were to be adopting him? Throughout this line of questioning, I watched as this quiet little boy began to swell with happiness and pride at hearing the truth. As an adoptive mother myself, I constantly think where would our family be without adoption?
Because of my experience with this case, I plan to use this line of questioning moving forward with any child old enough to understand. Every child deserves to hear what a blessing they are to their family.
— Ruth Kelly is a AAAA Fellow and practices adoption law in Ohio. Learn more about her practice through her website, www.ficlaw.com.