When we agreed to be placed with two children just over a year ago, we knew that they were considered “legal risk” and that we were going to be heading down a pretty long path. At that time the termination of parental rights (TPR) trial hadn’t even begun. We had to wait five months before TPR even got under way.
When the trial finally began, we knew it could be long and would likely be followed by a drawn out appeals process. With that in mind, we offered an open adoption agreement to the bio parents that included three annual visits with the kids in an effort to avoid a lengthy trial. However, it was rejected a number of times, generally by bio Dad and his attorney. He believed, whether rightfully so or not, that he would prevail in court, or at the very least that the children might be placed with his mother-in-law instead of us. So, we had relegated ourselves to the fact that we would have to live through a lengthy trial and appeals process before any final determination would be made.
We were wrong. Sort of.
On Friday, the 13th of November, after eight months of court dates, we received that fateful call from the kids’ attorney and the DCF attorney – the bio parents were willing to consider an open adoption agreement. We were supposed to be at our desk (Marcy) or teaching a class (Meg) but instead we spent much of our afternoon on the phone with each other or attorneys, trying not to be overwhelmed by emotions in front of our colleagues and students.
On the phone we hashed out details of the agreement and what we were willing to offer to the bio parents. We discussed how we as adoptive parents would communicate regarding the visits, who would supervise visits and when/if the agreement would need to be voided, among other legal points.
By the end of that day we were hopeful and anxious. We told very few people. Nothing was confirmed and the adoption agreement hadn’t even been written yet. When asked about the process we still answered with “the trial is ongoing.”
By Tuesday afternoon we had reviewed the legal agreement and were scooting out of work early to get the adoption agreement signed and notarized. This step, however, proved to be a bit tricky when the first bank we visited informed us that they couldn’t notarize the document because we weren’t signing our legal names. You see, we signed the document Ms. X and Ms. Y to insure our anonymity. Then we signed an addendum to be filed with the court with our real and legal signatures. Both documents had to be notarized. Thankfully, bank number two had no problem notarizing all of the documents in question and we were ready to have the papers picked up by our adoption social worker bright and early the next morning and brought to court.
The plan was that the parents would stipulate to the termination of their rights and sign the adoption agreement in court on Thursday. But as they say about the best laid plans – they often go awry. It seems that same day the bio parents were to sign the document there was an adoption taking place in the courthouse – filled will balloons, celebrations and the taking of new last names. This caused some hesitation – they realized the children would have new last names and Sport would no longer be a junior. The day passed and no paperwork was signed.
The bio parents hadn’t turned down the offer and we, along with the kids’ attorney and DCF, were all hopeful that the document would be signed at the next court date, which meant we had to wait another 10 days. All while keeping our potential news under wraps.
Yesterday was day ten and we were hopeful and nervous. The end of the day was starting to get close and we hadn’t heard and then – we got the news, they signed the agreement!
Once again we found ourselves at work trying to keep ourselves together. We could finally say, with confidence, that our kids were staying. We frantically called our immediate families and texted our best friends to share the news!
Sport and Sunshine were now legally free and ready to be adopted!
While we’re overcome with relief, we do recognize that their bio Mom and Dad are overcome with sadness. No matter how we feel about the bio parents – they are and will always be a part of our children – whether they’re able to maintain a relationship and follow through with their portion of the adoption agreement or not.
The adoption is still several months away but the paperwork that must be filed before we can get that long coveted court date to make Sport and Sunshine members of our family (in the eyes of the law) can get started. So, while we still have a little ways to go, the biggest hurdle has now been cleared.