At the Polk County Courthouse on Thursday, Denise White and Willie Fulmer of Des Moines officially adopted Ruth Bethards of Osceola.You knew that adults could be adopted, right? Most people see it as an estate planning tool, or as a marriage substitute for gay and lesbian couples (this aritcle from the New York Times does a good job of describing some of the benefits and some of the pitfalls). States go both ways when it comes to adult adoption for lovers -- some allow it and others don't. I tend to caution against the use of adult adoption in this way, since it is extremely hard to undo an adult adoption if the relationship ends. Marriage has divorce, but a parent-even adult child relationship doesn't.
It was a long time coming. Some would say decades.
Whatever, the highlight of the proceedings might have come at the end when District Judge Carla Schemmel, faithful to adoption-court tradition, jokingly asked the adoptee if she wanted to pick out a toy.
Though Bethards, 41, declined the invitation, her grandson, 1-year-old Carson Jones, came away with a new stuffed turtle.
Carson was about the only person in the tiny courtroom who wasn't crying. Schemmel, however, said crying was allowed on this day because the tear ducts were operating "for happy reasons."
White gave up her daughter, Ruth, for adoption decades ago. They were reunited a few years ago and on Thursday, White and her husband Willie Fulmer, adopted Ruth.
Though the great majority of adoptees in Iowa and beyond are children, a surprising number of adults are adopted, too.
But the most common reason for adult adoption is usually emotional -- making legal an already-existing emotional parent-child relationship or cementing a biological relationship not recognized in law. For example, a man might not know he fathered a child and does not discover that fact until the child is an adult. He might want to adopt that adult child. And, yes, a birth mother who relinquished a child for adoption and that now-adult child might want to create a legal parent-child relationship after reunion. Check out Cassi's happy announcement when she adopted the son she had lost to adoption. It's sufficiently common that LegalZoom actually uses it as an example in its adult adoption section:
Maybe you finally found that son you've always wanted, but he just so happens to be 35. Or maybe you were reunited with your birth mother and want to make her your official, legal mom. But adoption is just for babies and little kids, right? Who has a brand new daughter that's over 21? Regardless of what you think, it is both legal and possible to adopt yourself a healthy, bouncing grownup. In many cases, your new, adult family member must simply be a legal adult and voluntarily agree to the adoption.Another fairly common pattern of adult adoption is when foster parents adopt a now-adult foster child. And even without foster care, an older couple might decide to adopt an adult. I love this story:
The two older men, partners of 20 years, long considered adoption. However, they never considered adopting a grown man. Likewise, Sampsen stopped thinking about having a forever family.Indeed.
While completing an adoption training program in the summer of 2008, Hauck and Ferraro listened to teens and young adults share their stories. The young people talked about how a permanent home gave them the support and confidence to succeed. Suddenly, they knew who they wanted for their son.
"He needed us. He needed a family," Ferraro says.
Hauck and Ferraro asked the young man to be their son on Sept. 12, 2008. It took him a few days to think it over and he ended up telling them he was tired of spending Christmas and birthdays alone. He realized, even as an adult, he still needs people close by to provide him advice -- and compassion.
"You never outgrow the need for a family," Ferraro says.