Saturday, September 24, 2011

Time is on your side -- if you're an adoptive parent

From the Associated Press:
With everything she had to do that morning, Marshall McClain could not believe his wife was wasting time making the bed.

"What are you doing?" he gasped from the brown recliner where he spent his nights.

Tracey McClain was killing time, waiting for the lawyer's call, waiting to hear whether the adoption was a go and 11-month-old Alyssa would finally be theirs.

Alyssa's mother had long since given her consent, but attorney Dale Dove hadn't been in a particular hurry to locate the biological father. In the case of absentee fathers, he told the McClains, the longer the child can bond with the prospective parents before an adoption notice is filed, the better.

"Time is your friend," Dove had said.

But time had suddenly become the enemy.

An infection raged through the 61-year-old Army veteran's withered, 115-pound frame, and the intravenous antibiotics couldn't keep up. Doctors said he had just a couple of days.

But the man who'd survived 60 combat missions in Vietnam had one more task to complete. He wanted to give his name to the little girl who'd been the light of his life these past six months. More importantly, he wanted Alyssa to have the right to collect his benefits after he died.
This isn't what the story is about, and you should read the whole thing for a well-written and dramatic adoption story, but I want to address the advice the attorney gave here.

I hate to say it, but the advice from the attorney -- let time pass -- is good advice for prospective adoptive parents who have possession of a child they wish to adopt.  Dragging things out in the courts in the case of a contested adoption always favors the person in possession.  Even if the court ultimately decides there was some fatal error in the adoption process -- consent of the birth mother was invalid, the relinquishment affidavit was void, the birth father should have received notice of the hearing, whatever -- many jurisdictions will still hold a hearing to determine if it is in the best interest of the child to be returned to the birth family.  And the longer the child has been with the prospective adoptive parents, the more likely the court will say it is in the child's best interest to simply stay there.

Of course, this story illustrates the dangers of waiting as well as the benefits of waiting to finalize an adoption.  Things change, people die, people split up.  If this happens while you wait, the child's rights aren't being protected. . . .


Anne said...

I agree with what you're saying for the most part. I don't feel sorry for adoptive parents who take children who are not legally free, then drag things out in court and boo hoo when the child is returned to the biological parents. But when I read the original article you referenced, it clearly stated that both biological parents in this case relinquished their parental rights. Did I miss something?

malinda said...

You're right, Anne -- I was commenting more generally about the advice that delay benefits prospective adoptive parents.

And, of course, at the time the lawyer gave the advice, the birth father hadn't yet relinquished. . .

Beyond Normal Mom said...