Through the fall and winter, I have been working with a beautiful young husband and wife, Dustin and Reta, to official welcome a new member into their family.
When I opened my law office in October, Dustin came to help with my technology needs. When he learned that I practice in family law, he told me about a baby, very soon to be born, whom he and his wife wanted to adopt. Dustin and Reta had been married many years, but they had no children of their own.
As I got to know Dustin, I learned his inspiring story. Dustin, along with several of his younger siblings, was taken from his home by the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services. After being passed around the foster case system, Dustin was eventually adopted by his grandfather. His siblings were also adopted by various families. As a young man, Dustin and his siblings reunited.
In the summer of 2015, one of Dustin’s younger brothers and his wife learned they would be having a baby. He was their third child, and from the beginning, they were confident in their decision to give this baby to be adopted by Dustin and Reta. From their perspective, their baby boy was a blessing they could give to his big brother. When baby Matthew was born, Reta caught him and cut the umbilical cord. Dustin and Reta cared for him in the hospital, fed and bathed and changed him. They took him home with prayers that it was forever.
From a legal perspective, Dustin and Reta’s adoption was quite interesting: Georgia law provides one avenue for adoptions of children by their family members, which is in the law at O.C.G.A. section 19-8-7; the law also provides for adoptions by “third parties,” what you might consider an adoption by strangers, which is in the law at O.C.G.A. section 19-8-5.
There are two significant differences between family and third party adoptions. If a third party wants to adopt a child, the law requires a home study and criminal background check, which must be presented to the court with recommendations either for or against adoption; this is not a requirement for a family adoption. A third party adoption also requires that certain documents be sent to a state agency, the Office of Adoptions, who are not required to be notified of a family adoption. For an adoptive parent who has been through the foster care system as a child, these differences in the adoption process are stressful in a way that is unique to children who grew up in the system.
Because Dustin and his siblings were adopted by different families, they are no longer brothers. It’s a strange reality, for siblings who knew each other as children, lost track of each other in adolescence, and reunited as teenagers. They feel like brothers. Dustin’s adoptive son looks like him – same dimples, same smile, same eyes. And yet, an act of law renders Dustin a stranger to this child.
Nevertheless, my clients had their home study and background check completed by another caring local attorney. She recognized the love that Dustin and Reta already felt for their son, Matthew, and his love for them. Dustin has worked hard to overcome his difficult youth. He provides for his family so that Reta may stay home with Matthew, whom she has cared for since the moment of his birth. Together, Reta and Dustin have built a cozy home, a strong faith, and a close-knit family. They were whole-heartedly recommending for adoption.
Today, a short four months after meeting Dustin, I had the pleasure of filing the finalized order of adoption. Dustin and Reta are now Matthew’s legal and forever parents. There were moments of stress and confusion along the way, and I am grateful to the help and advice of attorney friends and the patience and faith of my clients. Nothing that we do in the law is better than creating new families, and the one they have made is absolutely beautiful.
If you are looking for an attorney for an adoption, please contact Lauren Deal at the Deal Law Firm in Middle Georgia. Call us at 478-254-9154, or use our automatic contact link on this website.