Successful Colorado Kinship Adoption Saves Child From Foster Care System: A Case Study

By: Robinson & Henry, Attorneys At Law
PublishedApr 4, 2023
6 minute read

Most people don’t expect to get good news when the phone rings in the middle of the night. So when a Denver-area couple received such a call, they were surprised to hear a relative asking them to come to get her newborn baby so she would not end up in Oregon’s foster care system.

Relatives often end up taking in a minor when a state agency removes them from their parents’ care. Sometimes family caregivers, like Adam* and Carla* Spencer*, seek a formal adoption.

For the Spencers, it was “extremely important” for them to keep the child out of the foster care system.

“We wanted to ensure that she was brought up in a loving home with consistency and structure, which we know is hard for the foster care system to provide,” the couple said. “We wanted to be able to help her to break the cycle, not to get lost and struggle with her identity.”

Robinson & Henry Family Law Attorney Joseph Rigney represented Adam and Carla as they went through the process to become baby Olivia’s* legal parents through kinship adoption.

*Past results afford no guarantee of future results; each matter is different and must be judged on its own merits. Facts are those of an actual Robinson & Henry family law case. Our clients’ names were changed to protect their privacy.

A baby holds onto her parent's index finger.

Case Background

Rescuing Baby Olivia From The System

Addiction touches many American families, and, unfortunately, the Spencers’ close relative, a sister, became hooked on drugs and ended up living on the streets in Oregon where she became pregnant.

Given the circumstances, social workers planned to take baby Olivia from her mom unless a family member could step in to care for the child.

There was little time for the Spencers to make up their minds, but they really didn’t have to think about it.

“We knew this was something we were willing to take on the moment we heard about it,” they said. “We were on the phone with lawyers and social workers the very same day to make a plan.”

Then, Adam and Carla boarded a plane and headed to Oregon.

Carla described the moment she saw Olivia as “love at first sight and absolutely terrifying.”

Their newborn niece, who weighed only five pounds, was having frequent seizures from drug withdrawals due to her mother’s substance abuse during the pregnancy.

“It was so difficult to watch this tiny, innocent little baby in so much pain,” said Carla. “We were determined to make sure that she was safe and protected from then on.

The next several months were all about getting Olivia settled and making sure the couple had everything they needed to care for her.

“We were very fortunate to have a great support system of family and friends surrounding us and willing to help provide all of the things you need for a newborn in such a short amount of time,” said Carla.

The Decision to Adopt

The idea of permanently caring for Olivia materialized when she was about six months old.

“After little to no contact from her birth parents and seeing how they were making no effort to get help or change their lifestyle, we decided to start looking into our options,” said the Spencers.

Even so, it wasn’t an easy decision for the couple to make.

“It is a big deal to decide to go after someone’s parental rights, and even more so when they are your family,” they said.

Adam and Carla sought the professional advice of the baby’s social worker and the doctors and nurses who had cared for her.

“We have always loved her like she was our own, but [we] wanted to make sure that we were doing the right thing for her and not just what we wanted,” said the couple.

After much consideration, the couple knew adopting Olivia would be the best option for her future.

Finding an Adoption Attorney

Excited about providing a loving home for Olivia and the prospect of being parents, the Spencers began the task of finding an adoption attorney.

They knew it might take a bit of searching to find the one they liked, but they were not prepared for how difficult that would be.

“I had felt hopeless,” said Carla. “Like no one understood our situation or that what we were looking for was impossible.”

Each time Adam and Carla hung up the phone, they became more discouraged about whether they would ever find the right attorney to take their case.

The Spencers reached out to seven or eight law firms before they found Robinson & Henry.

“Robinson & Henry really listened to me, asked the right questions, and made me feel like they knew what I was looking for and could provide me the services needed to accomplish the adoption,” said Carla.

Family Law Attorney Joseph Rigney, who specializes in adoptions, took on the Spencers’ case.

“I was happy to help,” said Joe.

The Legal Options & Alternatives 

Joe sat down with Adam and Carla to discuss all of their options.

“There are several different types of adoptions, depending on the circumstances, that all result in the same legal finality but have slightly different procedures,” said Joe.

There is also Legal Guardianship and Power of Attorney processes. Which route a family chooses to take largely depends on their unique situation. For the Spencers, Joe said a Kinship Adoption was a no-brainer.

“These clients fit the Kinship Adoption mold perfectly by being related to the minor child while also wanting to secure permanent legal rights through a formal adoption process,” he said.

The Legal Process & Challenges

Paperwork and Background Checks

The road to a Colorado Kinship Adoption isn’t necessarily a quick and easy one. There are a number of legal hurdles to clear. For one, prospective parents must have had physical custody of the child they wish to adopt for a year or longer. There are also various background checks to pass and possibly a home study to complete.

Additionally, in Colorado, the court needs a legal justification for the adoption. For instance, the biological parents must be unable to care for the child or deemed unfit.

Terminating the Birth Parents’ Legal Rights

Finally, the legal rights of the biological parents need to be terminated. This can be accomplished with the written consent of the birth parents or by an Order of the Court. In some cases, this can be difficult to obtain. If they’re homeless and/or living in another state, like the biological parents in this case, completing this part of the process can take months, or longer.

Those are just the legal implications. Kinship Adoptions, by their very nature, are quite sensitive. They have the potential to create familial rifts if a compassionate and measured approach isn’t taken.

“[Joe and his team] were very understanding and patient with us as we navigated how to proceed at times, especially because we did not want to cause unnecessary hurt within our family,” said Carla.

Notifying the Birth Parents

Colorado law requires hopeful adoptive parents and their attorneys to make a concerted effort to find the child’s biological parents before the court can schedule an adoption hearing.

Attorney Joseph Rigney said locating the birth parents was definitely a challenge in this case.

“…formal communication with the biological parents was very difficult given their transient lifestyle,” Joe said.

Joe and the Spencers had to get a little creative to track down the baby’s birth parents. Ultimately, they decided the clients would send the biological parents a wire transaction, which would allow Joe to know exactly where they would be so they could be served with the Petition for Kinship Adoption and other necessary documents. It worked.

The Outcome

Fourteen months after rescuing Olivia from a life of uncertainty, the family’s Kinship Adoption was finalized.

“It was a huge weight off of our shoulders to know that she was safe with us forever,” said Carla.

Like most legal matters, this adoption had a few difficult situations to overcome, but the Spencers said Joe’s and his team’s experience and professionalism made them easy to navigate.

“Joe was so informative and professional. He answered any question we had quickly, and there were many questions. We knew that Joe and his team wanted this adoption to happen just as much as we did, and they worked diligently, even when it was not easy. Words cannot describe how grateful we are to Joe and his team,” the couple said.

After the adoption was complete, the final step was to add Adam’s and Carla’s names to Olivia’s birth certificate, a routine practice in adoptions.

“An adoptive parent is a legal parent in every sense, including adding one’s name on the birth certificate,” said Joe.

Moving Forward as a Family

Today, Adam and Carla are getting used to their roles as dad and mom and their family being a party of three.

“We are actually getting sleep for the first time in over a year,” noted Carla. “Or as much sleep as you can get with a toddler!”

As for Olivia, she’s thriving. When she’s not running around, she likes to sit and play with her baby dolls and blocks. Carla said she already has an extensive vocabulary, frequently telling them, “I love you” and that “I [am] happy!”

The birth parents have not contacted Adam and Carla about seeing Olivia, but the Spencers said they will always support her in developing a healthy bond with her birth parents.

For now, Adam and Carla remain focused on providing the unconditional safety, structure, and love every child deserves.

Is a Colorado Kinship Adoption Right for Your Family?

If you have been caring for a minor who is related to you, a Kinship Adoption might be the next logical step to take in solidifying the child’s future. Our compassionate adoption attorneys can help you determine the best path for your family. Call 303-688-0944 to begin a case assessment.

*Past results afford no guarantee of future results; each matter is different and must be judged on its own merits. Facts are those of an actual Robinson & Henry family law case. Our clients’ names were changed to protect their privacy.

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