Constance is a retired widow living on a small pension. She raised two children of her own and helped raise her niece after her sister died. That niece struggles with drug addiction and had a baby born addicted to drugs. Her parental rights were terminated shortly after the child’s birth. The baby, Annie, was placed with Constance, and she has cared for her as a relative foster care provider for five years. Annie’s father lives in another state and was incarcerated when she was born, but he was recently released.
Constance came to the Lawyer in the School legal clinic, currently operating from two schools on Charleston’s West Side, seeking to adopt Annie. She was worried that her father would try to take her to live with him out of state. His rights were never terminated, and he has sporadically sent money and gifts to Annie and visited her on a couple of occasions. A volunteer attorney working with the program agreed to help Constance.
After consulting with Constance and Legal Aid staff, it was clear that the biological father was not likely to consent to the adoption, and she could not prove abandonment based on their interactions. Annie would also not be eligible for certain public benefits she was receiving if Constance adopted her. Because of her attorney’s assistance, the biological father was willing to enter into a custody agreement giving Constance primary legal and physical custody, with visitation as agreed upon by the parties. The Court also awarded child support payable to Constance for Annie’s care.
These legal proceedings occurred without any notable interference with Annie’s education. Annie received a perfect attendance certificate on awards day at the end of the school year and was also named Student of the Month for her grades.