Adoption and Legal Risk: A Labor of Love

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Lillie came to us in January of 2015, at the age of 7 months old.

She was considered a legal risk case.  For those not familiar with the term legal risk, it means the child is placed in foster care, but is not free for adoption, as the parents have not given up their parental rights.

After going through MAPP classes, and learning more about legal risk, it’s one of the scariest risks you could ever take.  Bill and I were already unsure about the age of the child we wanted to adopt, let alone dealing with legal risk.

After much careful consideration and prayer, we decided that legal risk was something we were open to considering.  When we finished our home study, we had many ups and downs in dealing with DCF.  We were presented with one particular sibling pair, but the timing wasn’t right and we didn’t feel comfortable with the high amount of legal risk that would come with taking them.  But a few months later, we were presented with our beautiful Lillie.

As I said before, Lillie was considered a legal risk case, which meant her birth parents could possibly get her back, and there could be many court battles for her custody.  We decided it was a risk we were willing to take.  We decided that it was a blessing to be able to help a child, and quite possibly help her birth family.

The road was not an easy one.

There were weekly visits with the birth family.  My husband would drive Lillie into Boston on Friday afternoons in rush hour traffic, hand her off to the social worker and wait for an hour for her to come back.  It was a huge labor of love for all involved. Her parents cared for her and loved her enough to keep up with the visits, we loved her enough to take on the risk involved with having her in our lives and not enough good things can be said about the social workers we were fortunate enough to have!

We always said that no matter what the outcome, we had so much love to give, and that was something Lillie needed, and she got a lot of it!  Were we scared that if we went to court things would not go in our favor?  The answer was absolutely!  But either way, it was a win all around.  We got to experience things we never thought we would, Lillie got the care her birth parents could not provide, and her birth parents still got to be involved in her life, along with her brother and grandparents.

The weekly visits continued for the remainder of spring and summer.  Meanwhile, we were growing more and more attached to this little girl who had stolen our hearts.  Which made the legal risk piece even more scary…but we kept reminding ourselves, the best thing we can do is give her all the love we can, and provide her with opportunities she otherwise would not have.  And, as I mentioned before, we could make memories of things, we otherwise never would’ve experienced.

Around the Fourth of July in 2015, we got the news we had longed to hear.  Lillie’s birth parents had agreed to terminate their parental rights, allowing us to adopt Lillie.  As happy as we were to be Lillie’s forever family, we also felt much empathy for the birth parents.  Having lost twins 20 weeks into a pregnancy, and miscarrying another child, we knew all too well the pain of losing a child.  We were so very grateful to them for giving us the honor of raising Lillie.  They showed great strength and love while facing such a tremendously difficult decision.

Lillie now has visits twice a year with her birth family.

IMG_0395Is it easy?  No, it’s not.  Are we all best friends?  No, but we all have one thing in common, love for a precious little girl.  That makes it possible to overcome any differences we have.  Lillie will grow up knowing that she is loved by so many.  Her birth parents made a courageous decision in giving up their parental rights, and we made the decision to open our hearts to a little girl who may, or may not have become ours.  It’s all about love.

If you’re considering adoption, but legal risk is standing in the way, please, reconsider.  Legal risk is extremely scary, but extremely rewarding.  Don’t let the unknown stand in the way of loving a child.  If you have a child in your home that is considered legal risk, know that you are giving a wonderful gift!

 


About the Family
Jill Akins and her husband, Bill, adopted Lillie in November of 2015.  Bill is a technical support engineer and Jill was an elementary school teachers and is now a stay-at-home mom.  They have been married for 15 years.  They are lovers of all things Disney and avid advocates for adoption.

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