Legal Services Adoption Program “ignites hope and transformation” for Oklahoma’s children
Adoption finalization day is one eagerly awaited by the adoptive child and family, along with their teams of workers who have also been preparing and yearning for this day. With the stroke of the judge’s pen, a new family is created and a new journey of hope and healing can begin together.
Launched in 2017 in Tulsa County, the Legal Services Adoption Program allows an OKDHS attorney to begin representation as soon as a child in OKDHS custody becomes ready for adoption. The attorney works one-on-one with the adoptive parents, OKDHS workers and the courts to complete the adoption process as quickly and efficiently as possible. In late 2020, the program celebrated its 500th adoption.
“We have extremely competent, professional and engaged attorneys who are involved in this work,” said Bonnie Clift, Legal Services Deputy General Counsel. “They know every adoption is special and go above and beyond for our families and workers to finalize each adoption, offering the special care each case needs. One of our attorneys, Cynthia Parker has remarked that ‘adoption ignites hope and transformation for our children,’ and we always keep them front of mind.”
The work is not always easy and has been made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed courts and affected the way the world does business. But, like all of OKDHS, Legal Services and their court partners have approached these challenges with creativity and innovation to ensure that children and families don’t have to wait and cases don’t go stagnant.
“We’ve done finalizations outside in the rain and snow, in a gazebo, in hallways in a County Commissioner’s office, via Skype and Zoom and have even worked to ensure a family received their finalization right before Christmas,” said Clift. “Our attorneys will use whatever method or location they can to see their cases through. We also work with OKDHS staff to remove any barriers, ease uncertainties and answer any questions they may have. Our attorneys are really starting a practice revolution within OKDHS. We want it to be a seamless process for everyone.”
Adoptive parents may retain the attorney of their choice, but the OKDHS Adoption Program has several key advantages to consider, including the attorney’s direct access to the OKDHS workers involved with the cases, convenient services like Skype adoptions and flexible office appointments and the attorneys’ dedication to only OKDHS children. Best of all, this legal representation is provided at absolutely no cost to families.
“We welcome every opportunity for Legal to be part of bringing these families together,” said Ron Baze, OKDHS General Counsel. “In Legal, our work has to mostly be grounded in confidentiality. What we deal with, we can’t talk about and can’t show. But, in this program, we are able to share in these stories and the new family’s happiness. We get to be part of creating a family. It’s really a great feeling for our attorneys.”
If you need help through the Legal Services Adoption Program, a knowledgeable attorney is standing by to help. To get in touch with an attorney or to get more information, call 1-833-OKADOPT or 405-521-3638. The Adoption Program team includes Bonnie Clift, Sonja Turner-Yandell and Sarah Capps in Oklahoma City and Cynthia Parker and Michelle Huffman in Tulsa.
The OKDHS Legal Services Adoption Program represented Lucinda Stambaugh in her adoption of teens Andre and Ashtyn in spring and fall 2019, respectively. Although every adoption is special, Legal Services Deputy General Counsel Bonnie Clift says teen adoptions are particularly heartwarming because, for these young people, it signifies a renewal of hope and a support system as they launch into adulthood.
The OKDHS Legal Services Adoption Program team is available to represent any family in their adoption of a child from OKDHS custody. To get more information, call 1-833-OKADOPT.