Episode two transcript

[00:00] ELLEN:  Our lives are defined by key moments, sometimes expected, sometimes unexpected. This podcast explores the stories of extraordinary moments in our everyday lives -- the joys and celebrations as well as the challenges and surprises. These stories provide opportunities to share ideas and takeaways to learn from, to witness moments where love becomes a living, breathing action that showcases strength, resilience, beauty and humanity.

I am your host, Ellen Adair, welcome to Love Takes Action, brought to you by New York Life, helping people act on their love and successfully navigate life’s biggest choices since 1845.

Today, we’re talking about:  “Same-sex Adoption.” And how this journey towards parenthood is filled with emotion - the unknown, the struggles, tears and laughter:

[01:07]  RENEE:     So, then we looked at should we adopt privately or through the foster care system, and there were pros and cons to both but ultimately, we decided that the foster care system would be the way that we would go.

…and then the doorbell rang and these people walked in with this brand-new baby and handed her to us.

[01:25]  KATE:        …it was more a moment of delight. Like there was a child in our home…

…We didn't anticipate what we were getting into but we just kept going because every time the time felt right.

[01:38]  ELLEN:      And we’ll talk with a lawyer who works as a guardian ad-litem and has argued a case which clarifies the definition of what a family is…

[01:45]  SCARLET:   …First and foremost, adoption fosters permanency for children…

… what happens is in adoption, they are given the opportunity to thrive and to be in a nurturing relationship.

[01:59]  ELLEN:      On today’s episode, we are speaking with Renee & Kate Richardson. And like so many married couples after getting married they decided to start a family. And they ended up choosing adoption through the foster care system as their pathway. Renee & Kate welcome, and thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your amazing family with us. Renee, let’s begin with you, when did you know you wanted to have children?

[02:27]  RENEE:     From my perspective, it was always something that if it happened, it happened if it didn't, it didn't. And then I met Kate. And, so I guess Kate, you were the one that really made me want to have children with you.

[02:37]  KATE:     And sort of likewise, in a way I grew up, always wanting children.

And I think growing up in middle America, I guess I tricked myself into believing for many years that I could grow up and have that family like the traditional family with a man and children and it would just be the normal scenario that I was presented to myself every day.

But then when I came to terms with my sexuality, which wasn't really very hard to do, because it was obvious from day one, but eventually I got there I kind of lost that hope of being able to have a family. But when I realized I was gay it very quickly, like that vision of a traditional nuclear family sort of shattered.

So, I had always hoped I could have a family in that sense, but I never really imagined it would be a reality once I discovered who I truly was.

It took a while to begin to have that sort of inkling begin to grow again, that hope could return and that there was a possibility there were ways to make that reality and that it could be accepted.

[03:41]  ELLEN :     Hope, your use of that word really stuck with me. Thank goodness we’re living in a time where ‘family’ has a lot of different meanings...

[03:51]  RENEE:      We talked a lot about do we want kids and then we eventually realized that we felt that kids would add to our family.

So, we decided that we would actually like kids and we decided that it was better, for us, to give a home to a child that has already been born, then bring another one into the world.

And I say this because we couldn't both genetically contribute to the child. But because we couldn't, we decided the best option for us was to adopt a child that was already born.

So, then we looked at should we adopt privately or through the foster care system, and there were pros and cons to both but ultimately, we decided that the foster care system would be the way that we would go.

And I have to admit we were totally naive and really didn't know what we're getting ourselves into. But we jumped in feet first.

[04:45]  KATE:     So, we approached foster care with the goal of adoption.

So, when we became registered as foster parents, we said that we were a pre-adoptive home.

And what that means is that we're a home for foster children to come to and if they become available for adoption, we are available as a family to open our arms to them and then adopt them.

[05:08]  ELLEN:    So, in the foster system, do you have any say in terms of the child that you welcome into your home?

[05:15]  RENEE:     The goal of foster care is to reunite children with their biological family, their biological parents first or biological relatives. And if that can't be done, that's when they become available for adoption.

Our initial thoughts were, we would get like some a child from 10 to 12 up. So, we weren't looking for a baby. We weren't looking for a younger child. We were looking for an older child.

And the first child they gave us was a newborn straight from the hospital. And I was like, I was not expecting that. I didn't think I needed to have anything to do with the baby.

But I fell in love and I realized that this was just the most wonderful thing having a baby right from the start. But it was so funny because I was at work and Kate was at work and Kate can't take phone calls at work.

And so, I got a phone call at my work going, ‘Hey, we've got a newborn. Will you take it?”

And I say ‘it’ because they didn't know the gender of the baby. They just said you know we've got a newborn. Would you take it?

And I was like sure. And then there was a couple other questions.

And then it was you know; the baby has to get checked out but it should be to you around this time. And I was like, okay.

So, I was in a meeting with one of my colleagues and she said, “What just happened?”

I said, “I just agreed to take a baby.”

And she's like, “Okay, wow.”

So, I texted Kate and I said, “Newborn coming tonight. Call me.”

[06:38]  ELLEN:    (Ellen Laughs) Oh My god Kate! What went through your mind?

[06:40]  KATE:      Well, I think I thought, man, we've got a lot of stuff to get. I'm not sure what to do.

So, I called Renee and it was determined we had about five hours until we were going to be receiving our first child.

[06:53]  ELLEN:     Oh, my goodness.

[06:55]  KATE:      And Renee said, “Go to the store and get everything you need for a baby.”

So, I was like, okay.

So, I ran to Buy Buy Baby, and I pulled up a Google list of everything you need for a baby. And there was like 21 essential items or something like that.

And I ran around the store as quickly as I could and got everything I could. And I threw it in the cart and I checked out and then I called Renee back and I said, “Okay, I got everything you need for a baby.”

And she said, “Did you get a book?”

And I said, “No, I did not get a book.”

So, she said, “Go back and get a book. We need a book.”

So, I went back and got a book and we were so glad we did.

[07:30]  RENEE:     We met at home and we spent hours putting together cribs and pack and plays and everything else you need and setting up for a baby and… it was..

[07:42]  KATE:      Then the doorbell rang.

[07:43]  RENEE:   …and then the doorbell rang

[07:44]  ELLEN:      Oh my god.

[07:45]  RENEE:      And these people walked in with this brand-new baby and handed her to us.

And this was a Friday at the beginning of a long weekend.

And so, the Friday night they hand us this baby and they go, “Oh, you know, here's a diaper for her and here’s  a bottle.”

And then they said, “We'll call you next week.”

And we're like, okay, and then they left and then we looked at each other and went O.M.G. We have a baby.

[08:10]  ELLEN:     OMG is right! You have a baby! What was that moment like for you both?

[08:15]  KATE:       I mean, I don't know what you took from it, but I think that it was more a moment of delight. Like there was a child in our home and we had been given permission to take care of it.

[08:25]  RENEE:     And you know what? I fell instantly in love with that little girl and she didn't end up staying with us and, and in hindsight it was probably a good move because she was moved to be with her older brothers in a different home.

But it was just this instant love and I can only imagine what you know some parents feel when they actually give birth.

[08:43]  ELLEN:      So, she didn’t stay with you and then there were several more children you fostered before you got someone you could keep, right?

[08:50]  RENEE:       The first child that did come to us and stayed, I think he was child number eight

[08:55]  ELLEN:        Oh, my goodness.

[08:56]  RENEE:        in our home. And he came as a three-month-old. Failure to thrive baby.

I remember holding him in my hands and instantly falling in love.

You know, he'll tell the story to people randomly on the street and they won't know what he's talking about. Because it's a funny story in a way, but he came and he pooped in my hands.

Like he was so small and I held him in my arms and he pooped all over me.

And I say to him, “At that second. I knew you were mine and I was gonna love you forever.”

And he loves that story. And so, he'll go up and randomly tell people that he pooped in Mommy's hands.

And they'll be like, “Huh, what?”

But to him, this is this beautiful story.

And everybody else, they're looking at us going, why is your son telling us this? You know?

But to him it's the story of when he became a Richardson and came to this family, you know?

[09:46]  ELLEN:      I didn’t even think about the kids taking your name…

wow, how important that must be for them.

[09:52]  KATE:       I think that the family we wound up with is because we said yes at all the right times. So, we would follow our intuition.

And that's sort of what led us to foster care. We followed our own, like internal insights.

Every time we were called to take a placement we would look at each other, we would discuss it, we discuss it quickly and we would look at each other, we would know, “yes.”

And there were only very few occasions where we said no but we would always follow our insights.

And if a child wasn't going to mesh with children we already had in the home, once we were further down the road, in those occasions we would say no, because we didn't want to upset the balance of the stable home that we were starting to provide for children and really trying to build them and I think it's been that process of saying yes, that has led us to the children that we have.

So, we said yes at all the right times.

[10:42] ELLEN:      What an emotional roller coaster you’ve been on. What was it like when you knew the first one was going to stay?

[10:51]  RENEE:       With the other children leaving us, they came and left and every single one of them took a little piece of our heart.

But I don't know how I would have coped if he had of left us because for whatever reason that boy is the love of my life. And I cannot imagine having to hand him back or give him to someone else.

[11:11]  ELLEN:      So, the first adoption was an infant, right?

[11:14]  RENEE:      So, Rami was our eighth foster child. He came to us as a three-month-old and has been with us ever since. And he's now nearly six.

We then had a sibling set come to us. Akiko was nearly three when she came to us and Amir had just turned five…

[11:29]  KATE:      …four…

[11:30]  RENEE:      …just turned four.

[11:32]  KATE:        and because we said yes to our first permanent child, that was eventually how we came to our special needs daughter because down the road his mother got pregnant again.  And we thought our house was already full. At that point, we had three…

[11:44]  RENEE:       Three kids.

[11:46]  KATE:         Three kids that it was looking like we were going to be adopting all of them.

And we were like always two children over 10 and here we are with three children under six at that point.

And when they called to say there's another baby coming, we said, “Yes.”

We’re like how can we say no to the sibling of our boy.

Yeah, our amazing little son.

It's like, if his mother's having another baby, absolutely. Because he's amazing. So why wouldn't she be?

[12:11]  RENEE:      And then I remember when they dropped off Arlynn, I said, “You know, how is she? Is she healthy?” And they said, “For her.” And I, it didn't occur to me to ask what that meant. And it just said she's healthy for her. And now I know.

[12:25]  KATE:        Right? And then what we quickly began to discover over the course of the next days and then weeks and then into months was the severity of her medical conditions that had all happens in-utero, like she acquired a disease in-utero that stunted her brain growth.

And because of that, she didn't get to develop as a child who didn't have that disease would have.

So, it was quite the learning curve. And then you know, thrown right in and caring for this child.

Quickly, quickly learning the ropes on all these medical terminologies and diagnoses and the therapies and the treatments and all the care; it was around the clock.

[13:08]  ELLEN:       What’s she like as a person?

[13:09]  KATE:         She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met, like her soul just glows.

She is so vibrant, and so amazing. And just because she doesn't communicate on a level that's neurologically comparable to most of us.

That doesn't mean that she doesn't communicate and her consciousness is just so gorgeous.

[13:29]  ELLEN:       I can’t even imagine.  With the scheduling for her care, How did the two of you split up the workload?

[13:35]  RENEE:       So, Kate took her to most doctor’s appointments and I remember taking her to a neurologist once, because Kate couldn't go, and the neurologist looked at me and said,

“You should just put this child in a, in a facility and forget about her.”

And it was the most horrible thing I think anybody's ever said to me in my life.

And of course, we changed neurologists and I would never recommend that person to anybody, but…

[13:59]  KATE:        …that neurologist, I remember her saying to me,

she's like, “Have you adopted this child?” And I was like, “No”,

and she's like, “Oh, you shouldn't? You shouldn't because she's not going to develop into anything. You should just …”

basically said the same thing that you said, like put her into a facility and move on.

[14:14]  ELLEN:      That’s terrible.

[14:15]  KATE:   And then when Arlynn showed up, it was like something magical had happened and Arlynn and Rami being biological siblings, there's something that magically happened to Rami, where he overnight turned from being a baby into a big brother when he saw her for the first time.

And all of a sudden, he turned into a boy. He stopped being a baby and he became a boy and just like became the big brother. It was really special.

[14:36]  ELLEN:             Do you think he had a sense somehow that they were siblings?

[14:39]  KATE:               I think he intuitively did.

[14:41]  RENEE:            And we talk about their biological parents. We honor their biological parents.

They explain it as they came from different tummies.

Kiko will say, “Well, Amir and I came from the same tummy, and Rami and Arlynn came from the same tummy.”

[14:53]  KATE:               “And we all have three mommies.

[14:55]  RENEE:            and we all have three mommies.

[14:56]  KATE:               and we're so lucky.

[14:58]  RENEE:            And so it is, again, that nature nurture. It was amazing to see their instant connection.

[15:04]  KATE:               And then there's also the bond though that they all have as siblings. So, like when the pandemic hit, we were fortunate enough that after a year of having Arlynn with us, we did finally settle on moving her into a pediatric nursing facility that would be able to care for her better than we could at home.

It was a really, really incredibly hard decision, because in a way you feel like you're giving up on a child, but we knew that we couldn't complete the care that she needed.

And I knew I couldn't give her the care she needed and care for the rest of the children and the rest of the family as well on the same level.

[15:39]  RENEE:            So, she gets 24 hours care at this facility, medical care and physical you know, all the therapy. She gets to do swimming and she gets to do music therapy. It's fantastic.

And Kate goes there every day except for during the pandemic when we weren't allowed in the building.

[15:55]  KATE:               But when that hit and we weren't allowed to be in the building, it was eight months that we didn't get to see her at all except for an occasional FaceTime. And then eventually they allowed us to have fence side visits.

But before that we used to go as a family every weekend and take the kids and we would all hang out together and they were so connected to her.

And then when the pandemic hit and the nursing home regulations came into effect and no one could go in. They lost that intense connection that they had to an extent, but the bond is still there.

And with Rami the bond is still so tight.

Eventually they got to see her I think a few times but the regulations are still so hard because it's such a medically fragile environment with the children who live there.

And so, they all ask, even now, they still can't get in to see her, but they still say we wish we could go see Arlynn, we want to see Arlynn.

[16:48]  RENEE:      The first time we were allowed to do a fence site visit with her, Rami was so distraught because they wouldn't let him in to actually touch her and hug her.

And all he wanted to do was hug her and, of course, we had to stay within six feet and we have to be on another side of the fence. And he was just distraught that they wouldn't let him in to touch her.

[17:06]  ELLEN:       Oh, that’s so tough. It all sounds so intense. So, were you prepared for all the expenses of parenthood?

[17:15]  KATE:          Well, I don't think any parent is ever prepared for the cost that comes with raising children and then we've been such open hearts that we now have five. So,

[17:25]  RENEE:         And we were only meant to have two over the age of 10.

[17:27]  KATE:            So, I don't think we were prepared. We didn't anticipate what we were getting into but we just kept going because every time the time felt right.

And financially, you know, we're very fortunate in a lot of ways. Like we can hand down some clothes from one kid to the next.

And we have, friends, who you know, help us and make clothing donations and that's great too. We really appreciate those people but having children is expensive.

[18:00]  ELLEN:         “I can imagine.”

[18:01]  RENEE:          And being a foster parent is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life because we adore these children and we send some of them home or to relatives and sometimes this is a wonderful thing and it's definitely the best thing.

And sometimes I just don't see how this can be a benefit to the child.

And so even Kate and I, we've had each other to cry with and to talk to and understand and we have seriously cried, even with Rami like the ups and downs of knowing whether we were going to adopt him or not. I cried more just with the unknowns than I've ever cried before.

And we were lucky in that we got to adopt him, but I've had friends who have fostered children for two years, three years, four years and then the child, who doesn't really know their biological family anymore is sent home - on a trial discharge and then sometimes they end up back in the system because it doesn't work out but it's 10 times worse because the child's more damaged.

And so, what we do is we support each other through that and thankfully we haven't had any of those experiences with our children. But the people that I talk to and work with, it’s, it's hard and even when you get to keep the children it's hard sometimes.

[19:12]  ELLEN:            Yeah, yeah, but hard as it is, your family keeps growing, doesn’t it?

[19:17] RENEE:         As you noted we have adopted our younger four children and then we also have a teenage foster son, who is amazing, and one of the best humans I've ever met.

And he came to us because we always said that we would open our home to a teenager in need. We got a phone call about him and we said, “Yes,” because it felt right.

[19:41] KATE:           And it was terrifying.

[19:42] RENEE:         It was terrifying, because we'd never had a teenager.

[19:45]  ELLEN:        (Ellen struggling with the logic of the moment..) Wait and he’s joining a family of how many at this point?

[19:50]  KATE & RENEE:                 We had our four adopted kids / children.

[19:52]  RENEE:          We had our four adopted children and the oldest was eight at the time. No seven.

[19:58]  KATE:         Yeah, and it was almost Rami’s birthday.

[20:01]  RENEE:       He was just about to turn five.

[20:02]  KATE:         Right and then we get this call about this teenager who was in need of a home and he sounded like the just right person that we'd been sort of waiting for and it was completely terrifying.

But we decided to say yes.

And then he arrived and he's blended right in and it's lovely. It's amazing. And the kids…adore him.

 [21:24] RENEE:        The kids were so excited to get a big brother. And it was kind of awkward because it was Rami’s fifth birthday party and we had all PreK friends over and he announces to them all, “I got a new big brother!” and all the parents are looking at us.

So, we haven’t advertised that our children, you know, adopted through foster care. And you know that people obviously know they're adopted because they're a different race. But it's not like we say how we adopted them.

So, some people may assume foster care. Some people may assume that we did a private adoption.

But you know, when your son's running around yelling, “I've got a big brother” and, you know, one of the mothers is, “What did he say?”

So, I said, “Yep”, and I just walked away and I started talking to someone else.

[21:02]  KATE:     But he's amazing.

[21:04]  ELLEN:  (overlap).   And has he been fitting in?

[21:06]  KATE:     He has and it's been actually really, really just beyond wonderful having him as part of the family.

All of our kids are African American, and us as two white women raising them presents challenges.

But having all of a sudden, a teenager who takes great pride in his heritage and has been able to teach them so many things about being black in America, as well, has been really just wonderful and I mean, even in the simplest things is like helping us and helping them to like better care for their hair, their skin.

It's you know, always stuff that I'm constantly educating and you know, making new friends and learning new tricks of the trade, but having him come in like encourage the desire for the boys to take care of their hair was just really lovely and wonderful.

[21:57]  ELLEN:      Do you have any advice for people who want to be foster parents?

[22:01]  RENEE:        I think going into it with your eyes wide open, that this is not going to be a easy process.

The children are 100% wonderful, but they’re children of trauma, which means that they have special requirements.

And get yourself a really good support network because you're going to cry more than you've ever cried in your life.

And I'm so grateful for Kate, because we could just cry in silence together and understand what was going on. You don't have to explain. You don't have to, like justify why you're crying. You can just cry.

[22:31]  KATE:   What I would say is go into it with an open heart but be prepared to have that open heart broken again and again.

And it is so rewarding. It is so difficult. It is beyond anything you can begin to imagine, as far as, reward and of struggle, they are equally go hand-in-hand.

There's a duality to it that you cannot deny of love and pain all at the same time. And it's ultimately a beautiful thing and it allows for such growth in so many people's lives as well as your own.  And it's ultimately really satisfying if you have the character to get through all of that.

[23:14]  ELLEN:     Wow, “Have the character to do that.” That just really resonates with me.  So, how do we know if we have the character? Did you know you had it?

[23:25]  RENEE:      I had no idea that we could do this. If you had said to me, ‘you're going to have five kids one day and one of them is going to be super special needs and the others are going to be this, this and this.’

I would have gone, “Ha, I'm not even going to have one kid. What are you talking about?”

Like and when we started this, you know the fact that we wanted kids over 10, and I don't think any of our children are even over 10 yet, except for our teenager. But all our adopted children haven't even reached that age of 10 yet, and we would have a special needs child.  I mean, I never thought we could do that. And I don't know how well we do it.

And I'm always, for all our children actually and I guess all parents do this, but I'm always praying for guidance because I want to be able to parent them in the best way possible and being a parent is just hard work. Full stop.

So, did I know I could do this? Absolutely not.

[24:15]  KATE:   If you had asked me that question.  How long has it been?

We've been fostering not long, five years, six years. If you'd asked me that six years ago, seven years ago, I would have said absolutely not if I was presented with the scenarios that are in front of us every day today.

I feel that the process of fostering the emotional and mental and psychological growth that we've been forced to go through has been both humbling and rewarding. And made me a person that I didn't know I was capable of being and I probably would not have believed I had the capability to be.

I would not have believed that I would be able to parent the children that we have in the situations that we have now. But to me being here now, it is so rewarding.

You know if you're willing to put your reservations aside and step forward into the uncomfortable and into the unknown, and you're willing to say yes, sometimes when you're kind of worried your logical brain is saying no that there are opportunities for growth within you and opportunities for growth for these children as well.

[25:57]  ELLEN:     What do you think powers all of this growth that you’ve been talking about? Do you think it’s a manifestation of love?

[25:36]  KATE:      It's very emotional because it is ultimately about love and compassion, for me at least. 

[25:44 ] RENEE:    You know what when you said that to me, it just gave me visions of the kids.

 [25:47]  KATE:       Yeah.

 [25:48]  RENEE:    It gave me visions of each one of them doing something that just makes my heart swell.

[25:53]  KATE:     It's the sort of thing I was thinking about this morning. It's like none of these children came from me, but somehow, they did.

Like in a way because we've had the opportunity to be parents to them, and that somehow the universe brought us all together.  It's like, they are from me in a way and that's what I feel like that big love and that connection and it's so special.

[26:18] ELLEN:     Yeah, you’re all truly a family…

[26:22]  RENEE:      To me family is just the people that love you, the people that are going to support you and we talk about this actually a lot in our family.

And you know, just the fact that the children have pride in their last name. You know, our oldest foster son did something and our youngest son says to him, “Don't worry, you're a Richardson now!”,  You know, and again, that was his way of saying you're part of our family. You'll always be with us. You’ll always be ours.

We’ll always stand by you. We’ll always be with you. And you know, and that's something that we have to reiterate with our children a lot because they are children of trauma, that we're not going to leave them.  We're never going to abandon them. No matter what they do. They're welcome here in this home and with us.

[27:03]  KATE:     Yeah, absolutely. It's a dream realized. And it's one of those dreams that like you're so deep into that you can't even begin to comprehend what's going to happen in the next moment.  And it just keeps unfolding in front of you. It's like that deepest, most lucid dream that you've ever had. And it just is so bizarre and strange and wonderful all at the same time.

[25:50]  ELLEN:    Wow, Renee & Kate, thank you so much. What an incredible story …

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[27:34] ELLEN:    We now have the opportunity to speak with Scarlet Moore, an attorney from South Carolina who regularly works on cases with the State’s Department of Social Services. She recently argued and won a case before the South Carolina Supreme Court which helped clarify the definition of family. Scarlet, thank you for joining us. So, how did you get started working in family courts?

[27:55] SCARLET:    I decided that I wanted to go back to school and I wanted to be a lawyer. I'm at the age of 30. And I specifically wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer.

I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in being in family court. I've been an attorney like I said for 20 years. I have in fact done criminal defense. I continue to do criminal defense, but undoubtedly through my work with the Department of Social Services, I have been involved with absolutely countless individuals like the Richardson's.

I've been a part of, dare I say 1000s, literally, 1000s of foster children who I have terminated the parental rights so that people like the Richardson's can step in and form a family.

So, I've served as a guardian ad-litem for those cases. 

[28:39]  ELLEN:      And now how do you navigate your job without being overcome by the emotions? 

[28:45 ]SCARLET:    What I decided was the moment that I become immune or cynical to the human spirit and drama that we confront in family court, I'll go ahead and do something else.

Because I do think there needs to be a balance. We take very complex circumstances and situations and we try to craft a remedy for these children that is in their best interest so they can thrive. I think you have to have empathy as an attorney to assist the clients and the DSS caseworkers like the Richardson's worked with, to craft an appropriate remedy for a child. You can't just be completely removed.

[29:18]  ELLEN:       But there’s a lot of joy too, sometimes, isn’t there?

[29:22]  SCARLET:     Adoptions have to be the happiest moments in our courts in South Carolina.

Usually, the judge is crying and it's just a recognition of wow, we have really done something that is going to impact, not only these children's lives, but also society.

[29:36]  ELLEN:      Wow, can you expand on that? How do you feel adoption benefits society?          

[29:42]  SCARLET:      Well, the case that I just won at the South Carolina Supreme Court was all about permanency for children. So, first and foremost, adoption fosters permanency for children, and why is it different from custody?

I think it's pretty obvious. Chief Justice was you know, beating me up pretty bad at oral argument.

But of course, I won. I’m saying, “Well, you know why isn’t custody enough?

And why do we need to let this grandfather adopt? You know, what's the difference?”  And so, the whole theory of Family Court and the Department of Social Services is generating permanency for children. So that the children are going to know that you know what, tomorrow night and the night after that night after that, this is my home and this is my family.

And there are all kinds of financial benefits that flow from the process of adoption.

[30:26]  ELLEN:      Really? I hadn’t even considered that. Like what exactly?

[30:29]  SCARLET:      Well, definitely tax credits for parents, inheritance rights for the children. You know, if they're adopted then they in fact would be subject to inherit, which is much better.

Um, oh, well how can I forget? That's what I just argued at my grandfather adoption case, Social Security benefits. So, if you are a child and you have an actual parent, through an adoption, then you are eligible for incredible Social Security benefits. And they're not small checks.

That's what I argued with my great grandfather's adoption case that I just won. And my client was 79 years old. And I said, “I've got two words for the court, social security,” and the Justice smiled.  That right there, undoubtedly, is just one very concrete advantage to making a child a permanent member of the family through adoption.

[31:18]  ELLEN:        Wow, so there really are a ton of benefits in the home and in the community. But, do the children generally feel that? How does the whole process affect the kids?

[31:28]  SCARLET:      You know, children are victims. When children have brushes with the Department of Social Services, they are the victims of decisions that adults have made for them.

And so, what happens is in adoption, they are given the opportunity to thrive and to be in a nurturing relationship. When they feel secure, and they feel like they're a part of a family, then they can grow and they're not going to have to worry about, well, am I  getting food tonight? Where am I going to sleep tonight?

[31:54]  ELLEN:       Of course. And I’d imagine it helps with the adoptive parents transition too? How else would you advise hopeful parents to prepare?

[32:02]  SCARLET:      You cannot be a foster parent and not love the process and in turn fall in love with the children. I think that's the experience. As you can see, with the Richardson’s, they fell in love with these children.  And so, they got children in their home, who had after born siblings, that they took into their home. They took into their home a special needs child, and then they didn't stop, then they took in a teenager.

And so, I can see the process that they went through, probably a lot of uncertainty, trying to determine are the children going to stay? Are they not going to stay?

But as far as I'm concerned, in listening to the Richardson’s story, they are absolute heroes.

Absolute heroes.

And I've found great satisfaction in having involvement with foster parents over the years.

I don't represent foster parents, I represent caseworkers and the interests of children as a guardian, but just heroes, really that was the word that came to mind.

[32:57]  ELLEN:       Absolutely, just talking with the Richardson’s and listening to their whole story you could just feel how much that permanency matters to them as much as to the kids.

[33:08]  SCARLET:    It just simply does. You can't buy that joy. You just simply can't buy that joy.I think that's what's drawn me to continue my work with DSS over all these years. Is really surrounding the issues like the Richardson’s have experienced.

[33:22] ELLEN:      So, based on all of your experiences, do you have any parting advice to people considering fostering children?

[32:39]  SCARLET:     In the state of South Carolina, where I practice, we are always looking for foster parents. We are always looking for more parents. We do not have a surplus of foster parents in the state.

And so, I would just encourage anyone who listens to the Richardson's story, who was similarly situated to them and thinking about some type of adoption process to consider children who are in foster care.

[33:53]  ELLEN:      Lovely. Thank you for the time.

[33:57]  ELLEN:    Thank  you for joining us on this episode of Love Takes Action. If you like what you hear, we invite you to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform–add your comments and share with your friends and family. It’s a chance to celebrate the voices of our inspiring guests and their wonderful stories. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram or visit our website at newyorklife.com

[34:24]  DISCLAIMER:   Love Takes Action is brought to you by New York Life Insurance Company and is for general informational purposes only. References to any financial products or strategies are solely incidental and may not be construed as a solicitation. The views and opinions expressed on this show are solely those of the host, guests, and experts, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or viewpoints of New York Life Insurance Company or its subsidiaries.

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Sara Sefcovic
New York Life Insurance Company
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Sara_M_Sefcovic@newyorklife.com