Monday, June 2, 2008

Happy Anniversary

As of June 1, 2008, I recognize my three year anniversary as a full-time paralegal at my law firm. With that in mind, it got me thinking that I wasn't really sure how much people know about what I do for my job. Some people may not know because I have never told them much about it and some may not know because they just don't care. Either way... here is some of what I do.

I am an adoption paralegal. I work for a law firm in the domestic section. I am second in seniority (only by length of employment) but also the youngest out of the paralegals at my firm. I am the deputy fire warden. I have fancy business cards (and about 473 left so if you want one... or seven... let me know). I am one of three people that knows how to reboot the server (this is an immensely powerful responsibility).

We have an adoption agency within our office that operates as a separate business entity but whose directors are attorneys for our firm. The basic run down: the adoption agency matches up prospective adoptive parents with a birthmother who has previously contacted the agency to set up an adoption plan. Once they are matched and the baby is born, pretty much the whole file gets kicked over to me and I begin the legal work. Every adoption must but filed with a courthouse in North Carolina. North Carolina's statutes regulate adoptions quite closely. Every detail must be accounted and they cannot be finalized until this is done. In Wake County, this never takes less than six months.

Many see adoptions are fairly open and shut but this is the exception more than the norm. Most of our situations
deal with unwed parents and situations where the birthfather of the adopted child is nowhere to be found. Some of our situations are rape. Some of them are couples with an unplanned pregnancy. But every case is a mixture of emotions. I have sat in hospital rooms with tearful teenage girls signing paperwork that will permanently relinquish their rights to a child they delivered less than 24 hours ago. I have also sat across the table from couples that have been childless for 10+ years as they hold their child for the very first time. When I spend most of my days dealing with papers and forms, meeting my clients and seeing their family physically grow before my eyes puts into perspective the reality of my job.

So what takes so long? The most
complicated part of an adoption is dealing with the daddy. In the duration of my job, I have seen a lot regarding birthfather situations. Clearly the ideal situation is one where the birthmother tells us who dad is, we contact him, he submits to a DNA test, he signs paperwork. That's about as easy as it gets. But life isn't easy. The majority of the time we have situations where birthfathers cannot be identified for various reasons: no last name, no first name, don't know where he lived, don't have a phone number, he broke up with her when he found out about the baby and she doesn't know where he is now. With all the heartbeaking stories I see, there are a few that make me smile.

There is a section on one of
our forms for "Special Comments to the Child." More often than not, this is left blank. If it is filled in, it's something short and sweet. But today, I read this:
“My life goal has been to have a son to carry on my name. Though I do not expect you to keep my name, I am sure you will carry on my legacy. I know you will be GREAT one day. After all, it is in your blood. Though I was never informed of your existence until I received the adoption papers, you will always be in my thoughts.
If I can pass on any wisdom I have gained over the years, it would be the following:
1) Be who you are, not what’s “cool”. People will respect you if you are an individual instead of a number.
2) Remember to laugh, especially at yourself. I find great pleasure in looking back on the things I’ve done and realizing your flaws and laughing is a difficult but powerful skill.
3) Most important: though I may never be your dad, I will always be your father and love you like my child.
Good luck in your endeavors, whatever they may be! Perhaps one day we will meet.
For what it is worth, I am sorry to have made you go through this.”

For the most part
, I work in "happy law". No one is getting sued. No one is being violated by exorbitant attorney's fees. And we have never had an adoption overturned. I work for very thorough and very good adoption attorneys. I have learned to appreciate the life of just one child and the influence it can have on a family for eternity. I have encountered many people that are not "adoption friendly", families that try to disrupt adoptions for their own agendas and not that of the child. There is an adoption world beyond what is portrayed in the news. It is very fascinating and very joyous. I will not be working in adoption law forever but the experience over the last three years has been great.


  1. Wow - I had no idea that's what you did. I'm sort of jealous.
    I think we may just have to talk sometime about it - I'll explain then.
    Either way - kudos on the anniversary!

  2. I too must say WOW but for a different reason. I am amazed at your ability to do such a job, even if it's not really bad it seems like it would be hard to cope with so much sadness. I'm glad you shared what that father passed along it brought tears to my eyes, it's good to know that there are still good people that wish good things even for children that will not grow up as their own.

  3. Being the Mom, I have shared in the ups and downs of your job. Herring,etc. is fortunate to have you; it's evidenced by that wonderful gift card they gave you this year. I'm sure they really do appreciate you. Sometimes people get so busy with their day to day stuff that they fail to realize just how valuable certain people are in their business lives. Congratulations on your anniversary. I wish I would have know, I would have baked a cake:)

  4. "'s evidenced by that wonderful gift card they gave you this year"... LOL!!!!

  5. I don't cry.... Okay, I do cry but, not a lot... actually, that might be a lie. Anyhow, it doesn't matter.

    Thanks for that post and Congratulations on the Anniversary!

  6. So the day before you posted this my aunt and uncle announced that they are trying to adopt, again. I know how much pain it's been in their lives not being able to have children and this way they can. Anyways I was just going to thank you for the work you do because I know how much it means to people.


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