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UNM Community Lawyering Clinic Helps Grandparents Fulfill Dream of Adoption

January 16, 2015 - Tamara Williams

UNM Community Lawyering Clinic Helps Grandparents Fulfill Dream of Adoption

UNM Law Professor Sarah Steadman (left) supervised while Dynette Cordova (’15, right) represented clients Theresa and Jose M., who adopted twins N.Z. and C.A. on National Adoption Day.

Dynette Cordova (’15) helped her clients fulfill their dream: they adopted their twin grandchildren after six years of caring for them.

Twins N.Z. and C.A. have been living with their grandparents, Theresa and Jose M., since they were two and a half months old. Their birth mother was unable to take care of them.

“We love the children and they have brought new meaning to our lives. But we were scared that the kids would be taken away. Jose, especially, was really worried about that,” says Theresa.

“We decided to adopt them but didn’t have the money for lawyer fees and received a recommendation to go to the Law School’s Clinic.”

Theresa and Jose became clients of the UNM Law School’s Community Lawyering Clinic, which provides free legal services to low-income individuals. Students receive six law school credits while on the front lines of public service, representing real clients while under close faculty supervision.

Cordova was one of the students who provided legal assistance to Theresa and Jose and helped finalize the adoption. She says the case involved multiple filings with the court and two court appearances. “Professor Sarah Steadman provided overall supervision,” says Cordova. “She reviewed the legal documents with me and helped with phrasing, discussed best approaches for client meetings, and helped me prepare for the judge’s questions and concerns for our two court hearings.”

Cordova adds, “I have several other cases in Clinic this semester, and it’s the most complex case I have. It provided the most learning opportunities.”

Theresa and Jose had a very positive experience with the Clinic. “They made it easy for us; they explained the procedures thoroughly,” says Theresa. “They had a translator or spoke Spanish themselves so Jose could understand, since he isn’t fluent in English.”

The adoption was finalized at the Second Judicial District Children’s Court on National Adoption Day, along with approximately 30 other adoptions that created “forever families” for New Mexican children. Held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, National Adoption Day is the one day each year that courts, communities and families set aside to celebrate families formed through adoption, finalize adoptions, and raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care.

“It was a day of celebration and the courthouse was so festive, with face painting, balloons, food, and family portraits,” says Cordova. “Each child received a teddy bear as well as a new name.”

Theresa agrees, saying, “Adoption Day was so beautiful. I was so moved; I kept crying. Everyone had a good time; you could feel the love in the room. And the judge was in very good spirits!”

After years of waiting and months of paperwork and court proceedings, now the adoption is official, and Theresa and Jose’s family is a happy one. “The adoption is such a relief; we don’t feel threatened or scared that the kids will be taken away. And we’re very grateful to the Law School Clinic for their help,” says Theresa.