The past year has been a time of uncertainty for Simona Bustos as she waited to adopt her two granddaughters, Carly, 3, and Angel, 5.
Bustos has cared for Carly and Angel since birth, but had limited legal parental rights in the foster care system. She feared they might get separated from their three older siblings, who were already under her legal care due to family circumstances.
She finally set aside her worries Friday afternoon as Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Stephen Marpet declared Carly and Angel, smiling and dressed in matching outfits, were officially adopted in a Monterey Park courtroom overflowing with teddy bears and balloons.
“The adoption is very important to me because Carly and Angel will be able to grow up with their brother and sisters,” said Bustos in Spanish through her pro bono lawyer from Southern California Edison. “I love all of my grandchildren dearly, and I do not want to lose my family or have them suffer.”
SCE senior attorney Ian Michael Forrest volunteered his time as a pro bono lawyer for the adoptions of Angel (left) and Carly (right) on National Adoption Day.
Carly and Angel were among more than 230 foster children in Los Angeles County adopted into ‘forever families’ as part of National Adoption Day. About 5,000 adoptions took place across the country.
“At times, these families and children have endured considerable hardships and a long legal process to arrive at the final adoption hearing,” said Ian Michael Forrest, a senior attorney at SCE who volunteered to represent Bustos in the adoption case. “It is a wonderful feeling to be present in the courtroom at the moment that the legal adoption process is finalized."
SCE’s legal department assists with about 30 pro bono adoption cases per year, and Forrest is one of five SCE volunteer attorneys who helped families with their legal proceedings leading up to Adoption Day.
Forrest has taken on several pro bono adoption cases each year for about 10 years through the opportunities made possible by SCE's partnership with Public Counsel, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to children and families, many of them Spanish-speaking.
“It’s been incredibly helpful that SCE has been able to assist our monolingual Spanish-speaking families,” said Karen Ullman, adoption director of Public Counsel. “Because of the language barriers, sometimes our non-English-speaking families have had a difficult time accessing services and funding, so the advocacy work that SCE has done for those families has been especially significant.”
After the adoption ceremony, Carly and Angel walked outside the courthouse hand in hand with their full entourage — grandma, big sisters and brother, Forrest as well as their social worker.
Angel might not fully understand the significance of her adoption, but she’s sure about one thing.
“I love my abuela (grandma),” she said.