It started with a phone call.
“Amy, it’s Elizabeth Moore from CASA of Los Angeles.”
“Elizabeth! Nice to hear from you. I have so much to tell you!”
The two knew each other from several years before, when Amy adopted Adrian, a medically fragile child for whom Elizabeth had been a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
They spent a while catching up on Adrian—his progress in school, his relationships with his new brothers, his health. Then Amy asked how everything else was going.
“Well, I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction on something,” Elizabeth said, explaining that she had just been assigned to a young woman, Natasha, who was about to turn 18 and would need an adult placement.
As Elizabeth and Amy talked, a tragic portrait of Natasha emerged. She was medically fragile—suffering from a rare disease called dermatomyositis—but she was very bright and she had no behavior problems at all. She easily could have been placed in a foster home, but she had been languishing in an institution for three years since being detained from her parents, who had avoided taking her anywhere because of her accessibility needs. She had been so confined for so long, in fact, that she didn’t even know the safe way to cross a street. She seemed to be afraid of the world. Her story was one of unrealized potential.
“Why don’t you bring her down for a visit?” Amy asked.
Elizabeth jumped at the offer. Amy was an authority on living options for people with disabilities, having adopted dozens of medically fragile boys over the years and even having started her own nonprofit to help people with disabilities who choose to live on their own. No one knew better the challenges Natasha would face and what her adult-placement options would be.
After a couple of visits with Natasha, Amy had an idea.
“Would you consider my adopting her?” she asked.
“Well, that’s an interesting idea,” Elizabeth said, surprised. “I’ve never heard of an adult adoption. Let me put you in touch with her DCFS social worker so you can explore that with her, and we can ask Natasha if she would be up for it. Why do you want to adopt her?”
“I just think she’s a neat gal, and all my other children are boys,” Amy explained. “I have a connection with her. I think I could really help make a better life for her.”
It turns out, after a few months of getting to know Amy and contemplating her other options, Natasha was indeed up for it. She loved the birthday parties and overnight stays. She loved that Amy was welcoming her biological father into their family—he and Natasha were becoming closer than ever. And she loved the idea of having a safety net as she learned to navigate adulthood.
So as she and Elizabeth were sitting together outside a bookstore one day—”She would always buy Psychology magazine,” Elizabeth remembers—Natasha had a request.
“I want you to help me write a letter to my social worker,” she said. “Will you type it for me? I can think better if I can just say what’s on my mind and not have to write it down.”
“All right,” Elizabeth replied. “What would you like to say?”
“That I want to be adopted,” she started. “I want to be a part of this family. I want to be independent. I want to do something in life.”
For the next 20 minutes, Natasha talked and Elizabeth typed. Natasha explained her social needs. She articulated her professional ambitions. And she expressed her desire to one day have a family of her own.
“She was so excited and felt so empowered to be able to say, ‘This is what I want and this is why I want it.'” Elizabeth says. “That’s something every CASA hopes for.”
In one of rare instances of an adult adoption in the LA County dependency court, Amy’s adoption of Natasha was finalized on December 30.
Natasha now lives on her own, with 24-hour support, and she is just days away from graduating from high school. Her plan is to then go to college and study psychology.
“She has gone from a very shy, scared child who didn’t want to go anywhere to someone who is always doing things—learning how to cook, going to the movies with friends, having her own bank account, registering for college,” Elizabeth says. “That’s what having a family can do for you. Being in an institution is not the same as being in a home.”