The Adoption Journey

Today is my adoption day

This Is It

The phone was ringing again. And with every ring, her hopes increased with thoughts of, “This is it!”

For the two months they waited to have a child placed with them, she was more than ready and incredibly anxious. The decision to adopt was a deep spiritual knowing for her; she simply knew this was how they would bring another child into their family. The social workers had already placed a couple of children with them but that fell through for various reasons.

She had reached the point of deciding whether to remain on this tearful, emotional roller coaster. She summarizes her life philosophy with two sayings, “Bless it and send it” and “Lay it at the base of the cross”. She and her husband decided to use this philosophy in the adoption process.

The two of them agreed to be intentional about the child they desired. With that decision, they sat at the kitchen table with a pink post it note and brainstormed what they wanted in a child. They wrote very specific details on that pink post it note. The couple said a special prayer together. They then placed the pink post it note, with its scribbles detailing their child, underneath a cross on the fireplace.

Kids Are Her Life

Kim has been in the early childhood field for 31 years and has owned a preschool for the past 20 years. She was 39 years old with a 13-year-old daughter when she met Damon, her future husband. He had previously been married also but had no children. Kim feels that her husband is the kind of person made to be a Dad as he is so great with kids.

When they got married, they agreed that they wanted to have at least one child together. Yet, there was a problem. Kim had medical issues a few years back and did not think that she could physically have a child.

With this in mind, she and Damon obtained paperwork from the county to foster to adopt. They began completing the paperwork and taking the steps to make the adoption happen. Within two months of this, Kim was pregnant! They decided to stop moving forward with the adoption process for the time being.

The pregnancy was a little rough as she was “advanced maternal age and high risk” with much testing; which was scary for Kim with discussions about the various things that could be “wrong” with their son. Dylan was born healthy with no problems for either one of them.

An Only Child

Five years later, Kim and Damon’s son Dylan was 5 years old and in kindergarten. Their daughter, Hailey (from Kim’s first marriage), was 20 years old and in college, living on her own. They could see that their son was lonely at times. They really did not want him to be “an only” child. Hailey was essentially “an only” child as she was 15 years old when Dylan was born. Kim was also an only child and she despised it.

Kim was 45 years old and even if they could have another baby; she shares there was no way she was mentally or physically prepared to do that. The thought of a newborn was overwhelming to her. They also wanted a certain age difference between their biological son and his soon to be sibling. Kim and Damon knew they were not in a position to take on the responsibilities and time commitment of having an infant.

They had learned previously about the tremendous need for foster and adoptive families in the community. They really believed in the program. During this same time, Kim was at a fundraiser for her son’s school and another mom showed her the kids on the “Have a Heart” website. One little girl in particular really captured her attention. She could not get her mind off her. She and Damon talked about it and he was on board with learning more about the little girl.

They discovered that the little girl was in need of a very specialized home with no other children or pets due to her previous trauma and special needs. Kim so wanted to “save” her but she had to accept that she was not the child for them. However, the experience did serve as a very important stepping stone along their journey, as the little girl was the catalyst for inspiring them to begin moving forward again with fostering to adopt. This eventually led them to where they are today.

A Spiritual Calling

The desire to adopt a child became a spiritual calling for Kim. It was something that she felt a deep desire in her heart to make happen. She just could not let it go. She is not sure that Damon would say the same. Kim feels it was more about supporting her and a knowing that it was the right thing to do. He encouraged her and was along for the ride as he didn’t feel as compelled as she did to make this happen. Kim steered the ship and Damon was her shipmate.

Within two weeks of writing their intentions on a post it note and praying together, two and a half year old daughter Olivia came to live with them. She had been in foster care since 6 months of age.

This was a journey for their entire tribe as they had an incredible support system. Family, friends and neighbors stood by them throughout the entire 2-year process. Kim shares they are, and were, blessed to have such great encouragement as it took time to trust those on the outside of their tribe; those involved with the adoption process.

And even so, Kim doesn’t know how much you can really fully trust people when you have to be an advocate for your child. She feels the workers are well intentioned; but, they have a tremendous amount of responsibilities. She had to stay on top of things; making many phone calls and advocating for Olivia in order to get what they needed for their child.

The Process

They were required to take parenting classes as part of the adoption process. The classes covered what these children may be experiencing coming from difficult situations and preparing families for receiving a new child into the family. They were also provided with a transitional liaison who would check in with them periodically.

Kim and Damon were concerned about having medical background and history for the birth parents and early life of any child they considered adopting. However, there was very little medical history for Olivia as she was not born in a hospital. She did not receive medical care until she went into foster care at 6 months of age. She was tested for many health issues and all test results were negative.

It was known that Olivia’s biological mom has health issues and Olivia is known to have been exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero but it is not known to what extent. The foster mom has fostered hundreds of children with varying degrees of health issues. She reassured them that Olivia did not show any signs to be concerned about with her health or development.

Kim was able to love a child who was not biologically hers almost instantly. On the other hand, Damon felt an obligation to care for and protect her; but it took him some time to develop love for her. For him, the issue of being blood related seemed to be of more significance than it was for Kim. This was hard for her to understand and resulted in many in depth conversations between the two of them as they navigated all that adding another child to their family entailed.

Outside of Kim’s immediate family, their family’s concerns in the beginning were rooted in them taking on a child with special needs and the amount of time it would take away from their biological children. The family was concerned it would be overwhelming for Kim and Damon. Kim feels the family did have valid points and concerns as the young girl from the “Have a Heart” website who had captured Kim’s heart in the very beginning of this process, had extensive medical issues. She was viewing the situation through rose-colored glasses against the advice of those around her.

The range of emotions the family experienced throughout this entire process were diverse. Joy, anticipation, anxiety, sadness, empathy, frustration, anger, and worry are some of the emotions that Kim experienced.

They found the adoption system to be difficult. In Kim and Damon’s case, the biological parental rights had not been terminated. Going through that process was extremely emotionally difficult. Olivia’s biological mom fought against terminating her rights. This did not involve Kim and Damon. It was between the Department of Social Services and the biological mom.

However, they were required to be present at the trial. Kim could hear the biological mom sobbing as she relinquished her parental rights to her child. It was not a celebratory time for Kim as her heart hurt for that mom. She was flooded with empathy for her in that moment of listening to her sobs. Kim’s bond with her kids is incredibly strong and this was a trigger for her.

From the beginning of the process, the Department of Social Services wanted Olivia to have contact with the biological mom. It is always the Department’s process to reunite children with their biological parents or to have contact with them. The Mama Bear in Kim rose to the surface as she became protective, frustrated, and angry. She did not feel it was appropriate and thought it would be confusing for Olivia. In Kim’s view, the system did not seem to have Olivia’s best interest at heart. They took Olivia to a therapist and the therapist made the recommendation that having contact with the birth mom was not appropriate for Olivia. They were thankful that this put the issue to rest.

A New Normal

Kim shares there was a reality they all had to accept once Olivia was a part of their family. They had to adapt to a new normal. Big brother had really wanted a baby sister and after two weeks, he was done with her and ready for her to go back to where she came from.

For Kim, she knew that she needed to bond with Olivia and doing that meant she had to spend a great deal of time with her and somewhat re-parent her. There was much holding her, rocking her, singing lullabies, and tons of contact.

For Damon, he saw Kim’s bonding with Olivia as taking her time away from him, and he had to adjust to this. Even her older daughter had to adjust to there being another daughter.

However, as a family, they viewed this as all part of a normal and natural transition. They had a great deal of communication and conversations about the feelings everyone was experiencing. It took time and patience.


Kim finds it interesting how much other people are curious about their journey. People really want to know about it and she does not mind sharing. She has made it a goal to encourage and help other families to do what they did.

She has mentored two other families through the process. Her advice to others considering this journey is to be incredibly specific and detailed about what you are willing to do and not do. Kim feels there are so many children that need homes and this will help to not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the need. Another piece of advice Kim shares is that kids are kids and they do not come with a guarantee. All we can do is handle things as they come up and do the best we can.


Two years after beginning the process, setting and writing their intentions, Kim and Damon officially adopted Olivia!  I had the privilege of doing the adoption for them.  This family had one of the largest crowds I have had in the courtroom for an adoption!  The unique thing was that the foster family that first had sweet Olivia also came to the adoption hearing!

They are currently sending out announcements to family and friends to announce the finalization of the adoption! It will be a combination adoption party and 4 year birthday celebration for Olivia.

This is it!

They have their beautiful daughter Olivia and it has been a journey filled with the full range of emotions and much advocacy.

Time to celebrate!

Family Lawyers Also Bring Families Together

Wahoe county sees record number of adoptions news 2

By Rayna Brachmann, Esq.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an attorney practicing family law is when I get to help families with adoptions.  I’ve had the pleasure of representing the Martinez family in their adoptions of all three of the children featured in this video.  They are a wonderful, giving and kind family, and it was an honor to assist them with the legal process that made their bonds with their children official.  They are just one of many families in Washoe County who have adopted children in need of homes.  The team at Washoe County Human Services Agency works hard to bring families together and it is one of the best parts of my job to be able to assist with the Court process to finalize adoptions.

Family Lawyer Adoption Cases Are The Most Rewarding Work

As a Family Lawyer, adoptions are the most consistently rewarding work I do. I love being able to facilitate bringing a family together rather than the disentangling I do more often in divorces.

I have always thought of adoption cases as being universally positive. Straightforward celebrations. An uncomplicated positive aspect of my law practice.

So it was interesting for me to read this Modern Love Column, and to listen to the podcast delving further into the story about the perspective of the birth mother and the challenges associated with an open adoption. I was in tears listening to the emotional impact associated with giving up a child, and the complications that continue years after the fact when the birth mother and the adoptive mother are both committed to loving their son, and honoring the other’s role in his life.

It was also interesting to think about the very human, emotional challenges associated with open adoptions. In an open adoption, there are defined parameters for contact between the parent(s) giving a child and the adoptive family. They may include a certain age when a child will be given information about her birth family, a specific number of letters exchanged per year, copies of school pictures to the birth family, or a defined visitation schedule allowing the child to have some ongoing contact with his birth family, including other siblings. Obviously open adoption adds a layer of complication that is absent in a closed buy proscar 5mg online adoption where once the adoption is final, there is no further contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. With an open adoption, a adopted child doesn’t wonder “where did I come from?” They know, because they have some degree of ongoing contact with their family of origin. This column and podcast also touch on this issue briefly, although the perspective is entirely that of the birth mother rather than the child. It was honestly a perspective I had not considered in depth until I read this story and listened to this podcast.

I was taken aback to realize I had not spent much time thinking about the parents who gave up their child. But for that significant sacrifice, there would be no role for a Family Lawyer in assisting an adoptive family come together for a wonderful celebration, one of the few happy times I assist with in Family Court.

I still relish my role in adoption cases, and continue to believe they are the best and most positive work that I do in my role as a Family Lawyer, but it was very valuable to be able to think about adoption cases in a different context, and to broaden my perspective by taking into account the overwhelming gift birth parents give when they choose to allow other families to raise their child.

Written By:

Attorney Rayna Brachmann, Esq.
Nevada Certified Family Law Specialist


Open Adoption Not So Simple Math (Podcast)

Adopted Children Use Social Media To Find Biological Parents

Facebook and social media are being used by people who were adopted to find their biological parents, for biological parents to find the children that they gave up for adoption and for siblings to find each other.  Before Facebook, you would need to register with adoption registries and then wait until the other party registered to be able to obtain the information on the person or petition the court system to unseal adoption records which is almost impossible to get accomplished.

Now, we see people connect through social media at a rapid speed.  I know of a situation where a man wanted to find his biological parents his whole life.  His adopted mother had helped him petition the courts twice, once when he was 19 years old and a second time when he was in his late twenties, to unseal his adoption records.  The court denied him both times.  When the man was 32 years old his mother suggested that he use Facebook to try to locate his biological parents. The process went extremely fast.  The man posted his picture on Facebook on February 2nd with a sign best place to buy proscar online asking to find his biological parents with some information about them and his birth.  It was somehow shared on his biological aunt’s page and he was contacted by his biological mother on February 9th.  He asked his biological mother who his biological father was and she told him what State he lived in.  The man hired a private investigator who located a telephone number for his biological father. The man called his biological father on February 14th stating that he was the baby boy he gave up for adoption.

Now, not all situations go as quickly as this example but with social media anything is possible.  You can imagine what impact this could have.   In this case it was a good outcome but if someone doesn’t want to be found it could have some serious impact on them and their families.  This is just one example of how powerful social media can be.  Social media will continue to evolve and its use will expand in the family law arena.

Dawn Kaufman

Adoption Tax Credit Survives the “Fiscal Cliff”

A compromise was reached and the President signed the “Fiscal Cliff” bill today, January 2, 2013, which had a provision for th eAdoption Tax Credit.  The new law makes the Adoption Tax Credit a permanent part of the Internal REvenue Code.  In the past, the Adoption Tax Credit was not permanent and it included a sunset provision that caused it to “expire” for lack of a better term.

The Adoption Tax Credit best generic proscar allows families to claim a tax deduction for their adoption expenses.  Adoption experts around the country had pushed for it to be a refundable tax credit but that fature did not survive negotiations and the bill was passed withoiut the refundanble language as a compromise.  The tax credit is claimed to be a benefit of billions of dollars to families who will adopt in the future.

12 Kids and 2 Dads = Happy Family

I read through this mostly happy, slightly sad article about a family created by hook or by crook in Arizona, a state that does not currently allow second parent adoptions, or two parents of the same gender to adopt.  Despite this prohibition, the dads profiled in this article have managed to bring twelve kids out of the foster care system and into their home.  Nevada used to have a similar law which meant for years only one person in a gay couple could legally adopt children but with the passage of the domestic partnership registry during the last legislative session, in Nevada gay couples can now both legally adopt children.

Crazy Month for Family Formation / Assisted Reproductive Technology Law

So many things have happened this month that I can’t keep up with the blog posts fast enough before something else happens. Here is a brief re-cap of the events from this month:

APRIL 7, 2011:

We were thrilled to learn that the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state ban on fostering or adoption by cohabiting unmarried couples in a decision issued on April 7, 2011.  Prior to this new decision, an individual could not adopt or foster a child if that person was “cohabiting with a sexual partner outside of a marriage that is valid under the Arkansas Constitution and the laws of this state.”  This was not a statute that discriminated on its fact against same-sex couples as it also applied to unmarried different-sex couples.  However, the concern of course was that in Arkansas a same-sex couple could not remedy the problem by entering into a marriage while a different-sex couple had the remedy of marriage.

This law was found to be unconstitutional by the Arkansas Supreme Court because it substantially and directly burdened the Appellant and interfered with his fundamental right to privacy  that the Arkansas Constitution provided to its citizens.  Privacy was not had because the government had to look into the private, consensual, intimate sexual conduct of the individuals who were seeking to be foster parents or to adopt.  Most importantly, the decision made clear that the home studies, as they were conducted prior to the enactment of the law, were sufficient for the needs of the children of the State of Arkansas.

April 12, 2011

On April 12, 2011, an article was posted on the Internet titled “Couple are ordered to pay surrogate mother £568 a month for the baby they will never see“.  The article claims that the couple had already lost custody of their baby daughter to the surrogate mother. The intended parents, after six late-stage miscarriages, used a surrogacy website to find a surrogate.  They made an informal agreement to pay her £10,000 in expenses.  This was a traditional surrogacy, meaning the surrogate was biologically related to the child.  The surrogate 1/2 way through the process decided she wanted to keep the baby.  Later in the process the intended parents relinquished their contact rights for emotional reasons and stating that it was unfair for the baby to be split between two homes.  The allowed the surrogate to keep the compensation she had received to date, £4,500.  However, the surrogate has now obtained an Order that forces the Intended Parents, who do not have any contact with their baby, to pay £568 per month in child support.  This is a sad scenario.  It once again reiterates our advice to our clients:  (1) Use legitimate agencies that you have fully researched; (2) Always use attorneys; and (3) Steer away from traditional surrogacy (a surrogacy where the surrogate uses her own eggs in the process and is biologically related to the child).

April 13, 2011

On April 13, 2011, News came out of a Human Egg Donor buy generic proscar uk Antitrust Class Action Lawsuit Complaint that was filed over alleged price fixing of human egg donor services that was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the efforts of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) to set maximum compensation parameters for commercial egg donation.  The complaint alleges that ASRM and SART are engaging in “price fixing” in violation of federal anti-trust laws.  ASRM and SART guidelines were set to assure that women are not receiving fees that are so excessive that they constitute undue inducement.  The plaintiffs in the class action appear to acknowledge that purpose.  The area of egg donation and payment for egg donation is ripe for legal action and many states have not dealt with the problem within their own laws.  Nevada is one of those states.  Our law is clear on sperm donations but does not provide framework for egg donations or embryo donations.  It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out.

April 13, 2011

On April 12 and then revised on April 13, 2011, a 73 page decision was issued from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (in Louisiana).  It is a sad and shocking decision.  They decided that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution does not require states to issue new birth certificates for children born in their states but adopted elsewhere, if the out-of-state adoption is not of a type allowed under the birth state’s laws.  This is in direct contradiction to everything we have relied on in the past and what we know about Full Faith and Credit Clause.  We have always told our Clients that an Adoption Order is what they want to have in their hands because Full Faith and Credit will be on their side.

The case at issue in the Appeal was a gay couple that was from New York who adopted a child New York that was born in Louisiana.  The adoption was valid and legal in New York.  Louisiana does not allow unmarried couples to jointly adopt children.  Thus, the department in Louisiana that was in charge of birth certificates refused to issue a new birth certificate with both fathers’ names on it.  The lower court ruled in favor of the gay couple finding that Full Faith and Credit applies and a new birth certificate had to be issued.  The Appeals Court overturned the lower court’s decision, finding they did not have to issue a new birth certificate.

The decision is 73 pages of utter sadness.  It is really a description of why it is okay for a state to discriminate against children adopted by unmarried couples.  It is a depressing decision.  It reminds me of the days when the law referenced bastard children and distinguished between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children.  My hope is that this case is appealed to the US Supreme Court and that the decision is reversed.

Baby Selling Ring Involving A Lawyer

The news hit this week of a baby selling ring involving a San Diego lawyer (Theresa Erickson), a Maryland attorney (Hilary Neiman) and an “agency” run by Carla Chambers of Las Vegas, Nevada.  They plead guilty to being part of what the U.S. Attorney’s Office describes as a baby-selling ring. Read more from FBI about the plea.

Theresa Erickson, a California attorney, plead guilty to wire fraud.  She and her co-conspirators were taking women to the Ukraine to a fertility doctor who would transfer embryos to the uterus of each woman.  The reason they were using a Ukraine clinic was because they didn’t have a medical clinic in the United States that would do a transfer without a signed surrogacy contract with intended parents in place.  The embryos were supposedly created from sperm and egg donors; however, no one really knows where the eggs/sperm/embryos came from.  The women were then returned to the United States during the second trimester where the group would then work on finding couples who wanted to pay for the baby.  The couples who were solicited were told that the pregnant woman was the surrogate for another couple that fell through and that the pregnant woman needed to be rematched with a new couple.   In waiting until the women were in the second trimester of the pregnancy they were able to “sell” the babies based on the sex of the baby and actual knowledge of whether the woman was pregnant with a single baby versus twins or more.   According to prosecutors, the new couple would pay between $100,000 and $150,000 for the baby.

The couples that were paying these fees were buy proscar paypal desperate for a baby and were told by licensed attorneys, Theresa Erickson and Hilary Newman, that the process was legal and was considered “surrogacy”.    This illegal activity came to light when one of the preganant women became suspicious and reached out to a separate attorney to ask for help.  The woman was advised to contact the FBI and the investigation began.

Once the women were matched with a couple that wanted the baby, Theresa Erickson would file false documents with a California Superior Court to obtain parentage decisions.  She would allege that the baby was the result of a surrogacy contract that was in existence prior to the pregnancy between the carrier and the intended parents.  When in fact a contract did not exist prior to the pregnancy.    It appears from the court filings that a dozen couples fell for this scheme.

Surratt Law Practice assisted the FBI in this case when they were contacted by one of the women who were sent to the Ukraine to be impregnated.   We are saddened by this situation but gratefull that the FBI did such a wonderful job in pursuing this case and bringing justice.  It is really imporant for prospective parents to investigage any professionals that they are thinking of working with either for adoption or assisted reproduction.  The American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA) has released a press release, explaining just that.   “AAARTA is a non profit organization of attorneys, judges and law professors throughout the U.S.and Canada who are bound by a strict code of ethics and have distinguished themselves in the fields of adoption and assisted reproduction.”  Kimberly Surratt is a fellow with AAARTA.

Surratt Law in Reno, NV News for Adoption

Reno Family Law Attorney Kim Surratt’s clients were filmed last week by KOLO 8 during their adoption.  KOLO 8 has followed them through the entire adoption process, beginning to end.  KOLO 8 will be showing the feature tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 8.  Please tune in!

Reno’s KOLO 8 Adoption Broadcast

It’s been more than a year-long process, but finally a Truckee Meadows couple, becomes a family. Sean and Marla called KOLO 8 News Now’s Sarah Johns back in October of 2009,, saying, “We decided to adopt.” And they allowed KOLO’s cameras throughout the process of classes, buy proscar online legit intense in-home interviews, and this month: they invited us inside the courtroom as they adopted their son, Robert.

So here is the link to the KOLO 8 adoption broadcast last night.  They have the video available on their website if you would like to watch:

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