OAKLAND -- The Remington-McLeod family has a lot to celebrate -- the family's two-year odyssey to legally adopt 2-year-old daughter Hannah has ended on a happy note.
Hannah had been with the family since her birth on Aug. 12, 2010. She was premature, weighed a mere 51/2 pounds and suffered complications stemming from her mother's drug use during the pregnancy.
Angie Remington and Marta McLeod became involved in Alameda County's foster-to-adopt program after Angie's difficulty in getting pregnant with the couple's second child.
"We knew it wouldn't be easy. After all, this is a child we're talking about," Remington said. "We knew that there was always a possibility that the child would go back."
Alameda County Child Protective Services are always looking for a blood relative to take the child, Remington explained. The couple had already fostered two other children who were returned to blood relatives within a few days. Even the couple's son Maxwell -- now 6 years old -- was familiar with the process.
"His reaction was different this time," Remington recalled. "When he saw Hannah, he said, 'That's my baby.'"
"As time goes on, you fall in love with the kid," McLeod said. "You're up all night feeding her and taking care of her."
"Neither of us relaxed until the adoption papers were signed," Remington said. "We were always on pins and needles."
What should have been a relatively straightforward
"When Child Protective Services terminated her rights, she became mad, as it was no longer her choice," Remington speculated.
In order to ensure that everyone's rights are adequately protected, all parties are assigned attorneys, including Hannah and her birth mother. The court terminated the birth mother's parental rights when Hannah was 2 months old.
But the birth mother and her attorney filed an appeal just before the decision was to be finalized, claiming that Hannah was part Kaw Indian, which would have given the Kaw nation rights over the child. But after nearly eight months of investigation, the Kaw nation did not recognize Hannah.
Over the next two years, the Remington-McLeod family made some 15 appearances in court. The birth mother would repeatedly fail to appear in court and file appeals at the last moment in what seemed to be an effort to draw out the process.
Remington and McLeod speculated that the mother's family was uneasy with the adoption because Remington and McLeod were a same-sex couple, which was not compatible with their religious beliefs.
"I understand that we are fighting over a child, not a car," Remington said. "I wanted to be a good human being. I understand that this was not easy for everyone. I can't imagine having a child taken away."
As the birth mother seemingly struggled to get clean and comply with court requirements, Remington and McLeod continued to maintain contact with the birth family despite the protracted legal battle.
"We decided to let the birth family know Hannah, as long as she (the birth mother) was clean and sober," McLeod said. "We told the court that we would keep our word."
"If I'd just lost my daughter, I'd ask for the sun and hope for the moon," Remington said. But the birth mother asked to see Hannah only four times a year and didn't seem to show much interest in Hannah when she did see her.
"I'm reaching out. I'm trying to do the right thing," Remington said. "I've done a lot of reading on open adoption, and it's often a good thing."
"Hannah has four half-siblings. They often don't come to see her. When they do, no one really interacts with Hannah," Remington said.
Remington and McLeod have even gone as far as to hold joint birthday parties with Hannah's birth family. Today, Hannah is an energetic 2-year-old who talks up a storm and bosses her big brother Maxwell around. On Nov. 16, 2012, the adoption was finalized. The Remington-McLeod family had a party to share their joy with their friends.
"I am very happy for them," said longtime friend Susan Jordan. "I know personally that this child will have a wonderful life. The courts took a long time to get the mother's rights severed. It's a hard one. You want to respect the rights of the mother, but truly they should have been able to adopt the baby earlier, given how well they took care of her. It was a good decision by the court. It doesn't always go this way."
"We sleep much better now. We feel more secure," Remington said. "Mom (the birth mother) has a lot of healing to do, but Hannah couldn't wait for her to get her act together to be raised. We thought that we would be a good family for her."