Losing a loved one is never easy. But imagine going through such a traumatic experience and then having to face another daunting task – taking care of a young child.
That's exactly what happened to *Wilma and her husband when their 40-year-old daughter passed away unexpectedly, leaving behind a three-year-old son. With the father not being willing or capable of raising the child, Wilma knew she had to act fast to ensure her grandson didn't end up in the foster care system.
“I was in a quandary dealing with the death of our daughter and the uncertain future of her son,” Wilma said whose daughter had been living with them since she was separated from her husband.
“Wilma’s biggest worry was that the child’s father was unpredictable,” said Staff Attorney Mary Pascual who was their primary advocate. “He has never seen his child and even though he had no interest in keeping him, he would say that he would take his son. Their worry is that he would take him one day all of a sudden.”
Good thing Wilma and her husband reached out to Legal Aid. Mary helped them understand the intricacies of the law and gave them guidance throughout each step.
“Legal Aid helped me understand the options, whether to go with guardianship or adoption,” said Wilma. “Guardianship would permit the father to take him at any time. Our undertaking would be adoption, taking full responsibility and custody of our grandson and free of interference from a vacillating father in name only.”
The greatest obstacle was getting the father to consent to the adoption. He initially had several conditions such as his child keeping his last name and him seeing his son on certain days. The delay and indecisions frustrated Wilma.
Ultimately, the father agreed to sign the adoption papers under the condition that his son retained his last name.
“We reluctantly agreed to his stipulation but… we believed that our grandson’s immediate safety and security has precedence over this,” Wilma said.
In May 2023, Wilma and her husband officially became the legal guardian of their beloved grandchild!
“I was very happy that this whole case went through,” said Mary. “This is the type of case that you would see in foster care. It would have taken them time, and the father would have had the time to take the child away from them.”
The couple now feels at peace. They are confident about their grandson’s safety, well-being and future, and are looking forward to getting him enrolled in pre-school.