By Jodie Myintoo
Jodie Myintoo, a counsellor based in Melbourne, shares her experience officially adopting her adult daughter in the County Court.
I had the privilege of adopting my step-daughter, Monique. She is turning 23 this year. Some might say why bother? She is an adult now.
But it meant more to us—it was a final connection and acknowledgement that we were officially mother and daughter.
We had discussed this over time, as it wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly. We talked about our feelings and to know that Monique felt so strongly to have me as her mother, I don’t think there are even words to describe this experience of love that I had for her, my heart just expanded.
I spoke honestly to her about my own guilt—as a mother, I found it hard to understand how another mother could abandon a child.
Monique came into our care full-time at the age of 11. I had known Monique since she was 5-years-old. Like many families born from separation, I had over the years formed a bond with her when she visited her father for access weekends and holidays. When she was placed into our care, I tried to help the mother see that raising a child with fear and physical infliction was not appropriate; that demanding respect, you had to also give respect to the child. But it did not matter what I had to say, things did not change.
Is Monique’s biological mother alive? Yes, she is, but she had every chance to repair and heal that relationship and build that bridge for repair to begin. But sadly this did not happen. The biological mother had many chances to contact Monique, yet nothing came of it.
From my own experiences, I grew up in a home full-time with my father and step-mother. My stepmother, who hated me, was always referring to me as the Other woman’s child. I was treated as an outsider, and I endured physical and psychological abuse similar to what Monique had endured with her own mother. All I wanted growing up in that family in my teen years was to be loved and accepted to be part of a family.
When the same situation faced me as an adult, where my husband was awarded custody of his daughter, I knew that I would raise her as I would my sons. I would take her to my heart and she would feel a part of a family and feel the love and connection of a family. Although many saw us as mother and daughter already—as they had watched me raise Monique—it was still an important part of our life to make it an official deal and for an adult adoption to happen.
Adult adoptions are rare, and a step-mother adopting even more rare, at is usually step-fathers that will adopt. So adopting her this year on the 12th of July 2018 was the most adoring, beautiful moment in my life, it was as good as giving birth to my two sons.
We feel complete as a family when the Judge signed that order and called me her natural mother, I cried so many happy tears, as did Monique, just thinking of this moment again brings tears to my eyes. Us holding each other crying. Could I say the process was easy? It was like a jigsaw puzzle, I did have to seek legal help as there were forms I did not know were applicable for the adult adoption. There were affidavits that had to be done by myself and also Monique, we also had to share the last known address of the biological mother and the one we had was over 5-years-old, I suspect they wrote to that address to advise her of the adoption, but she did not attend, so maybe she does not live there or perhaps did not want to contest. But once we were passed the legalities of the paperwork and paid the fee $435, it was very easy from then.
We received a notice in the mail that our court date would be in 3 weeks—I cried that day too—finally a day, it was like announcing a pregnancy. There was a day that was going to change two lives and a family tree forever. But on a great note, the County Court in Melbourne JUST love adoptions. They see so many sad, and horrible things that adoptions are just pure JOY for them.
To the Judge that made the order, he sat with us, he was so friendly and human, you could see the absolute JOY he had signing that order, which he reminded me was undoable. He said this is A Forever Deal. Forever, that was perfect because that is what we both wanted, to be forever mother and daughter. Monique received flowers from the judge, Australian natives which are her favourite. I thought that I was just going to be her adoptive mother, but in the eyes of the law, I am now her natural mother.
That is a title that I am so proud and honoured to have. If you are considering adopting an adult who you have known or raised since they were a child, don’t shy away from the idea. If you both share a relationship, a deep bond, then it’s only natural to want to celebrate it. Jodie Myintoo is a counsellor from Melbourne specialising in separation, divorce and blended families.
To find out more about Jodie’s work, head to www.jodiemyintoocounsellor.com
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