'Heartbreaking': Coronavirus court closings push California adoptions into 2021

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Coronavirus court closures create months long delays for adoptions

Finalizing the adoption of Stephanie Rivero and Ryan Cameron’s two foster sons meant more than providing closure for the Merced family. The couple would finally be able to make medical decisions for the 5-year-old, who has a life-threatening genetic condition and is scheduled for surgery this summer.

They are among thousands of foster families in California whose adoption plans have been thrown into chaos with family courts closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Times is withholding identifying details about the foster children in this article to comply with privacy laws.California is home to 55,000 foster children. Most in the foster system are reunited with their families, but about 1 in 10 are adopted every year.

Natalia and Randall Bergman, shown with daughter Jessica, 16, have been foster parents of twin girls since the girls were 3 months old. They were set to adopt the twins in April. Their hearing is now scheduled for 2021.Natalia and Randall Bergman had an April 7 court date to finalize their adoption of the twin girls they’d fostered for 2½ years. The hearing in a Los Angeles County courtroom was delayed to April 25 because of the coronavirus crisis. Now, it has been delayed until early 2021.

“I was looking forward to having some closure. I was looking forward to that sense of permanency. I was looking forward to my daughters having my last name,” Natalia Bergman, 40, said, her voice breaking. “I was looking forward to being able to make all the decisions for my girls without having to seek approval from someone else. I was looking forward to this chapter closing.”Under state law, adoption finalization hearings are supposed to take place in person.

Cynthia Billey, director of the foster care adoption program at the Alliance for Children’s Rights, said online technology had been used in a handful of cases in Los Angeles County, including for children who were about to turn 18, families moving out of state and children who faced medical needs that could not wait.

 

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