Houston News & Search
Photo: Annie Mulligan / For The Houston Chronicle
A year ago today, two loving Houston foster mothers were told by Child Protective Services to pack the bags of the 3- and 4-year-old boys they were hoping to adopt. The foster children were being removed after Angela Sugarek and Carol Jeffery, both public school educators, reported one too many times the boys’ outcries about being abused by an older sibling they were required to visit.
The devastated foster mothers complied, not certain if they’d ever see the children again but vowing to fight as hard as they could in court to get them back.
That they did, as I chronicled in a series of columns last year.
On Thursday, the tears and worry were gone. The boys were all smiles in a Wharton County courtroom as a judge gave them candy and let them sit in his leather swivel chair behind the bench.
The judge, visiting jurist Eric Andell, read their new names and declared them adopted. And Sugarek and Jeffery — already mothers in every sense of the word — became official.
A gaggle of tearful supporters snapped pictures of a scene some surely thought they’d never see. The CPS supervisor who had previously blocked the adoption, and insisted on placing the boys with the older sibling they claimed abused them, was nowhere to be seen.
“I’m just elated, and I feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders,” Sugarek said afterward on the courthouse lawn.
And the boys? Dressed in suits, clip-on ties and shiny black shoes, they seemed most impressed with the chocolate they got from the judge.
But once the older boy, now 5, was settled in his car seat for the hour-long drive home, I asked what being adopted meant.
“To stay here forever. To have a family forever,” he said.
What did he think about that?
“Yeah,” he said, nodding approvingly. “It’s good.”
Just as it was never clear why CPS officials blocked the adoption, it wasn’t quite clear why they eventually consented. We can only hope someone came to his or her senses and started considering the best interests of the boys, who had already been shuttled from foster placement to foster placement and longed for the stable, supportive home their mothers provide.
It’s an outcome that couldn’t have happened without dedicated parents who refused to give up, a firecracker of a lawyer, Julie Ketterman, and also, Houston Chronicle readers who followed the columns, got mad, and then helped get results by calling state representatives, raising money for attorney fees and alerting officials in Austin who oversee foster care.
I’ll write more about this day in my Sunday column and share some of the previously unreported hurdles these mothers went through.
Houston News & Search