Winter 2020

The stress and struggles of the Covid-19 pandemic have affected us all. Through these challenges, Grob & Eirich has continued to help our clients build their families, albeit in some new and innovative ways. Our vital work in adoption, assisted medical reproduction, child welfare and immigration law continues through the pandemic.

Thank you for taking a moment to read our newsletter. This edition features the impact of the pandemic on our work and the story of Mabinty’s successful secondary adoption. We feature one of our partners, Hope and Home, and highlight one our clients, the Halls, and their adopted daughter Ivy, who were featured on the Today Show. We are thrilled to congratulate our newest associate attorney, Kate Stafford, on passing the Colorado bar and we celebrate Seth’s recognition as a 2021 Super Lawyer.

The most important thing during this challenging time is the health and safety of family, friends, colleagues and clients. Please stay safe and healthy. We all wish you the happiest of holidays!

Seth & Tim
The Impact of the Pandemic on the Firm and Our Clients
A lot has changed in the world as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Grob & Eirich has continued to do their important work to help clients build their families. The attorneys ensure that clients know what to expect and how things will be done differently. The most significant change was the majority of counties in the Denver metro area switched to the Webex platform for all court hearings.

“It’s a significant change,” say Tim Eirich. “The use of video conference has allowed some efficiencies. I can be in different jurisdictions in a matter of moments. The fact that I don’t have to travel to court saves time and money for our clients, but there are drawbacks too. Court hearings by video removes some of the human element. When people get emotional testifying in a child welfare case, for example, it is different when they are tearing up only a few steps away from you as compared to doing so on a video screen. I often wonder how that additional layer of distance impacts decision making. And there is an additional challenge in trying to communicate with multiple individuals during a hearing. I’m on video with the court, and I’m texting with my clients to gather additional information or communicate what is going on. That can be a struggle.”

Seth Grob explains some of the changes he has seen in adoption cases. “When adoptive families are first matched with a birth mother, they used to be able to easily visit her, whether in state or out of state, and have face-to-face contact to get to know each other. Now they are relying on video chat and texting. Hospitals are often limiting who can be in a delivery room or inside the hospital at all. Some adoptive parents thus don’t meet their child until 24-48 hours after birth and at the time of discharge. That’s a strain for adoptive parents. And adoption hearings aren’t as celebratory via WebEx, when you can’t be in person with the judge and take pictures.”

“International adoptions can be even more challenging, with travel restrictions and border closures,” says Seth. “Some adoptive parents can’t get their children; they just can’t travel. This is slowly opening up, but it depends on the country.”  Moreover, in a recent Hague Adoption Convention case involving Seth’s clients from Ireland, the adoptive parents had to wait two months until they were able to process a United States passport for the child and return as a family to Ireland.

The Pandemic has also raised many new issues for surrogacy cases. “For a while, fertility clinics stopped doing embryo transfers, but we are seeing clinics open up again,” says Seth. “And we have to be thoughtful about drafting contracts with surrogates to address Covid-19 specific issues. What if the surrogate gets Covid-19? What if she is unable or decides not to work for safety reasons and experiences lost wages? What happens if the parents can’t travel to be there for the delivery? Who will take care of the baby? What are the surrogate’s requirements for testing or vaccination, if and when there is a vaccine? There are a lot of new issues to consider.”
Tim explains how the pandemic forced the child welfare court system to become technologically savvy. “Most cases from the beginning of the pandemic were delayed as the courts tried to figure out what to do. It was a huge strain. The court system for child welfare proceedings was pretty archaic as all documents were paper filed and everything had to be done in person. In the span of 2-3 months, the court system made incredible leaps to allow for filings by email and video capabilities in every court room. Despite how challenging the pandemic has been, the silver lining is that the changes made will allow for the child welfare system to better and more efficiently serve children and families when the next issue arises that otherwise would have caused delay, like a severe snowstorm or a witnesses inability to personally appear in court.
Mabinty’s Story
Successful Secondary Adoption
“Since my first mission trip, when I was 15, I knew I wanted to adopt, and my heart has always been for Africa,” says Savanna. “But the cost is insane. We got to adopt Mabinty in a way that we feel only God could have thrown together.”

Savanna and Nate had been married 10 years and wanted to have children but had struggled with fertility. They decided to become foster parents and had started the process to become licensed. Then they saw seven-year-old Mabinty at church.

“I loved to watch her sing in church, loved to watch her praise and worship. She had a fun personality and a big smile,” says Savanna. “The first Sunday we saw her, on the drive home I said, ‘I want her’. There was something about her that caught my attention.”

The church’s pastor and his wife run a nonprofit called the Institute for Attachment and Child Development. Their mission is to work with children who have suffered trauma and help them form healthy bonds with their adoptive families. Mabinty had been sent to the Institute by her adoptive family who lived in California. They said she was having a hard time attaching to her new family and needed some help.

Mabinty was born in Serra Leon. Her biological parents couldn’t afford to take care of her. She lived in an orphanage for a few years and then it flooded. Then she lived with a social worker for a while. The family from California was finally able to adopt her in 2018 when she was 6 years old. Less than a year later, Mabinty was sent to the Institute of Attachment.

“Adoptive children from other countries have often spent extensive time in orphanages and thus haven’t formed a secure attachment to another person in the critical bonding period of 0-3 years old,” Seth Grob says. “When these foreign children are later adopted, they are often older and sometimes experience attachment disorders. The California family had hoped the time at the Institute would help their relationship with their child, but ultimately, they felt they couldn’t be successful.”

The pastor and his wife knew that Savanna and Nate were interested in adopting, so when the California family said they were interested in dissolving their adoption and pursuing a secondary adoption for Mabinty, Savanna and Nate jumped at the chance.

“We already knew we loved her from church,” says Savanna. “When the opportunity came up, we automatically said yes.”

Savanna and Nate did an expedited home study and took the required adoption classes. They began working with the Colorado child placement agency, Adoption Options, which has a unique Bright Beginnings program to assist with secondary adoptions. The agency recommended Grob & Eirich to help with legal and immigration issues. Seth worked with the adoption agency in California to free the child for adoption, and then finalized the adoption in Colorado.

“We needed to do the ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) process so that Mabinty could legally remain in Colorado and be adopted in Colorado,” says Seth. “Additionally, Katie Glynn from our firm was able to get an amended certificate of citizenship. Because our firm specializes in adoption and immigration services, we were able to provide both services seamlessly for this case.”

“Seth was very knowledgeable,” says Savanna. “He told us what he needed and when he needed it so that everything on our end was smooth. If I had any question, such as getting her passport or social security number, he would get it taken care of. He was quick and I really appreciated that. Seth and Katie, they have been amazing.”

Savanna and Nate say that Mabinty has attached to them and is doing very well. “This girl came to us with so many labels and on medications for all kinds of things: post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, reactive attachment disorder,” says Savanna. “Since we have had her we pulled her off all the medications, and she has attached to us.”

Seth explains how important the first adoptive family can be in a secondary option. “I have been involved in well over 75 cases like this in my 30 years of practice. I don’t think of dissolved adoptions as failures. Rather, I view the initial adoptive family as serving as a bridge to the child’s forever family by bringing the child to the U.S. These cases can be very successful if the right subsequent match is made.”

Mabinty was legally adopted by Savanna and Nate on August 7, 2020. “We did it over the phone with the judge. Seth prepared us beforehand to be sure it was all smooth. Then we had a big adoption party the next day.”
Partner Spotlight: Hope and Home
Hope and Home is a child placement agency based in Colorado Springs that supports, trains and licenses foster parents. The agency was started in 1998 by some church bible study members who were concerned about foster care children in their community. Today they have 200 foster homes and 230 children in their care, and have expanded across the state to Denver, Alamosa and soon in Grand Junction.

Tim Eirich and Ross Wright, Hope and Home’s executive director, have been colleagues for many years. Tim works with Hope and Home on any legal concerns the agency may have, as well as working with many of their clients.

“Tim is trustworthy and wise,” says Gina Milne, Hope and Home’s chief of staff. “Any time there is a crisis, Tim’s name always pops up first. He is someone we go to for insight and wisdom. He has been a pillar of Hope and Home for many years.”

“I’ve worked with Ross on a lot of cases over the years,” says Tim. “Hope and Home takes a very supportive and active role with their foster families. They are great advocates, particularly when their foster families are involved in complicated cases. They are a great agency to work with, very responsive and knowledgeable.”
Ivy’s Family Gets the Financial Support They Need for Her Special Needs
For National Adoption Month in November 2020, the Today Show on NBC featured a lengthy story on Grob & Eirich clients, Byron and Kari Hall and their adopted daughter Ivy. The case involved a private interstate adoption involving a one-year old child who was born with Diastrophic Dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism and degenerative disorder affecting the development of cartilage and the skeletal system. The case presented the novel issue of whether the maximum Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that the child could receive based on her disability served as the cap for the monthly adoption assistance program or whether the child qualified for a higher amount as determined by what the child would have qualified for if she had been placed in foster care. The State of Colorado and the applicable County argued that because the child received $522 per month through SSI, the maximum the child could receive in adoption assistance was $261, the difference between what the child was receiving from SSI and the maximum available under the program. Seth Grob and Kate Stafford from Grob & Eirich argued that, alternatively, because the child would be ineligible for SSI post-adoption as a result of the family’s income becoming relevant following the adoption being finalized, the maximum amount that the child could receive was $ 1,105 per month as that is what the child would be eligible for if placed in foster care.

“After months of negotiations and briefing the issue, we prevailed,” says Seth Grob. “The difference in the amount the child will actually receive in comparison to what the County initially offered over the course of the child’s life is approximately $200,000. This money will be critical for this family to be able to meet Ivy’s special needs. These needs include multiple out-of-state trips to seek specialized medical care for Ivy; home modifications, including hardwood floor installation and widening of doorways for wheelchair access; fittings for door handles and light fixtures; partial modification of counter heights in the home; toilet installation; installation of a wheelchair ramp or lift for the family’s home and van; service dog for balance and retrieving items; special shoes and clothing given the child’s small stature; specially made sports and recreation equipment; and modified laptop and keyboard to accommodate the child’s small and disabled hands.” 

"We had total confidence that Seth and his team were on our family’s side and would help get the amount of adoption subsidy that our daughter deserved,” says Kari Hall. “Seth is very knowledgeable in the field of adoption subsidy and helped us stay level headed and calm during an otherwise stressful process. Whenever we had a question or needed to talk during the process, everyone at Grob & Eirich was always quick to respond and gave us honest and helpful answers.”

Click here to view the segment on the Today Show.
Kate Stafford Becomes Grob & Eirich’s Newest Associate Attorney
Kate Stafford joined Grob & Eirich in 2019 as a paralegal with the intention to take the Colorado bar exam this past February.

“Studying for the bar was stressful as I was still working full time in the beginning,” says Kate. “I graduated from law school in 2016, so it felt intimidating to take on the expansive subject matter of the bar exam four years later. Some of the subjects on the Colorado Bar Exam are different than in California, where I attended law school, so I was nervous about my ability to self-teach. Thankfully, I was able to use all of my accrued time off leading up to the exam so I could hunker down and study.” In April Kate found out she passed.

“We are excited about Kate’s transition to handle her own cases and represent her own clients,” says Seth. “She has a lot of enthusiasm and interest in becoming an important attorney in our office.”

“I’m excited to be growing with the firm,” says Kate. “Seth and Tim have been encouraging and supportive since day one. Everyone has been so patient with me, which allows me room to try new things. I love being involved in adoption cases. I am also interested in learning more about child welfare and litigation, as I was less available to observe these cases in my role as a paralegal. Tim has been great in taking me under his wing for that purpose. I look forward to getting to engage with clients on my own and continuing the great work that Seth, Tim and our other attorneys do. I feel lucky to be part of their team.”
Awards, Presentations, and Committees
Seth Grob

Seth Grob was recently named a 2021 Super Lawyer in Colorado in the areas of family law, adoption, and surrogacy. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. No more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are named to Super Lawyers.

Colorado Department of Human Services Child Welfare Permanency Task Group (2020), (Seth Grob drafted and participated in implementing various state rules and regulations related to permanency issues including adoption assistance, public and private adoption, and disrupted/dissolving adoptions).

Tim Eirich

 “Legal Rights of Foster Parents and Current Issues in Colorado,” Colorado State Foster Parent Association, Video Training Series (April 2020)

“Legal Rights of Foster Parents and Current Issues in Colorado,” Colorado State Foster Parent Association, Video Training Series (May 2020)

“Legal Rights of Foster Parents and Current Issues in Colorado,” Colorado State Foster Parent Association, Video Training Series (June 2020)

“Legal Rights of Foster Parents and Current Issues in Colorado,” Lutheran Family Services (September 2020)