By Marina Andalon
Once a year the courtroom at Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court is decorated with signs, balloons and teddy bears for the kids who are awaiting the final process of legally being adopted into a new family.
Last month, on Friday Nov. 18 an estimated 230 foster children were adopted on National Adoption Day in Los Angeles. The Santa Monica Amazon Studios Legal team was there to give families the greatest gift this year.
National Adoption Day is a day recognized to raise awareness of more than100, 000 children in foster care. These children patiently wait to find a permanent and loving family, and this year the Amazon Studios Legal team was able to help.
Eleven members of the Legal team decided to partner with Public Counsel, a pro bono law firm in Los Angeles to help and support four different families who were in the process of finalizing adoptions.
Ajay Patel, Associate General Counsel at Amazon Studios Legal team, said “Pro bono work as a lawyer is important because it’s the right thing to do, and its not always easy to figure out how we can help. Which is why organization like Public Counsel, who focuses on pro-bono projects are terrific. They help make it easy for lawyers to find opportunities to give back to the community.”
The Amazon Studios Legal team felt pro bono work was the vehicle that helped the team better understand the needs of the community. Especially with the holidays here, the pro bono work was able to help the team focus on what is important as well as expand the range of advocacy for others.
Patel has been an attorney for 22 years, and oversees the Studios legal department. The family he helped with consisted of grandparents who adopted two granddaughters, twin three year olds, and one five year old grandson.
Patel divided the legal team into small groups, and assigned each attorney to a family. Each attorney was to help the family move quickly through the process of adoption and ensuring there were no complications and delays.
National Adoption Day fell on Nov. 18, and the adoption ceremony took place at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court. There were plenty of families, and new parents who received the best gift ever.
Legal Assistant, Lydia Hewlett, participated in her first adoption project. She said, “I had no idea that there were so many kids in the foster care system that were waiting to finalize the adoption process.”
Xiaoxi Cheng, Associate Contracts Manager at Amazon Studios assisted a single grandmother adopt her eleven-year-old granddaughter. The grandmother had been caring for her granddaughter since birth, and both had waited a very long time to legally become mother and daughter.
“The most rewarding experience was spending time with our client, the adoptive child and their entire extended family on National Adoption Day,” said Cheng. “We were able to spend several hours getting to know and hear family stories and special moment in their lives. Our team felt much pride standing next to the adopting grandmother, as the judge made his order. It was a joyous and exciting day for everyone.”
Farhaad Virani, Senior Corporate Counsel has been an attorney for 12 years. Virani said, “ Beyond helping the family file the proper adoption papers and guiding them through the adoption process, we also advocated for our family to receive the proper level of Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) benefits and any retroactive Foster Care benefits.
Nubia Ceron, Los Angeles resident was one of the family members who was finally able to adopt her four year old grandson. “I started the process four years ago, and for Amazon to come in and help has truly been a blessing,” said Ceron. “They were so amazing and helpful, truly the best gift to have received this year.”
“It’s always gratifying to be able to do something as an attorney that has a profound and positive impact on people in need of help,” said Patel.