Chelsea resident Kelly Flint-- Attorney at UM Student Legal Services mothers three adopted children

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

For attorney Kelly Flint and her husband Bill Cerveny, November is a time for double celebrations - giving thanks at Thanksgiving for family and friends, and observing National Adoption Month. The Chelsea residents have four children, three of them adopted.

"Adopting children is something my husband and I began discussing early in our marriage," says Flint, staff attorney for University of Michigan Student Legal Services in Ann Arbor.

"After our daughter Ann was born in 1989, we completed our graduate education and began the adoption process."

At the time the couple lived in Illinois, where the licensing process - classes and a home study - took about six months.

"We wanted to adopt a child who was in the foster care system, and thought we would have a child in our home within a year of starting the process," she says.

Their daughter was 4 years old when they began the process, initially hoping Ann and an adopted child would be two years apart in age.

"We wound up being on the adoption waiting list for nearly 3 years before being matched with our son, Andy," Flint says.

Andy, who had been in a children's shelter since he was a year old, was 23 months old when he became part of the family, and Ann was 7.

Shortly after Andy entered their lives, the family moved to Connecticut. Flint returned to Chicago for the adoption court hearings, and had the opportunity to meet Andy's birth mother.

"She's a very nice woman who did not have the tools or support at that time to care for seven children," Flint says.

Andy had five siblings in the foster care system - an older sibling lived with a relative - and his mother contested the termination of her parental rights for all of them, so matters went to trial. Finalization of the adoption took nearly 3 years, and occurred a few months before Andy's fifth birthday. Since Flint was licensed to practice law in Illinois, she was able to finalize the legal documents and schedule the hearing.

"It was a pleasant surprise to experience the adoption hearing. It was very different from the criminal defense and civil hearings I had been accustomed to," she says. "There was no arguing and no objections, and the judge let Andy come up to the bench and use his gavel."

Andy is now 15 and a student athlete, playing on the football, basketball and track teams at Chelsea High School.

"He's a great student and an ideal brother to his younger sisters, and looks forward to taking his driver's road test in a few months," Flint says.

Andy's older sister Ann is a junior at the University of Michigan.

The family lived in Connecticut till 2003, where Flint worked as an assistant attorney general, and for a few years represented the Department of Children and Families in the Child Protection Unit, handling termination of parental rights and abuse/neglect cases. Flint and her husband decided to adopt another child in the foster care system, and completed the licensing process in Connecticut.

"Bill's job transferred him to Michigan before we could complete the placement process, so we became licensed in the state of Michigan shortly after moving here and had a home study completed," she says. "Our initial plan was for one more child but we learned about two sisters who were in foster care and needed permanent placement."

Maddie was 4 and Livvie was almost 3 years old when they came to join the family.

"Both girls love school," their mother says. "Maddie is a talented artist and athlete, and designs fashions in a sketchbook in her spare time. She would like to be a fashion designer and also have careers as a supermodel and nurse. Livvie is studious and clever -- she loves her Nintendo DS and her stuffed animals, and plans to design cars, be a school principal and a firefighter when she grows up.

"Our family has its challenges with so many people under one roof, but there is never a dull moment. In addition to the kids, we have two dogs that we adopted from humane societies, and three cats - one from a Humane Society, one abandoned, and one rescue."

The family joined the Chelsea grassroots organization "One World One Family," where Andy won an award for an essay about Martin Luther King Jr., and Ann was the driving force behind the formation of a Diversity Club at Chelsea High School.

The family encourages others to consider fostering and adopting.

"Adopting children in the foster care system has been the most challenging and rewarding experience for our family," Flint says. "The road to finalizing adoption of a child can be frustrating, particularly when the child is in the foster care system, but the end result is well worth it."

Published: Thu, Dec 3, 2009

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