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Impact Stories Published August 18, 2022

Gaining Security Through Adoption

It’s news that no parent ever wants to hear: “Your daughter has small tissue sarcoma.” When Shandora Scruggs heard this, she moved her daughter and grandsons into her house so she could take care of them. Shandora and her daughter discussed what would happen to the boys if the cancer worsened. With neither boy’s father in the picture, Shandora set out to legally secure their future.

Shandora needed standby guardianship of her grandsons, but on her fixed income, hiring an attorney was out of the question. Fortunately, she qualified for free assistance from the Family Law Litigation Clinic at Temple University. With the help of clinic director Sarah Katz, Shandora became her grandsons’ standby guardian shortly before her daughter died.

After caring for the boys for three years as their legal guardian, Shandora decided to take it a step further. She knew guardianship provided only so much security: if something happened to her, or if the absentee father decided to file for custody, her grandsons could again find themselves in legal jeopardy. She wanted to adopt the boys, and she reached out to VIP for help.

VIP re-connected Shandora and her family with Sarah Katz, this time in her capacity as a VIP volunteer. Shandora knew she would be well taken care of:

“During the guardianship process, Sarah went out of her way to help me,” she said. “She even visited my daughter while she was sick in the hospital to move the process forward.”

In the face of one final hurdle – how to deal with the absentee father, who still lived in Philadelphia and might contest the process – Sarah and Shandora prevailed. They compiled ample documentation, including missed court dates and child support payments, that convinced the court to allow Shandora to adopt her grandsons. Despite her limited resources, with VIP and Temple’s help, Shandora navigated the complex and costly processes required to secure her family’s future. “The legal system was on my side during this time,” she said. “I hope more people understand that free legal services will help them, and take advantage of these resources.”