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Upstate attorney Trey Ingram knows first-hand what families go through when they are beginning the adoption process.
Ingram wrote an article in the most recent issue of SC Lawyer about the changes in adoption law. He was interested in this topic for two reasons. One, he personally advocated for change to the law. Two, adoption law impacts his family.
Ingram’s interest in adoption led to his law career. He searched for job openings with adoption agencies when his fiancée (now wife) suggested he take the LSAT to see what would happen. Now, Trey jokes his day job is a real estate attorney, but he takes pleasure and honor in representing foster parents with adoptions and advocating for foster care and adoption reform.
Trey and his wife Kelli have been married for almost 14 years and are parents of six children by birth, foster care and adoption.
“Once you sit in the client seat, your perspective on these things shifts,” Ingram says. “We have always said that any child that comes into our home has a home with us for as long as they need. For some, that has been less than 24 hours, for one it was 19 months, and for two, it thankfully became a lifetime.”
Before 2018, the foster parents lacked the right to seek the family court’s determination on whether or not adoption is in the child’s best interest. Ingram sat in courtrooms hearing attorneys and judges tell him he lacked standing and did not have the right to ask for adoption to be considered in his foster care cases.
“In one scenario, many months after we were told that adoption was the child’s court-approved permanent plan, it suddenly wasn’t. And our opinion didn't matter. I know what it feels like to have a child removed from my home, a child who thought I was his father because he’d been with us since a little after his birth to 19 months, removed from my home.”
Ingram said he would do it all over again though because every day the little boy stayed with his family, he was in a safe, drug-free, violence-free home where he was loved and cherished as every child should be. Some children in foster care are not that lucky.
Because of recent actions by the General Assembly and S.C. Supreme Court, Trey’s family and others like his will never have to relive that whole experience. Changes to the law—as outlined in Trey’s recent article—now allow families to present evidence and ask the family court to consider the adoption option.