Skip to main content

After years of separation from foster mom, 32-year-old man finally adopted

From Paul Vercammen and Michael Martinez, CNN
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maurice Griffin, 32, is finally able to call her "mom" legally
  • A Juvenile Court judge okays his adoption by foster parent Lisa Godbold
  • Griffin had to leave his foster family at 13; he has been searching for them ever since
  • Years later, his one-time foster mom adopts him

San Diego, California (CNN) -- A boyhood wish finally came true. But Maurice Griffin had to wait until he was a man for it to happen.

At age 32, the California man was adopted Friday.

"It was the best day in my life," Griffin said after the proceeding in San Diego Juvenile Court. "I fought for 10 years and finally the day came."

Adopting the burly, muscular, mohawk-sporting man is Lisa Godbold, his one-time foster mother.

"I was just overwhelmed with emotion," Godbold added.

With a few pen strokes by Griffin, Godbold and Judge Richard Monroy, the adoption became official.

"This is going to be quite quick," the judge told mom and son, all seated at a table. "If you blink, you miss it."

Then son hugged mom. Mom cried.

"Congratulations to you both," the judge declared.

Then a deputy took a photograph of three of them, a tradition that the judge noted is always done with small children and their adoptive parents.

Good time

The story dates to the early 1980s, when Godbold and her husband saw Griffin at an orphanage near their Sacramento home.

The smiling child seemed to fit perfectly with their family: Godbold is white. Her late previous husband was black, and the couple had two children who were, like Griffin, biracial.

The couple took Griffin in as a foster child. He quickly bonded with their sons, Gideon and Spencer.

"We were best friends," Griffin said. "We'd run around, we did mischievous things and fun things. It was a good time."

He lived with the family as a foster child for four years, until he was 13. Then, just two months shy of being adopted by them, it all fell apart.

Griffin said he wanted to be treated like a "real" son: He wanted to be disciplined like the couple's other sons. He wanted to be spanked, he said.

So he innocently told a social worker that was what was going to happen.

The social worker then told her superiors, and soon Griffin was about to be removed from the household, he said.

Family ripped apart

One day, foster care officials took Griffin away, saying he could not live with Godbold's family anymore.

"You can't spank foster children. Maurice very much wanted that," Godbold said. "We wanted him to feel like the rest of our kids. And there was a difference of opinion with some of the (child welfare) supervisors."

Godbold said she fought to keep Griffin and was told she could lose her biological children, too.

CNN contacted the state agency responsible for the case, but its officials would not comment because it's still considered a juvenile matter.

So Godbold had to let go. And as time moved on, Griffin says, he lost touch with what he felt was his only family.

"It was just an emptiness," he said. "I couldn't talk to anybody about it because nobody was there. I couldn't call somebody; there was just a void in me."

Griffin said that he acted out every chance he got in hopes the state would reunite him with the people he considered to be family.

He bounced from one foster home to another, never finding what he lost.

"I didn't let anybody get close to me again," Griffin said, holding back tears. "I hurt a lot of people. It was a rough road."

Searching for each other

Despite several obstacles, Griffin and Godbold never stopped searching for one another.

Godbold's husband died in 1998. She remarried and changed her last name, and moved.

But six years ago, Godbold found Griffin on social media. They communicated online and then one day she called him.

"She said, 'hey baby,' and I said I got to call you back," Griffin said, trying to explain how overwhelmed he was by the reunion.

As she entered the courtroom Friday, Godbold harbored fear that a surprise would halt the proceeding.

"I was actually really nervous before walking in, even though signing on the line was a formality," Godbold said. "I thought something might happen to keep it from becoming official today."

Griffin is an example of triumph in foster care.

"I'm a living example of it, that I have been through it," Griffin said. "I just never stopped. It will all work out."

CNN's Lateef Mungin contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Action needs to be taken immediately before affected states potentially collapse, says campaigner Bob Geldof.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1033 GMT (1833 HKT)
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Australian PM Tony Abbott vows to "shirt-front" Russia's Putin over the MH17 disaster.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
Serbia and Albania try to play but the major game is called off after a drone flying a political flag enters the stadium.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
George Clooney's new wife, is now Amal Clooney, raising the issue of married names.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1757 GMT (0157 HKT)
The mysterious unmanned X-37B space plane returns to Earth after more than two years in space. But the U.S. Air force isn't saying much.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
Public health experts are asking whether the CDC is getting the wrong message out.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1541 GMT (2341 HKT)
It's no longer necessary to launch your startup in Silicon Valley -- thanks to the internet, you can do it anywhere.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0900 GMT (1700 HKT)
From a "democracy wall" to a towering "Umbrella man" statue, see the best art from the massive protests in Hong Kong.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT