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
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT