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Mississippi College Law School Adoption Clinic Benefits Families

Crystal Welch serves as director of the MC Law Adoption Legal Clinic.
Crystal Welch serves as director of the MC Law Adoption Legal Clinic.

The successful adoption of a teenage boy in late September brought joy to his new parents. It happened due to the hard work of the Mississippi College Law School Adoption Legal Clinic and its network of supporters.

Hinds Chancery Judge Tiffany Grove gave her approval for Jaylen, 14, to join his loving parents at their Byram home. Following a Zoom court hearing, parties connected with the MC Law program expressed their delight.

From clinic director Crystal Welch to MC Law Dean Patricia Bennett and students, the judge’s final decision on September 24 came after a great deal of hard work.

The MC Law Adoption Clinic partners with the legal community, the Mississippi Department of Human Services, and deserving families to open doors for hundreds of children to be adopted. Boys and girls in Central Mississippi find permanent homes following time spent in foster care.

It’s a program that director Welch feels blessed to be associated with as students acquire courtroom skills they will utilize in the profession.

“For twelve years, I have finalized adoptions and watched adoptees grow and thrive with their new families,” Welch said. She is elated to see Jaylen’s adoption. “The depth of Jaylen’s resilience and the magnitude of his courage, strength and ambition are awe-inspiring to bear witness to.”

Jaylen and his new Mississippi parents are not just legal cases with deadlines. “They are real people with stories to share and we want them to create a new ending,’’ she said.

During the hearing, MC Law student Christian Shiyou of Collins questioned three witnesses. They included the boy’s future parents, the father, Lafrederick Taylor and mother Teneasha Taylor. The mom is an MC nursing graduate who works in pediatric ICU at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Shiyou quizzed Karen Monday, an adoption specialist with the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services.

Even before the adoption was finalized, Lafrederick Taylor expressed his love for Jaylan and desire to welcome him into their three-bedroom home with their daughter. “He’s our son.”

The teen enjoys watching football games on TV, plays the piano and loves to learn. Jaylan is already making plans to attend college.

Each year in the United States, more than 135,000 children are adopted in a process that is often challenging. The MC Law Adoption Clinic makes the process less complicated for families in the region.

Both parents, Monday testified, “have been patient with him (Jaylen). He’s grown so much. He’s more confident and loving.” She recommended his adoption and Judge Grove agreed. The boy will join a nice, warm, loving and stable home, says Grove, an MC Law graduate. “It’s an honor for me to sign this final decree of adoption. Congratulations!”      

Being connected with the adoption clinic is a win-win situation for all participants.

“The whole class and I enjoy the opportunity to help the families that come to the clinic,” Shiyou said. “I personally find it rewarding to help these families grow and provide new opportunities to the children.”

President Blake Thompson is among the strongest advocates of the adoption clinic.

“By providing high-quality legal services to families pursuing adoption in metro Jackson, MC is living its mission of serving our community,” Dr. Thompson said.

The MC president thanks the program’s leaders. “We applaud the hard work of Dean Patricia Bennett and clinic director, Crystal Welch, to give students the opportunity to apply their legal training and help create permanent homes for deserving children.”

The Adoption Legal Clinic finalized 105 adoptions in 2018, from January through December. The clinic finalized 120 adoptions from January through August 2019. The clinic finalized 20 adoptions from January 2020 through September amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global health emergency dramatically lowered adoption numbers. New health protocols changed procedures for the MC Law program.

Participants are limited at court hearings. Many cases are being held via Zoom hearings.

Traditionally, families are invited to hearings, social networking is encouraged and participants take photos to commemorate the occasion. Even with Zoom hearings, Welch said, “we try to make it special for the families.”

Other students assisted with drafting, filing and representation in the teen’s adoption. They included Camille Barr, Tatum Diel, Shelby Schepens, and all members of the Class of 2021 at MC Law.