Jayden and Brianna

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Of the 53,500 children adopted from foster care in 2021, roughly one-third were by relatives.

Image of twins Jayden and Brianna

Twins Jayden and Brianna spent their first year of life moving between motel rooms with their biological mother.

Then she made the decision to place them in the care of her cousin, Jennifer Dukes. “They were staying in a run-down motel when I first got them. I agreed to help her out and take them in. To provide for them until she got on her feet.”

Soon, Jayden and Brianna moved into Jennifer’s home. This would be the first time they’d experience stability. Jennifer described the state of neglect the twins experienced before taking them in. “They didn’t have anything. Only thing they had was a shirt. They didn’t have shoes, socks, pants, bags, bottles, cups — nothing,” Jennifer remarked. She became quickly devoted to her new responsibility: “Making sure they have everything they need. And also the things that they want.”

Jennifer kept in touch with her cousin, checking regularly on when she would be ready to care for her children. But months stretched into years, and Jennifer naturally found herself growing increasingly attached to Jayden and Brianna, and they to her. She couldn’t help but feel relieved when their mother asked Jennifer to legally adopt the twins.

Jennifer knew she could not navigate the legal adoption process on her own, nor could she afford to hire an attorney. Fortunately, she was referred to Bay Area Legal Services and began working with Laura Ankenbruck of our Family Law Team.

Relatives provide the largest safety net for children and always have.”

Attorney Laura Ankenbruck

Image of Jennifer and Twins

The twins with their adoptive mother, Jennifer.

Shortly before the twins’ fourth birthday, Jennifer and Laura arrived at the hearing, prepared to finalize the adoption. When the presiding judge asked Jennifer if she was ready to take on the full-time responsibility of raising the children, Jennifer exclaimed, “Yes, sir!” — and was granted the adoption of Jayden and Brianna.

“I was just overwhelmed with joy knowing that it was finally over,” Jennifer said. “I’ve done my part and I’m taking care of the babies, because that’s my responsibility... I’ve got them in school and in Head Start. I’ve got them on the right track.”

Although Jennifer, Jayden, and Brianna came together under trying circumstances, today, with the help of Bay Area Legal, they share a last name - and a loving household.

“If you don’t know your resources, [Bay Area Legal] will make sure they find the right ones for you,” Jennifer said. “They will get you the help that you need. They will get you to the right people. Without a shadow of a doubt, they do the best job.”

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