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Fostering family

An Ashland couple celebrated their new son Saturday and a new law that made his adoption possible.

The Dills family, particularly their newly adopted son, Christian, 2, are the first in Oregon to benefit from legislation enacted last year that gives foster parents greater consideration in adoption proceedings. 

About 30 friends and family members, along with a few members of the Oregon Legislature, joined parents James and Tara Dills at Ashland Christian Fellowship Saturday to celebrate the adoption that was finalized in July.

Among those attending the event were state Sen. Sara Gelser and Rep. Duane Stark, backers of Senate Bill 741, which allows the Department of Human Services to weigh equally a child's current caretakers and blood relatives when choosing the child's home for adoption.

During adoption proceedings, the Dills family reached out to Rep. Peter Buckley, who also attended, and he put them in touch with Stark, who has experience as a foster parent.

Stark said he entered the Legislature knowing he wanted to change a 2010 adoption law directing DHS to show preference to blood relatives, even if the child has a stronger bond with foster parents or other caretakers. 

"After a certain amount of time, foster family becomes family," Stark said.

Tracey Howell, a lawyer who represented the child in family court cases, said Christian's adoption was the outcome she had hoped for, but didn't expect. Because the law was new, she and other lawyers had never seen it executed before, so she was unsure how the adoption would play out.

"When you get involved in a case, you just don't know, you never know," Howell said.

Tara Dills called the adoption an "answered prayer." She said that foster parents understand the goal is to reunite foster children with their parents, but it can be a challenge knowing the child with whom they bonded could go away at any time.

"We just said we're going to pour into him," Tara Dills said. "We don't want to hold back our love."

The Dills became Christian's foster parents in June 2014, when the child was placed in a neonatal intensive care unit. Linda Otto, formerly the child's court-appointed special advocate, couldn't speak about specifics regarding the home Christian was removed from, but she said the goal in family court is to reunite the child with his or her parents after they become clean and sober.

"Unfortunately for this family (Christian's biological family), it wasn't going to happen," Otto said. 

Otto celebrated her new role in the family Saturday, as well.

"Now I just get to be another grandmother to him," Otto said. "I call him the luckiest boy in the world."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Michael Provencio congratulates Tara Dills, left, Christian Dills, 2, and James Dills during Christian's adoption ceremony Saturday in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch