A daughter’s journey: Years of heartache fade as Aliyah chooses her new family; Rose Law Group Family Law Attorney Audra Petrolle: adoption is a ‘beautiful gift’

Two and a half years after moving to Phoenix, the chaos ends for Rihanna Agnew. She can only hope her biological mother finds her way home.

She was an Agnew. She would become a part of a new family. Two and a half years of heartache and uncertainty would fade into her past./azcentral video

By Karina Bland | Arizona Republic

The Agnews felt like everything Aliyah Randle wanted in a family. When she learned a judge had terminated her biological mother’s parental rights, Aliyah asked the Agnews to adopt her. But far-away relatives’ requests would slow the process. The final decision rested with a judge.

MARCH 28, 2018

Lorraine Agnew slid a tiny, sparkly tiara into Aliyah’s hair, nestling it against a bun of perfect finger curls. 

“You should see her dress,” Lorraine said. “She’s been asking me all morning, ‘Can I get dressed now?’”

“It’s beautiful,” Aliyah said. She handed Lorraine a bobby pin from the container she was holding on her lap.

This was the day she had been waiting for. In a few hours, a judge would make official what Aliyah already felt: She was an Agnew. She would become a part of a new family. Two and a half years of heartache and uncertainty would fade into her past.

She wasn’t sure it would happen. Twice, far-away relatives she barely knew filed papers to adopt her. Twice a judge had denied their requests. She had heard nothing from her biological mother, Laurell Florence, for months.

Finally, the Agnews’ attorney asked the court to proceed with the adoption without waiting to see if other relatives would intervene. 

The judge approved the motion. Aliyah’s adoption was rescheduled for March 28, 2018.

Now she could get baptized and get her ears pierced. When you’re a foster child, you can’t do those things, or even get a haircut, without the biological parents’ permission.

“I can be a part of this family,” she said. “They love me, and I love them.” 

James came in from the garage; he was home from work early to change his clothes.

He glanced at the perfect part in Aliyah’s hair and said, “That’s as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.” Lorraine chased him away with the hairbrush.

The other children were at school. Aliyah had Lorraine and James to herself.

“Today it’s over. Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” Lorraine told Aliyah, who was 10. No more caseworkers. No more court hearings. No more waiting. 

“Never again will you have to worry about them coming to take you away,” she said. Aliyah leaned her head back against Lorraine. 

“Never again,” Aliyah repeated.


“Adoption is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give a child. It can be a complicated legal process and an emotional journey but the life you can provide a helpless child is worth every step, especially once you hold that child in your arms and see them shine.”

~ Audra Petrolle

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December 2019