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Deukmejian Clears Way for Girl’s Adoption

Times Staff Writer

A three-year struggle to adopt their sick foster child finally ended Thursday for Tim and Lesly Bird of Yorba Linda when Gov. George Deukmejian signed a bill calling for the state to pay the child’s astronomic monthly medical bills.

“We’re very excited about what’s finally happened,” said Tim Bird after learning that the governor had signed the legislation in Sacramento.

Brianna Bird, born three months prematurely, is connected 24 hours a day to an oxygen tank. Her medical bills, which include almost full-time nursing care and a special diet, are $27,000 a month. The girl has lived with the Birds since shortly after her birth, and during that time, the county has been responsible for her monthly medical costs.

Dispute Over Bills

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The Birds, who could not afford to assume those bills, had been unable to adopt Brianna, who is now almost 5, because under existing law, government payment of medical bills for foster children ends when they are formally adopted.

The Birds initially had attempted to adopt Brianna in early 1986, after a court terminated the parental rights of her natural mother.

Until recently, the state Department of Social Services opposed the legislation, drafted by the Orangewood Foundation a year ago and sponsored by Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim).

The department withdrew its opposition in August, when Orange County and officials for the state Department of Health Services resolved their months-long stalemate over which agency would pay for the cost of treatment. Under the agreement, Brianna’s medical costs will be paid by state, county and federal funds. The key to the agreement was a portion of the law directing counties throughout the state to waive administrative costs and pass all Medi-Cal funds to an adoptive child’s nurses and other aides.

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It is estimated that as many as 150 ailing foster children in California could be affected by the new law, although in most cases, their medical needs are not as costly as Brianna’s, Royce and Orange County officials have said.

The Birds, who have cared for more than 100 foster children in the past 10 years, will probably formally adopt Brianna sometime in the next few months, Tim Bird said.

“It has been a long wait. It was tough, but we had a lot of support from the Orangewood Foundation, social workers and a lot of other people,” he said.

Bird added that he was glad other foster parents who want to adopt severely handicapped children will not have to experience a similar ordeal.

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“We feel very encouraged that this bill will help other families. That is very important and one of the reasons that we stood our ground for so long,” he said.


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