Michael Shorstein is personally responsible for placing many more than 1,000 adopted children in the Jacksonville area into happy, healthy homes.
What’s almost ironic about his success and passion for the job is that Shorstein never planned to get into the adoption business.
“I fell into it,” said Shorstein, who is the nephew of State Attorney Harry Shorstein. “When I moved back to Jacksonville, I worked with my uncle before he became State Attorney. When he was appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, I moved to a bigger firm. As a favor to a senior partner, I did adoptions. It was so rewarding, I kept doing them.”
Fifteen years later, the accolades are coming in for the work Shorstein has done matching families with mothers willing to give their children in order for them to have a better life. Last year, Shorstein was given Jacksonville Area Legal Aid’s pro bono award – the 2004 Equal Justice Award for Adoption Pro Bono Services. Last month, he was recognized by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute with the Congressional Angels in Adoption award in a Sept. 13 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
“I am Jacksonville’s adoption attorney,” said Shorstein, who is also a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. The Academy is a national organization and there’s only about 300 member adoption attorneys. We specialize in adoptions and you are recommended for membership by judges and your peers.
“It’s all I do. I don’t do any other family law. I spend a lot of time helping people, not just doing the business side of the adoptions.”
Shorstein explained that three things dictate a successful adoption: commitment, compliance and communication. Finding couples who want to adopt a child isn’t the issue – for every healthy baby there are about 50 people who want the baby, he said. The key, rather, is ensuring the adoptive parents and the birth mother have a positive relationship and a clear understanding of what is going to happen moments after the baby is born. Shorstein said for the most part, the process flows smoothly from the time the adoptive parents meet the birth mother to the baby’s arrival. But there are exceptions.
“Of course every professional has had a situation where the birth mother reconsiders,” said Shorstein. “I’ve been doing this for15 years. If the birth mother is going to change her mind, it isn’t going to be at the hospital. It will be three or four weeks or two to three months ahead of time.
“I refuse to accept having the birth mother say at the hospital, ‘I saw the baby and I don’t want to do this.’ If that happens, usually a family member has jumped in and intervened.
“I stress commitment, compliance and communication. If you have all three of those, an adoption will not fail.”
Shorstein was nominated for the Angels in Adoption award by Sen. Bill Nelson. He has also hosted numerous adoption seminars and appeared as a guest on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”