A boyhood wish finally came true. But Maurice Griffin had to wait until he was a man for it to happen.
At age 32, the California man was adopted Friday.
"It was the best day in my life," Griffin said after the proceeding in San Diego Juvenile Court. "I fought for 10 years and finally the day came."
Adopting the burly, muscular, mohawk-sporting man is Lisa Godbold, his one-time foster mother.
"I was just overwhelmed with emotion," Godbold added.
With a few pen strokes by Griffin, Godbold and Judge Richard Monroy, the adoption became official.
"This is going to be quite quick," the judge told mom and son, all seated at a table. "If you blink, you miss it."
Then son hugged mom. Mom cried.
"Congratulations to you both," the judge declared.
Then a deputy took a photograph of three of them, a tradition that the judge noted is always done with small children and their adoptive parents.
The story dates to the early 1980s, when Godbold and her husband saw Griffin at an orphanage near their Sacramento home.
The smiling child seemed to fit perfectly with their family: Godbold is white. Her late previous husband was black, and the couple had two children who were, like Griffin, biracial.
The couple took Griffin in as a foster child. He quickly bonded with their sons, Gideon and Spencer.
"We were best friends," Griffin said. "We'd run around, we did mischievous things and fun things. It was a good time."
He lived with the family as a foster child for four years, until he was 13. Then, just two months shy of being adopted by them, it all fell apart.
Griffin said wanted to be treated like a "real" son: He wanted to be disciplined like the couple's other sons. He wanted to be spanked, he said.
So he innocently told a social worker that was what was going to happen.
The social worker then told her superiors, and soon Griffin was about to be removed from the household, he said.
Family ripped apart
One day, foster care officials took Griffin away, saying he could not live with Godbold's family anymore.
"You can't spank foster children. Maurice very much wanted that," Godbold said. "We wanted him to feel like the rest of our kids. And there was a difference of opinion with some of the (child welfare) supervisors."
Godbold said she fought to keep Griffin and was told she could lose her biological children, too.
CNN contacted the state agency responsible for the case, but its officials would not comment because it's still considered a juvenile matter.
So Godbold had to let go. And as time moved on, Griffin says, he lost touch with what he felt was his only family.