SEATTLE - Rarely does our investigative team get to tell a story with a happy ending, but today, a little girl and her grandparents are officially together for good after a battle with the state's troubled child welfare system.
When we first met Doug and AnneMarie Stuth of Enumclaw, they felt beaten down, hopeless and attacked by the State of Washington and the court system.
"Nobody could explain to you how unjust and unkind a system can be," said AnneMarie.
Child Protective Services took away from them the granddaughter they helped raise since birth and put her in foster care for nearly a year and a half. CPS accused the Stuths of being troublemakers.
"It's impossible to put into words to explain to anybody that your family member, your granddaughter who you've raised since an infant," said AnneMarie, "could just be gone from your life in an instant."
After state Sen. Pam Roach got involved and the KING 5 Investigators began exposing injustices in the case, the Department of Social and Health Services started changing its tune.
King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler made a pivotal ruling that DSHS and a different judge hadn't followed the law, saying relatives should have been given priority over a foster parent in caring for the child.
"I understand the reason for it, but I think it was in error," said Kessler.
That ruling led to a tearful reunion in January.
"They made us out to be such terriblepeople for so long and now, to this point, it's amazing," said Doug.
It's now seven months later. On Wednesday, in a King County courtroom, an adoption judge made it final. After years of legal wrangling, fighting a tough state system and never giving up, the Stuth's granddaughter is now their daughter.
Outside the courtroom, the little girl seemed to realize what was happening.She even used her new last name when asked.
"Alexis Stuthy Stuth," she said.
Alexis will turn 4 on Saturday with a family as the best present of all.
"We wouldn't trade this day for anything," said AnneMarie.
Alexis' biological mother - the Stuth's teenage daughter - was seen as unfit to care for her child.Her parental rights were terminated earlier this year, but she still visits Alexis.