Contested Adoptions in Indiana
Not all adoptions from foster care are without dispute. Even after the child has been in the foster home for a significant time, competition to be the permanent parents may arise. While multiple situations occur, the two most common reasons are situations in which the Department of Child Services believes it is unsafe for the child to go home, but is unable to terminate the birth parent’s parental rights to the child. Another common situation is when more than one party is competing to adopt the same child.
Time is not on the side of the developing child. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA, 1997) wrote clear research-based deadlines for the termination of parental rights (TPR.). A TPR must be filed after a child has been removed from the birth home for 15 of the most recent 22 months. Nevertheless foster care may drag on well beyond the deadlines. Waiting in foster care well beyond a year for the birth parent to stabilize is not likely in the best interest of the developing child. For the child’s sake, an attorney who knows DCS rules and policies can help move matters along.
Once the parental rights have been terminated, a relative may arrive on the scene and offer to or insist on adopting. The relative may have had little previous contact with the child. The strongest argument the foster-to-adopt parents can make is that they and the child have bonded.
Bonding is a significant reciprocal attachment which both parties want and expect to continue and which is interrupted or terminated at considerable peril to the parties involved. Bonding is like joining two items with crazy glue. Pulling them apart is very difficult. Separation is possible but at considerable cost. Parts of both sides may be ripped apart. The result is ugly. Similarly, research has shown that when bonding is broken, the result is a major increase in mental illness crime, and homelessness.
As your attorney, I can encourage the DCS to follow its own policies and the law. Once parental rights have been terminated, I can assist you in presenting bonding in court and using language from appellate and supreme court decisions in support of your child’s adoption.
There are, of course, other reasons why an adoption from foster care may be disputed or delayed. In any case, I would be happy to use my two decades of experience and my thorough knowledge of Indiana DCS rules and policies to help you provide a permanent home for the child you have come to love.