When and Why You Need a Lawyer
When court looms and the consequences of losing are unacceptable, don’t take a chance. You need an advocate who can effectively navigate your case through the legal system. You need a knowledgeable laywer who is dedicated to your success.
The prospect of losing placement of a child with whom you are bonded and are hoping to adopt is one such occasion. A long-lost relative may emerge at the last minute leading to involving a change in the permanency plan. The DCS may prefer a permanent home other than yours. Adoption from foster care is a complicated web, involving many laws and policies, multiple parties, adoption subsidy negotiation and other issues. You need to a good attorney. Many different subsidies are available for foster parents who adopt. Financial assistance is available in five different packages. They include: a monthly per diem which your attorney negotiates with the Department of Child Services; Medicaid for the adopted child; payment for your legal fees; an adoption tax credit toward your federal income tax; and payment for college tuition.
When you have allegations of abuse or neglect against you, you need legal representation. No matter how absurd the allegations may be, you must take them seriously. The consequences of losing are great. If the allegations are substantiated, they can cost you your license and any future job in employment involving children. This is no time to roll the dice.
An Effective Voice in Decisions
When you have spent months or years raising a child, you know something about their best interests, and it is important that you have your say before someone else takes these crucial decisions away from you. A child is to be removed from your home for reasons which are not in the child’s best interests. Foster care may have dragged on way past legal deadlines. Disagreements about the case plan itself that involve visitation, education, and other important matters may surface. You may need an advocate in court when your voice is not being heard on important issues. Foster parents who are appropriately assertive are more apt to be fully heard. To have an attorney to speak for you or to back you up often makes a big difference.
A Knowledgeable Attorney
Whether you are incorporating a business, planning an estate, or suing for personal injury, you want to be represented by someone with expertise in that area. The same is true in foster care and adoption. The best recommendations usually come from those who were helped through the same process you are considering and were pleased with the job of their attorney. Ask your fellow foster parents to recommend a good lawyer.
For the past twenty years, I have been devoted to serving foster families in Indiana and helping foster children find permanent homes. I’ve handled cases in at least sixty of Indiana’s ninety-two counties…from Crown Point to Evansville to Fort Wayne. I am familiar with state and federal laws and Department of Child Services policies, and I know the people in the system.
I share your commitment, having been raised in a family that included both adopted and foster children. I also know that becoming a foster or adoptive parent is a complex and sometimes arduous process. Legal issues may arise at any time which affect you and the best interests of children in your care. I am here to assist you through these processes. Contact me today to discuss your situation.
Peter Kenny, Attorney at Law
When Your Adoption Is Contested
You can provide your lawyer with vital information in cases where the adoption us disputed by another party or by the DCS. A key issue in such cases is the strength of the relationship between you and your foster child. The best way you can help is to document this vital connection. Indiana DCS policy gives weight to the significance of the attachment, also known as bonding.
To do your own Bonding Evaluation, a daily written journal is the best way to begin. The court takes special note of written material. Indiana statutes and the DCS Manual offer concrete guidelines suggesting who should be given preference for adoption. Four factors are specifically mentioned. Your regular notes can be used to address these factors, and thus provide documentation to support your petition to adopt.
The number one factor in showing a significant attachment is the time you have spent together. How long has the child been with you 24/7? Both the federal (ASFA, 1997) and the Indiana statutes reflect an urgency to find a permanent home within 12 to 15 months. The reason for this is clear. Bonding is likely after three months, probable after six, and almost certain after 12 months of living together.
Second, the child’s wishes are important. Attachment can be demonstrated by the child’s daily behavior as noted in your journal. Take note of the tangible ways the child seeks to be with you and seems to enjoy your home. A child of elementary school age can add a written note declaring where he or she wants to live.
Third, a regular journal is powerful evidence of your personal commitment. Your actions in caring for your child are spelled out in full view. Include not only your providing food and shelter, but also your attendance at school conferences and doctor visits. And don’t forget the “little” things, like reading bedtime stories and playing games together. Finally, as with the older child, prepare a strong written statement expressing your love and your wish to be there for a lifetime.
Finally, the DCS respects the wisdom of the local community. Does the community at large recognize a significant attachment or bond? Gather letters that speak to the relationship between you and your child from extended family members, neighbors, and his or her teachers and physicians.
Your lawyer can tie the above evidence to the Indiana DCS guidelines. And in addition, he or she can provide a research-based definition of bonding, together with what happens when such relationships are unnecessarily interrupted or ended.
I am here to assist you through these processes. Contact me today to discuss your situation.
Peter Kenny, Attorney at Law