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COA affirms child should be raised with half-siblings

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the petition to adopt a child by a couple who have already adopted her half-siblings. Although the couple temporarily dropped their petition to adopt, the judges agreed it is in the child’s best interests to be raised with her siblings.

M.H. was born in 2012 and removed from her mother’s care due to drug use. N.B. and R.B. filed a petition to adopt M.H. a month after her birth. They have five adopted children – including three biological half-siblings of M.H. and one biological cousin of M.H.  W.M. and her adult daughter, S.K., also filed a petition to adopt. W.M. is the maternal great aunt of the biological mother. She is in her 60s and lives alone, but still works. S.K. has two pre-teen aged children.

At a 2013 hearing to adopt M.H., Vanderburgh Superior Judge Brett Niemeier told the parties he had received an email from a fraternity brother that was in favor of N.B. and R.B. He said he stopped reading it as soon as he realized what it was about, and he gave the parties the option to ask him to recuse himself. W.M. and S.K. moved for his recusal, but he denied the motion.

Nearly a month later, N.B. and R.B. decided to stop pursuing the adoption, believing one of their children had cancer and they would need to direct their attention to that issue. The parents had each of their school-aged children write mean letters to W.M. and S.K., saying things like “shame on you,” and “you made kids and adults cry.”

M.H. went to live with W.M.

N.B. and R.B. later resumed their petition for adoption after learning their child did not have cancer. At a hearing, Niemeier said there was no doubt that both families could care for M.H. He cited, among other factors, W.M.’s age, that the children have to sit at separate tables to eat at N.B. and R.B.’s home, the financial situation of N.B. and R.B., and that the attachment factor favors W.M. But he found it important that M.H. grow up with her relatives near her own age, so he granted N.B. and R.B.’s petition to adopt.

In In the Matter of the Adoption of M.H., W.M. & S.K. v. N.B. & R.B., 82A01-1310-AD-449, the judges affirmed, finding that Niemeier did address the concerns that W.M. and S.K. raised on appeal, including R.B.’s health and the family’s financial situation.

The COA also affirmed Niemeier’s decision to not recuse himself. He fully complied with Judicial Conduct Rule 2.9(B) and he adequately explained his reasoning to the parties. He rarely sees the fraternity brother, the man has his email because of fraternity emails, and he can’t recall the last time he saw the man or his family. W.M. and S.K. did not overcome the presumption that the judge acted impartially, the COA ruled.

“Finally, we note our agreement with the trial court that the circumstances of this case are unfortunate and can be made worse were the Appellees to follow through on their statements to deny the Appellants a chance at having a relationship with M.H. W.M. has played an important role in M.H.’s formative years, and she clearly treasures her relationship with M.H. Although we acknowledge that it is beyond the scope of this court’s authority to mandate visitation between the Appellants and M.H., we echo the trial court’s words of encouragement that, as the stress and anger associated with litigation recede, the Appellees will allow for some degree of contact between them,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.
 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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