COA upholds validity of parents’ consent to adoption, despite protests

Monroe County parents protesting the adoption of four of their 14 children could not sway the Indiana Court of Appeals that they were acting with the kids’ best interests in mind by seeking to withdraw their consents to adoption.

In the case of In re Adoption of: S.P., J.P., K.P., and E.P. (Minor Children) and J.P. (Mother) and Jer.P. (Father) v. M.D. and J.D. (Adoptive Parents), and Indiana Department of Child Services, 20A-AD-2205, parents J.P. and Jer.P. have 14 children together. Between August 2011 and March 2017, all of the children under the age of 18 were removed from the family home three times for domestic violence, substance abuse and neglect.

In the first instance, nine minor children were removed from the home and were found to be children in need of services. The CHINS cases was dismissed, however, and the children were returned to the home only to be removed a year later due to father Jer.P.’s use of controlled substances and alcohol and mother J.P.’s untruthfulness about conditions in the home. Those CHINS cases were also dismissed and the children were returned to the home a second time.

Then in 2017, 10 of the children, including the S.P., J.P., K.P. and E.P., were adjudicated CHINS after the 13th child was born with withdrawal symptoms and tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine and hydrocodone, and because Jer.P. appeared impaired during the ensuing assessment, the home was in poor condition, the children had not eaten, were dirty, had bug bites, and had not been to school.

Neither parents complied with required services during the CHINS case, prompting the Department of Child Services to file to terminate their parental rights for nine of the 10 children, including the siblings at issue in this case. But because the parents signed consent forms for their adoption, no termination hearing took place.

When two of the children were the subject of an adoption petition, the parents attempted to withdraw their consent but were denied by the Monroe Circuit Court. In a different instance, S.P., J.P., K.P. and E.P., were placed together with adoptive parents M.D. and J.D., who petitioned to adopt them. As with their other two children, the biological parents filed an objection to the petitions, refuting the validity of their consents.

The trial court once again shot them down, citing the parents’ lengthy history of domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect of their children and failure to benefit from services.

In affirming that decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded J.P. and Jer.P. were not acting in best interests of S.P., J.P., K.P. and E.P. in seeking to withdraw their consents to adoption.

As to Mother, the appellate court found that the trial court did not err in considering all the available evidence in determining whether she was acting in the siblings’ best interests in requesting to withdraw her consents to adoption.

“Excluding nearly eighteen months of evidence and especially any evidence regarding the Siblings’ relationship with and adjustment to Adoptive Parents is antithetical to an accurate and complete assessment of what would be in the Siblings’ best interests at the present time,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the appellate court.

The same conclusion was made for Father, finding he did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that he acted in the siblings’ best interests in seeking to withdraw his consents.

“Biological Parents’ conduct for the past decade has been leading inexorably to this resolution. In the absence of evidence that Biological Parents are acting in the Siblings’ best interests and with no allegation, let alone evidence, that Adoptive Parents are unfit — Mother agreed that Adoptive Parents have provided for and taken care of the Siblings and stated that if the Siblings were not returned to her care, she is okay with the adoption — the trial court’s denial of Biological Parents’ motion to withdraw their consents to adoption was not contrary to law,” Robb concluded.

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