Indiana Supreme Court nullifies adoption of twins

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court has nullified the adoption of two children nearly a decade after they were removed from their mother’s home and placed with foster parents who later adopted them.

The court’s 5-0 decision handed down Friday reverses a Jasper County judge’s decision not to set aside the adoption decree involving the now 10-year-old fraternal twins.

The high court has ordered a new adoption hearing be held in that northern Indiana county so the twins’ natural mother can make her case for regaining custody of the youngsters.

Friday’s ruling acknowledged that the court’s decision was “harsh” and “devastating” because it may ultimately result in the twins being removed from the only home they’ve ever known.

Justice Loretta Rush, a former juvenile judge, wrote in the ruling that, “There are no winners in some cases, and this is one of them.”

She and the four other justices urged Indiana’s Department of Child Services, attorneys, judge and others involved in the adoption process to change their procedures so that no Indiana children are ever again put in a similar position.

The Times of Munster reported (http://bit.ly/14VhZuG ) that the twins were removed from their natural mother’s home at 18 months of age for unspecified reasons. Their natural father is unknown, according to court records.

Child services officials won approval in January 2008 to terminate the parental rights of the twins’ natural mother.

She appealed that decision. But while her appeal was pending the foster parents formally adopted the twins, who had already been living with them for three years.

The natural mother received no notice of the adoption case, because notice is not required by Indiana law when a parent’s rights have been terminated.

Two months after the adoption was finalized, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision to terminate the natural mother’s parental rights, finding that DCS did not satisfactorily show that continuing the parent-child relationship would threaten the twins’ well-being.

The child’s natural mother then asked Jasper Superior Court Judge James Ahler to set aside the adoption decree. He refused to do so, but the high court’s ruling overturns that decision.

While ordering a new adoption hearing, the justices recommended the children remain with the adoptive mother until the case is concluded. Their adoptive father was killed in an auto accident in May 2011.

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