Woman challenges grandson's adoption
By Susan Brown
September 4, 2013 / Hammond Community.net
CROWN POINT | A Hammond woman is questioning why officials favor her grandson's adoption by a foster family over his own family.
"I've been fighting this for three years," said Sharon Raymond, whose son died a month after he was given custody of the boy by a court in August 2011.
Raymond said her grandson was never returned to her son before his sudden death despite a court order. Her son, disabled and wheelchair-bound, lived with Raymond before dying of cardiac arrhythmias and acute pulmonary edema.
Now nearly 4, Raymond's grandson was 7 months old when removed from his home in April 2010 by the Indiana Department of Child Services, court records show.
At the time, court records show DCS found cause for removal because of ongoing drug use by the boy's parents.
The boy was taken out of the home following an incident in which the father overdosed on heroin provided by the boy's mother while the couple lived with Raymond in Gary.
The boy's mother also was found to be under the influence of heroin and arrested on charges of criminal mischief and battery for striking Raymond, who was attempting to call 911 for her son.
DCS recommended drug treatment, parenting classes and counseling for the parents and initially placed the boy with a maternal family member.
Court records described the child as "on target developmentally" and a "very happy, energetic child."
The court record
The boy was placed with his first foster family for three months and later placed with his current foster family in December 2010, according to court records.
Efforts continued to reunite the boy with his mother, who failed at least one drug treatment program, court records show.
On April 29, 2013, Raymond filed a petition for temporary custody of the boy, pending adoption. The petition notes the mother had not at that time consented to Raymond's proposed adoption.
Finally, on Aug. 1, Raymond filed a petition for adoption, this time showing the mother had consented to the adoption.
The mother signed the consent form and it was notarized the same day.
Two weeks later, on Aug. 14, Juvenile Court Magistrate Glenn Commons issued an order reducing the mother's visitations to once a week while maintaining twice-a-week visitation by the child's grandparents.
The following day, Aug. 15, Commons issued an order stating no further efforts to reunite the child with his mother or to preserve the family are required as there is no showing the efforts would be successful.
The order also appears to terminate the mother's parental rights and to permit adoption by the boy's foster family.
In addition, the order indicates all visitations by the biological mother, and the grandmother, are discontinued.
The court ordered status reports be filed every three months regarding progress and set a review hearing for Dec. 4.
Commons did not respond to calls for comment on the apparent outcome.
In response to queries about a grandparent's rights, DCS spokesman James Wade provided The Times with DCS's policy, which he stated is consistent with the law.
The statute says a juvenile court or the department shall consider placing a child alleged to be a child in need of services with an appropriate family member of the child before considering any other placement for the child.
Family: Adoption at odds with DCS policy
"I told the court and DCS for three years I want to raise my own blood. I want to raise my son's child," Raymond said last week. "I feel the child should be with his family -- just like DCS says and foster parents say."
Raymond herself is a foster parent with the National Youth Advocate Program, according to her adoption petition.
Raymond's sister, Jeannine Doran, an employee of Lake Ridge schools, said she has been a foster parent for 20 years, adopting five foster children, three of whom are siblings.
Doran adopted the three siblings because they had no family and were to be separated. A fourth sibling is institutionalized, she said.
Doran, like all the boy's other relatives except for grandparents, has not been permitted to visit Raymond's grandson, nor permitted at court hearings.
She questioned how the child was to get to know his family if visits are not permitted.
She believes DCS's position on the boy's case is atypical of most of her own experience with the agency. DCS typically favors keeping children with family members, she said.
"I have no explanation as to what this is all about," Raymond said. "Why am I not capable of raising my grandson?"
In addition to herself, Raymond said she has six relatives who all have expressed interest in adopting the boy.
Raymond contends that despite a court order saying a paternal grandfather could visit the child, DCS never let it happen.
"They're orphaning my grandson by letting that foster family adopt that child," Raymond said.