Legal disputes over the adoption of children whose birth parents are unable or unwilling to care for them can last years, causing turmoil and stress to the battling adults and certainly to the child in the middle. Now a state supreme court has ruled that there must be a limit to the number of appeals allowed in a "child-in-need-of-care" case.
The specific case before the high court involved a Kansas girl born prematurely in 2011 with evidence of cocaine in her system. The baby's mother gave up her parental rights. The girl was placed in protective custody with the state's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and then with foster parents.
Later, the birth mother's cousin and her husband asked to adopt her. In 2012, SRS agreed to place the baby with those cousins. The foster parents appealed that placement, and a CINC hearing was held.
Later that year, a CINC court ruled in favor of the foster parents, saying that she had bonded with the couple other children in the home. The foster parents were given permission to adopt the child.
The maternal cousins appealed, and a Court of Appeals panel overturned the previous ruling. It took away legal custody from the foster parents, meaning that the cousins could pursue adoption.
The foster parents appealed to the state supreme court. In a 6-1 decision, the justices said that an order terminating parental rights is the cutoff for appellate review. They said that after that, district court decisions cannot be appealed. As the justice who wrote for the majority said, "Otherwise, it is easy to see how these cases could turn into back-and-forth campaigns of endless litigation and appeals...." The decision is significant for CINC cases in that state in the future.
Adoption laws and their application vary among states and can be open to interpretation by courts within a state. Whenever people in North Dakota or in any state seek to adopt a child, they never know what legal roadblocks will present themselves. Legal advocates who are knowledgeable about state adoption regulations, however, can work to help people who want to ensure that a child who may have had a difficult start in life gets a loving forever home.
Source: The Topeka Capital-Journal, "Kansas high court finds for foster parents in adoption case" Jul. 11, 2014