IN RE THE ADOPTION OF: I.B. AND W.B., (Minor Children) AND B.B., Appellant-Respondent,
B.C. & J.L., Appellees (Adoptive parents/Petitioner) AND THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES, Co-Appellee-Petitioner
APPEAL FROM THE VANDERBURGH SUPERIOR COURT 1. The Honorable Brett J. Niemier, Judge. The Honorable Renee Allen Ferguson, Magistrate. Cause No. 82D07-1302-AD-22, 82D07-1302-AD-23.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: STEVEN E. RIPSTRA, MELISSA J. HALEY, Ripstra Law Office, Jasper, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General, ROBERT J. HENKE, Deputy Attorney General, CHRISTINA D. PACE, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES B.C. & J.L.: MATTHEW W. LUTZ, Fox & Lutz, Evansville, Indiana.
FRIEDLANDER, Judge. VAIDIK, C.J., and MAY, J., concur.
Appellant, the paternal grandmother of I.B. and W.B., appeals the grant of maternal grandmother and her fiancé 's (collectively referred to as Adoptive Parents) petitions to adopt I.B. and W.B. Appellant presents the following expanded and restated issues for review:
1. Were Adoptive Parents statutorily barred from adopting the children?
2. Is the adoption order supported by sufficient evidence?
3. Was Appellant improperly denied full consideration and services bythe Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) resulting in the lackof a complete adoptive placement investigation?
Mother and Father are the biological parents of I.B. and W.B., boys born in May 2011 and April 2009, respectively. Mother also has two older biological sons, J.C. and G.C., who were born in November 2002 and February 1999. The four minor children were removed by the Vanderburgh County DCS in May 2011, following I.B.'s premature birth. I.B. was born with drugs in his system and with severe health concerns, and Mother tested positive for drugs. W.B., who was two at the time, was malnourished. Further, J.C. suffered (and still does) from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological issues resulting from witnessing substantial domestic violence against his mother. Both Mother and Father were methamphetamine users, and Father had been in and out of prison.
Upon their removal and CHINS adjudication, the three older children were placed in the home of their maternal grandmother and her fiancé (whom she had lived with for thirteen years). I.B.
remained in the hospital, eventually being transferred to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. After about five months, placement of the three children was changed to Appellant's home because Adoptive Parents both tested positive for marijuana use. The three children stayed with Appellant and her daughter for about five weeks before being sent back to Mother's home for a trial home visit upon I.B.'s release from the hospital. All four children were eventually removed and placed in foster care, with I.B. and W.B in one foster home and J.C. and G.C. in another.
Adoptive Parents promptly filed for change of placement to have all four children under their care and " made significant changes in their lives to adapt to the children's needs." Appellant's Appendix at 142. Adoptive Parents worked closely with DCS, service providers, and the foster families and submitted to random drug screens, passing them all. They also obtained extensive training to learn how to care for I.B.'s special needs, including his G-tube. Placement was transferred to Adoptive Parents around January 2013. I.B. and W.B. have remained under their care, along with their brothers, since that time. I.B. and W.B. have thrived under the care of Adoptive Parents.
With termination of Mother and Father's parental rights on the horizon, Adoptive Parents filed a petition for adoption of all four children on February 20, 2013. Mother consented to the adoption. On March 12, Appellant filed petitions to intervene and cross-petitions for adoption of I.B. and W.B. Mother and Father's parental rights were terminated in September. Adoptive Parents' petitions with respect to J.C. and G.C. were granted on ...