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In re Adoption of J.S.S.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 23, 2016

In Re: The Adoption of: J.S.S. and K.N.S.,
v.
M.R.S., Appellee. Rayburn and Beth Robinson, Appellants,

         Appeal from the Allen Superior Court The Honorable Charles F. Pratt, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 02D08-1406-AD-86 and 87

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Thomas C. Allen Fort Wayne, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Timothy E. Stucky Stucky, Lauer & Young, LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Bailey, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] B.R. and R.R. ("Foster Parents") petitioned to adopt J.S.S. and K.N.S. ("Children") without the consent of M.S. ("Father").[1] The trial court found Foster Parents had not established the clear and convincing evidence necessary to dispense with parental consent and Foster Parents filed a motion to correct error, which was substantively denied. Appealing a negative judgment, Foster Parents present a sole issue: whether the trial court's decision is contrary to law. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] K.N.S. was born in 2006 and J.S.S. was born in 2008. Father and Mother separated in 2008 but were not divorced until several years later. Mother moved away without informing Father of Children's location, and apparently led Children to believe that her boyfriend was their biological father.

         [¶3] In 2009, Mother was incarcerated, but Father was not informed as to where Children were living. In 2010, Father was incarcerated. After his release from incarceration, he became aware that Mother and Children were residing in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but he did not have an address. Father moved to North Vernon, Indiana.

         [¶4] In mid-November of 2012, an Allen County Department of Child Services ("DCS") caseworker informed Father that Children were in DCS custody. Father appeared for an initial Child in Need of Services ("CHINS") hearing on November 26, 2012. The CHINS court found that Father was paying child support but had not seen Children since 2009. The court entered an order regarding visitation:

Visitation with the parents shall occur only upon the recommendation of the children's therapist, Dr. Mihlbauer, the Department of Child Services and the Guardian Ad Litem. Upon recommendation visitation shall be supervised therapeutic visitation until further order of the Court.

(App. at 24.)

         [¶5] On January 22, 2013, the CHINS court entered an order providing in relevant part: "The Court now orders that [Father] shall have no visitation with [Children] as visitation would be contrary to the best interests of the children." (App. at 29.) On August 12, 2013, the CHINS court ordered that Father was to have supervised visitation "as recommended by the children's psychologist/therapist." (App. at 56-57.)

         [¶6] On September 30, 2013, the CHINS court entered a permanency plan order contemplating a return of custody to Father and providing in part:

The modification of custody is subject to the development of a relationship with his children; meeting the children's therapist; and the father securing safe, sustainable and independent housing.

(App. at 60.)

         [¶7] On March 24, 2014, the CHINS court conducted a review hearing and ...


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