January 28, 2016

DCS Adoptions: Act Quickly But Be Prepared to Wait

Written By

Raymond P. Dudlo
Member, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC

Upon completion of the home study, training and background checks, you will hopefully be offered placement of your pre-adoptive child. You may have heard that the termination of parental rights trial is around the corner and that the adoption is soon to follow as well. However, do not be surprised to learn that you may have to wait a considerable time until the adoption is complete.

If the child you are adopting is currently a ward of the state and their current parent-child relationship is not legally severed, you must wait until that is complete. Typically, there are two ways the parent-child relationship can be severed:  the biological parents can voluntarily sever that relationship, or a court can terminate it involuntarily. A voluntary termination of parental rights will speed up the process to an adoption proceeding because an appeal is less likely to occur.

Conversely, an involuntary termination of parental rights (through a court order) can cause a great deal of delay. When a parent involuntary loses their parental rights they have the ability to seek an appeal of that decision. If an appeal is filed, DCS (Department of Child Services) will not permit the adoption to proceed until the appeal process is complete – and it is for a good reason. If an appeal returns a favorable opinion to the biological parents, then the child cannot be legally adopted until the termination of the parental rights occurs again.

The appellate process could very well last over six months. Therefore, it’s helpful to keep the above procedure in mind as you plan on adopting a child so you do not become unnecessarily disappointed with a delay.

Do not get too comfortable, however, because when the adoption process is ready to proceed, you will need to act fast. Behind the scenes, DCS will request that the pre-adoptive child become eligible for certain benefits  This request is sent to the Central Eligibility Unit (CEU) in Indianapolis. Once their determination is made, you will receive an eligibility letter from DCS outlining what benefits the pre-adoptive child may receive.  

Upon receipt of that letter, you only have 30 days to respond. If a response is not received timely, the pre-adoptive child faces the possibility of losing their eligibility benefits. Consequently, it is a good idea to get ready for the adoption well before it begins. You will want to find an adoption attorney who is knowledgeable in the area and that you are comfortable with well beforehand. If you wait to find an attorney after you receive your eligibility letter, there may not be enough time to respond timely or adequately. The level of detail and time that goes into your response will impact what benefits the child will receive. 

A qualified attorney will be able to help you respond appropriately and advise you on the overall adoption process.


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