May 20, 2024

New Legislation Helps Clear the Path to Foster Parent Adoption in Indiana

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Kristen E. Hahn
Associate, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC

On March 11, 2024, HB 1310 and HB 1369 were signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb with immediate effect. The new laws (known as Public Law 69 and Public Law 70 upon their enactment) clarify and significantly expand the grounds for termination of parental rights and codify protections for foster parents against adverse action by the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). As a result, foster parents will have a legally protected right to advocate for early permanency for the children in their care and they will be shielded from retaliation for exercising those rights.

Overview of CHINS and Termination Cases

If DCS believes a minor child is abused or neglected and not receiving the care or treatment the child needs, DCS may remove the child from the home as part of juvenile cases known as CHINS cases. A “CHINS” is a Child in Need of Services. Indiana foster parents often receive placement of a child through CHINS cases. If a court determines that a child is a CHINS, the court will enter a dispositional decree that decides what orders should be made regarding the child’s placement and what services are needed to help the child and his or her parents. The goal of CHINS proceedings is to protect and care for the child and to reunify the family, if possible. The court will hold periodic review hearings to determine if all the parties are complying with the dispositional decree. Typically, DCS must file a petition to terminate the parent-child relationship if the parents do not comply with the dispositional decree within a specified time period. Termination of the parent-child relationship permanently removes all the rights of a parent concerning the child, including custody, control, and visitation. This is also known as termination of parental rights, or TPR. The termination of parental rights also allows foster parents to proceed towards adoption of the child.

HB 1369 – Public Law 70

HB 1369 includes extensive amendments to the statute that sets forth the requirements for involuntary termination of the parent-child relationship by an Indiana court, Indiana Code § 31-35-2-4. Prior to the amendment, termination required proof that:

Proof of (1) and (2) from the above list are still required for termination following the enactment of HB 1369. However, the amended law combines and clarifies the factors listed in (3) and (4) and specifies numerous additional grounds for termination of the parent-child relationship. This expansion is likely to result in greater rates of success on TPR petitions, which will in turn create more opportunities for foster parents to adopt the children in their care.

Provided that termination is in the child’s best interest and there is a satisfactory plan for the child’s future care and treatment, the parent-child relationship may now be terminated if 1 (or more) out of 14 possible grounds is met. Some of the newly added bases include:  

Many of these grounds were already factors routinely considered by Indiana courts in termination cases. However, the codification of these circumstances by the Indiana General Assembly makes clear to parents, DCS, and juvenile courts that each circumstance is an independent basis for termination of the parent-child relationship.

HB 1310 – Public Law 69

Finally, HB 1310 includes newly added protections for foster parents and relatives who have placement of a child in CHINS cases. Existing law (Ind. Code § 31-35-2-4.5) permits foster parents and relatives with placement to notify the juvenile court when DCS fails to file a petition to terminate parental rights when required by law to do so. HB 1310 further prohibits DCS from taking adverse action against a foster parent’s license or removing the child from the foster parent’s or relative’s home for filing this notice with the court. Now, foster parents and custodians can rest assured that they will not be penalized for taking this step to advocate for stability and permanency for the children in their care.  


If you have placement of a child, either as a foster parent or a relative, and you have questions about HB 1369, HB 1310, adoption, and/or navigating the child welfare system in Indiana, Stoll Keenon Ogden is here to help. Attorneys with the Family Law Services group have facilitated the finalization of hundreds of adoptions by representing adopting parent(s) in contested and uncontested adoption matters, and we look forward to assisting you in growing your family.

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