By Hon. Steven R. Eichholtz, Marion Superior Court
Your Probate Court Judicial Officers and staff members are continually reviewing the court's practices and procedures to determine ways to improve the provision of services and to ensure compliance with applicable law. We have been reviewing two areas of current practice. Many parties file motions requesting a waiver of the "home study." We have also observed numerous submissions of non-compliant criminal background checks.
Based on a review of Indiana's adoption statutes and relevant case law confirming explicit requirements, the Court must require involvement of a child placing agency and a criminal history that satisfies Indiana Code 31-9-2-22.5 before it can grant an adoption. We are issuing this notice to probate and family law practitioners as guidance for future filings in Marion Superior Court Probate Division.
The Court directs your attention to the following:
A period of supervision is required before an adoption may be granted in Indiana. I.C. 31-19-8-1. In addition, an agency report or DCS report shall be filed in every adoption in Indiana. I.C. 31-19-8-5. The Court may waive the period of supervision if one of the petitioners is a stepparent or grandparent of the child and the Court waives the agency report requirement. I.C. 31-19-8-2. Likewise, the Court may waive the agency report if one of the petitioners is a stepparent or grandparent of the child and the court waives the period of supervision. I.C. 31-19-8-5(c).
The statute does not refer to a "home study." The court encourages parties to clearly indicate in their motion and proposed orders whether they are seeking a waiver of the period of supervision, the agency report, or both.
If the Court waives the agency or DCS report, the Court shall require the licensed child-placing agency for a child who is not adjudicated to be a child in need of services, or if the child is the subject of an open CHINS action, each local office to (1) ensure a criminal history check is conducted under I.C. 31-19-2-7.5; and (2) report to the Court the results of the criminal history check. I.C. 31-19-8-5(d). Every adoption case must involve either a licensed child placement agency or DCS. In re S.O., 56 N.E.3d 77 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016).
Indiana Code 31-9-2-22.5 defines "conduct a criminal history check" for purposes of 31-19. Please consult the statute for the necessary components of an adequate criminal history check.
Probate Court will not set a final hearing until petitioners have complied with 31-19-8-5(d).
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