High court finds for foster parents in adoption case
The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday limited the number of court appeals that can be applied in a child-in-need-of-care custody case.
The high court, in a decision it said would have wide-ranging implications for future CINC cases, overturned a Court of Appeals panel that had reversed a Sedgwick County District Court’s awarding of adoption rights to the foster parents of an abandoned child. The Court of Appeals had ordered procedings that would have permitted maternal cousins to adopt the child.
In a 6-1 decision authored by Justice Dan Biles, the Supreme Court ruled the Revised Kansas Code for Care of Children set forth a prescribed sequence of court events in a CINC case. The cutoff for appellate review, Biles wrote for the majority, is an order terminating parental rights. Beyond that, district court decisions aren’t subject to appeal.
“Otherwise, it is easy to see how these cases could turn into back-and-forth campaigns of endless litigation and appeals by persons other than the child’s parents,” Biles wrote.
The case involved a Wichita girl born prematurely on Nov. 2, 2011 — underweight and with evidence of cocaine in her system — who was taken into protective custody. Her birth mother had no further contact with the infant and renounced her parental rights.
In a protective custody hearing, the child was placed in the care of the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services — now the Department of Children and Families. The state asked two foster parents to accept the infant as a foster child. They have cared for her ever since.
SRS later learned a maternal cousin of the birth mother, and her husband, also were interested in adopting the child. In August 2012, SRS formally chose the maternal cousins for adoptive placement. The foster parents appealed the decision in a CINC hearing.
In a November 2012 decision, the CINC court sided with the foster parents, saying the severance of bonds formed between the child and her foster parents, as well as other children in the home, weren’t in the child’s interest. They were approved to adopt the child in a separate adoption hearing, in which the cousins didn’t appear.
The maternal cousins appealed, and a Court of Appeals panel overturned the district court judge, ruling he had erred in finding that SRS and its contractor hadn’t made reasonable efforts and progress toward the child’s adoption. It vacated the foster parents’ legal custody and cleared the way for the cousins to adopt.
The foster parents appealed to the Supreme Court, which gave the case expedited status over concern for the child.