Steve Kirsh, a Carmel resident and founding attorney at Kirsh & Kirsh, is working with state legislators to make changes to Indiana’s adoption laws.
With more than 30 years of experience working in adoption law, Kirsh said he’s often sought for his opinion on legal changes. This year, he’s working with State Sen. Joe Zakas on Senate Bill 332, which amends adoption notices.
Kirsh said most of the work is cleaning up technical language, but one of the big changes proposed is that an attorney or licensed child-placing agency that is obtaining a consent to adoption must provide to the person consenting to adoption the name and address of the court in which the adoption is filed. So if a mother wants to challenge an adoption after she’s agreed to it, currently she might not know which court is handling the adoption. The bill also prohibits any person from challenging an adoption decree after the expiration period.
Kirsh said Indiana has some of the nation’s best adoption laws.
“Many states have copied Indiana (adoption laws). They’re clear and straight forward. (There’s) not a lot of interpretation in the law. Everyone knows what the roles are,” he said.
Kirsh said he’s most proud of a pair of adoption law changes he championed in the early 1990s.
One was to change pre-birth notice of adoption to the birth father. Before the law changed, Kirsh said a biological father had to be alerted about a potential adoption but couldn’t be notified until after the baby was born. This caused problems, Kirsh said, because the biological father could challenge the adoption after the birth, and sometimes the adoptive families would not receive the baby.
Kirsh also helped draft laws in response to the famous “Baby Jessica” case, where a mother changed her mind after she signed away the rights to her baby. The biological father didn’t know he was the father of the baby and had not signed away his parental rights. As a result, the child was returned to her biological family two years after birth. Under Indiana’s system, someone who claims to be the father of a child can sign up to be notified of any adoption proceedings. That way these issues can be settled before the birth of a child.
Kirsh said if he could change one thing about Indiana’s adoption law he’d make it legal for a child born addicted to drugs to be placed for adoption without the consent of the birth mother. He said, however, that it would be nearly impossible to pass through the state legislature.