Protecting abused and neglected kids is a big priority for courts across Indiana, according to Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall. “There are so many ways that we support children, and we need to and we have to,” he says. “It’s so important because they’re helpless.”
Last week, Starke Circuit Court joined others around the country in celebrating National Adoption Day. But Judge Hall points out that adoption is just one of a few possible outcomes for court cases involving abused and neglected kids. “Often, the majority of those cases are drug cases, where the parents have become addicted to drugs,” he explains. “And they may or may not have been arrested, but somehow, the children are taken away from the parents. Sometimes, a baby is born with heroin in the baby’s system or methamphetamine.”
He says the goal is always to reunite families whenever possible. As part of that, lots of drug treatment and other services are offered to parents, which Hall says are often completed successfully. “That happens relatively frequently,” he adds. “That certainly happens more than adoptions. And those are also very happy days in the courtroom where lots of tears are shed by parents, who knew that they weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities as a parent previously, but after several months of services, they’re off drugs, they’re clean, they’re sober, and they’re so happy to be back reunited with their biological children.”
Judge Hall notes that he also has the ability to talk to children privately to help determine what’s in their best interest. “I’ve ordered that funds be spent for children that want to get into sports programs that require some money for equipment, let’s say; eyeglasses, when it’s time to get new prescriptions; driver’s ed for teenagers that no one’s interested in putting out the money for that. They can come in and tell me personally, and I can go into the courtroom and order it.”
Hall says that with the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, the Department of Child Services, the court system, police officers, and the legislature that creates the laws, the system is very supportive for children in Indiana.