When friends asked Steven M. Kirsh to find them a baby they could adopt, he was a general practitioner with no adoption experience. But Kirsh took up the challenge. He met with the director of every abortion clinic in Indianapolis and spread the word to doctors and lawyers that he was looking for a baby.
As it turns out, his efforts were unnecessary. “While trying to find a baby for them, my friends ended up conceiving against a million to one odds!” he says. “But I found out that I really love this work.”
In the years since, Kirsh has found loving homes for nearly 2,500 babies and children. And you might call him the father of adoption law in Indiana.
In 1989, he heard of a flaw in the state’s adoption law that resulted in the Indiana Legislature enacting the Putative Father Registry. “The problem was that the adoptive parents had to give notice to the father, but the mother was the only source of information about who the father was,” he says. “The Putative Father Registry was not an original idea; other states had it. But I made it conclusive. The way that it works is that if the mother does not correctly identify the father, the father has basically 30 days from the birth of the child to register with the State Board of Health Putative Father Registry, at which point he can contest the adoption.”
Thanks in part to Kirsh, “Indiana’s adoption code is recognized as a national model,” says former state Sen. J. Murray Clark. “There are few lawyers in our state who have received such [renown] in their craft, or who have had such a positive impact on legislation affecting their area.”
In 1990, Kirsh, 52, became a founding member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. He once served as the organization’s president and has been its treasurer since 1993. He has even served on the United States’ delegation to The Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption.
In September, Kirsh was honored at a gala in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Congress, where he was named a “2005 Angel in Adoption.”
Spending time in the clouds is nothing new to Kirsh, who, during the last 15 years, has flown to meet many prospective birth moms in a twin-engine Cessna 310. He says he only flies for business, but that’s hard to believe as he excitedly talks about his new single-engine, fixedgear 2005 Columbia 350.
Kirsh — who, along with wife Jacque, has three sons — has excelled throughout his life, from North Central High School to Dartmouth College to Indiana University School of Law, where he was named Phi Delta Phi’s “Graduate of the Year” in 1979.
In 1981, he and Ezra Friedlander formed their own firm, Friedlander & Kirsh. “We practiced together for 10 years and I specialized in any case that would pay a fee,” says Kirsh. Joel Kirsh, Steven’s brother, joined them in 1984 and the firm was renamed Kirsh & Kirsh in 1991; Friedlander went on to become an Indiana Court of Appeals judge.
Kirsh is one of a relatively small number of attorneys in the nation who solely practice adoption law. “It is the only area of law in which everyone benefits,” he says. “Obviously, the adoptive parents do well. They have a baby which they have desperately tried to have. The birth mom finds a good solution to an unplanned pregnancy and not having the resources — emotional, financial and otherwise — to parent her baby. The baby receives a loving, secure home with the opportunity for a bright, happy and productive future.
“It is a win-win-win situation.”