Appeals court affirms out-of-state placement of child with father

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A mother whose son was placed with his father in California after the Department of Child Services found her children to be children in need of services failed to convince a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals that the placement was erroneous or that the DCS didn’t make a reasonable effort to preserve the family.

“We believe that the evidence in this case supported the continued out-of-state placement with M.S.’s natural father, which the trial court found to be in the child’s best interest,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in In the Matter of M.S. (A Child Alleged in Need of Services), and K.S., (Mother) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 67A04-1305-JC-212. “Therefore, the trial court’s decision to place M.S. with Father and eventually dismiss the CHINS proceedings was not error."

Mother K.S. admitted during a CHINS hearing to substance abuse problems and that she had no permanent residence, vehicle or phone. DCS has found her missing on a visit to her home where the children had been left alone, according to the record.

As father’s service in the military unwound, he eventually took M.S. with him to live in San Diego, and DCS requested to dismiss the CHINS proceeding. On appeal, mother argued DCS neglected its duty under I.C. 31-34-21-5.5 to make reasonable efforts to reunify or preserve a family.

“The health and safety of M.S. was served by his placement with Father,” Robb wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Michael Barnes. “Moreover, the placement of M.S. with Father was a familial reunification of sorts, albeit not of the kind Mother would have preferred. In light of the circumstances, we believe DCS’s reunification efforts were reasonable.”

Judge Elaine Brown concurred in a separate opinion, but said the father’s home should have been inspected before the boy was placed with his father and that DCS was too quick to terminate the CHINS proceeding, which took place one week after father’s home had been inspected.

“Under such circumstances, despite the motion by DCS to dismiss the CHINS petition, I believe that M.S. would have been better served had the court ... ordered that DCS continue with services for a period of time to monitor Father’s parenting and compliance with the terms of the decree,” Brown wrote.


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