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Appeals court reverses termination of father’s rights

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The Department of Child Services failed to prove that a father’s children were removed for cause required under state statute, and the trial court erred in terminating the parental rights of the Dearborn County man.

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of: Q.M. and E.M., Minor Children, B.M., Father v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, 15A05-1112-JT-706, the court reversed Dearborn Circuit Judge James D. Humphrey’s order terminating the parental rights of B.M. to his children, ages 3 and 5.

Q.M. showed signs of abuse and, after a DCS investigation, both siblings were designated as children in need of services. B.M. later signed a Stipulation of CHINS agreement wherein he acknowledged that Q.M.’s injuries “would not have occurred but for the act or omission of a parent, custodian, or guardian.” He participated in counseling but failed to successfully complete court-ordered therapy and parenting evaluations. He demonstrated “extreme behavior” that was sanctioned by the court after his 2010 breakup with the children’s mother.

“For example, father sent 96 text messages and made numerous phone calls concerning mother and her whereabouts to the home-based counselor’s personal cell phone and home phone during a single weekend, causing the provider to feel threatened and to request no further work with father,” the court record says.

However, DCS terminated the father’s parental rights without required findings, Judge Elaine Brown wrote in a unanimous opinion.

“An involuntary termination petition must allege, and the state must prove by clear and convincing evidence, that the child was either removed from the parent for at least six months under a dispositional decree or removed from the family home at least fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months ‘at the time the involuntary termination petition was filed,’” Brown wrote.

“Based on the foregoing, it is clear that DCDCS (Dearborn County Indiana Dept. of Child Services) failed to satisfy the mandates of Ind. Code § 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A). Thus, the trial court committed reversible error in granting DCDCS’s involuntary termination petitions. …  The trial court’s judgment terminating Father’s parental rights to Q.M. and E.M. must be reversed.”

Brown closed with a footnote: “Our decision today should not be construed as a negative comment upon the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court’s specific findings or ultimate decision to terminate father’s parental rights. Moreover, in reaching this decision, we are keenly aware of the fact that both Q.M.’s and E.M.’s sense of permanency and well-being hangs in the balance. Further delay in the final resolution of the children’s cases is most certainly regrettable, but the court is bound by statute to ensure the process.”  



 

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  1. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

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  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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