ILNews

Court rules on parental rights terminations

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals today ruled for the first time on an aspect of a state statute dictating when the Department of Child Services can initiate parental rights termination proceedings.

A unanimous decision today affirms a trial court judgment in the case of In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.B. and Dawn B. v. Department of Child Services, No. 02A03-0712-JV-599.

The appellant-respondent's daughter, when she was 6, was hospitalized in 2002 for violent, uncontrollable behavior and the Allen County DCS started investigating a later report that the woman's two kids engaged in sexual behavior. The trial court declared the daughter to be a child in need of services. Years later after the girl was placed in a children's home, the DCS filed a petition to end the mother's parental rights. That happened in August 2007.

Specifically, the appeal involves Indiana Code Section 31-34-1-16 that provides the DCS "may not...initiate a court proceeding to ... terminate the parental rights concerning ... a child with an emotional, behavioral, or a mental disorder ... who is voluntarily placed out of the home for the purposes of obtaining a special treatment or care, solely because the parent, guardian, or custodian, is unable to provide the treatment or care."

While the girl was voluntarily removed from the home in this case, the court determined that the Allen County DCS initiated termination proceedings because the mother had also refused to cooperate with service providers and failed to participate in counseling to address her own mental issues - making her both unable and unwilling to provide adequate care for the child.

However, the court wrote in a footnote that this decision leaves open a question for the legislature or DCS: "How the state will provide long-term care for a child in need of services where, under the statute, parental rights may not be terminated, but where the parents, through no fault of their own, are unable and permanently incapable of becoming able to care for their special needs child."
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