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Judges reverse CHINS determination

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the determination that a brother and sister are children in need of services, finding there was “simply no evidence” to support the finding.

In In Re the Matter of: B.N. and H.C., Children in Need of Services; M.C. v. Marion Co. Dept. of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc., No. 49A02-1110-JC-1025, mother M.C. challenged the finding that her children B.N. and H.C. are in need of services. After being stopped by police in May 2011, police found oxycodone, Xanax and marijuana in M.C.’s car. Her son B.N. was in the backseat. Her driver’s license was suspended at the time. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. The Department of Child Services took custody of her two children and later filed a petition that they were CHINS under Indiana Code 31-34-1-1, which says that a child is a CHINS if the “child’s physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision.”

M.C. complied with voluntary drug screenings – testing negative each time – and presented current prescriptions to DCS for the oxycodone and Xanax, although she did not have a valid prescription for Xanax when she was arrested. DCS had been involved with M.C. and her oldest child several years prior based on claims of domestic violence committed by the children’s father. M.C. now has a protective order against the father.

The DCS case manager testified and the court found the children to be CHINS.

The Court of Appeals found the juvenile court’s findings that M.C. didn’t have a valid prescription for the oxycodone when she was arrested and hasn’t proven she is employed weren’t supported by the evidence. At the CHINS hearing, M.C. provided her valid prescription for oxycodone, and the case manager testified that M.C. provided her a letter showing she was employed.

The judges found that although M.C. was charged with possession of marijuana and admitted to using it in the past, she tested negative at each screening, had valid prescriptions for the oxycodone and wasn’t charged with any crime relating to the Xanax possession. She volunteered to participate in services; they weren’t mandatory per DCS and there is no evidence that her suspended license affects the condition of the children, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. There is no evidence that the children’s physical or mental conditions were seriously impaired or endangered by their mother.

 

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