Finding that a trial judge and Indiana Department of Child Services didn’t follow the law before involuntarily terminating parental rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals has sent the case back to Elkhart Circuit Court.
In Term. of the Parent-Child Rel. of K.E., and T.E. and J.E., T.E. and J.E. v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, No. 20A05-1104-JT-206, the Court of Appeals reversed the involuntary termination of parental rights of T.E. and J.E. to a child born in March 2010.
The Elkhart County office of the Indiana DCS took emergency protective custody of the then-2-month-old child, K.E. The state filed a petition alleging K.E. was a child in need of services. Both parents admitted to the allegations of the CHINS petition. The trial court in July 2010 removed K.E. from the home after an evidentiary hearing and later terminated the parents’ rights in December after a hearing.
But the trial court didn’t follow Indiana Code 31-34-21-5.6 in allowing more time to lapse between the removal and the termination or finding that reasonable efforts for family preservation or reunification had happened or that those efforts weren’t required. That was reversible error, the appellate court found.
“Our conclusion is based solely upon ECDCS’ failure to comply with the statutory mandate,” the court wrote. “We express no opinion regarding the sufficiency of the evidence relating to the remaining elements of the termination petition. In reaching our decision we are keenly aware of the fact that K.E.’s safety and emotional well-being hang in the balance. Further delay in the final resolution of K.E.’s case is regrettable. Nevertheless, ECDCS alleged, but failed to prove removal according to the mandates of Indiana Code section 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A).”