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COA affirms ruling in 'unusual' termination case

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In an unusual case on appeal in which a mother's parental rights were terminated to only one of her five children during a termination hearing, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the decision due to the circumstances of the case.

Lavonne Aikens appealed the termination of her parental rights to her son I.A. in the case In the Matter of Termination of Parental-Child Relationship of I.A. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 02A05-0811-JV-660. I.A. is the youngest of her nine children and tested positive for cocaine at birth. I.A. also has a genetic disorder and multiple physical deformities. The Allen County Department of Child Services filed a petition alleging I.A. and four of his siblings were children in need of services. The children were placed in foster care, with I.A. placed with a different family. Aikens never developed a relationship with I.A., wasn't fully aware of his medical situation, and refused to donate blood to help doctors determine his genetic disorder.

The Court of Appeals described the case as "very unusual" in its opinion today, given that the rights to only one child were terminated in a hearing regarding five children. The circumstances of the case support the termination to parental rights of I.A., given Aikens' indifference towards her son, her lack of cooperation with doctors in giving blood to test for I.A.'s genetic disorder, and failure to contact a DCS family case manager to ask about I.A.

"Although we commend Mother for being drug-free at the termination hearing (and hope that she is still drug-free today), kicking a cocaine habit for eight months is one thing. But overcoming a pattern of indifference to a child who has many medical needs is quite another. The DCS has established a reasonable probability that Mother will not change regarding I.A.," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Aikens also argued that the totality of the evidence showed she complied with services such that the court denied terminating her parental rights to her other four children and the court speculated on her ability to care for I.A. But I.A. was treated separately by the attorneys and witnesses during the termination hearing for good reason, wrote the judge. Even Aikens' own counsel said in closing statements that counsel would understand if the court just terminated her rights to I.A. given Aikens' past and chance of relapse. Based on all of the evidence, the appellate court ruled the trial court's judgment wasn't erroneous.

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