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COA affirms termination of mother’s parental rights

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her daughter after finding the mother failed to prove the trial court erred in the calculation of the time the child had been removed from her parents’ home.

One evening when K.S. and her child, L.R., were sitting in their living room, they heard an explosion that turned out to be the result of M.R., the child’s father, cooking meth in an adjacent bedroom. There was evidence K.S. had gone to the store with L.R. earlier that day to purchase meth ingredients, so the Department of Child Services removed L.R. and placed her with her maternal grandparents.

Two days after the incident in January 2014, DCS filed a petition alleging L.R. was a child in need of services, and the parties agreed to extend the statutory deadline for holding a fact-finding hearing to 120 days. But at a May 5 status hearing, DCS told the court it would be dismissing the case, which was beyond the deadline date for scheduling a fact-finding hearing.

Instead, DCS said it would reopen the matter under another cause. In a subsequent order, the trial court wrote the hearing would be unable to be held within 120 days, so the parties agreed to the necessity of opening the case under a new cause number.

DCS filed the second CHINS petition on May 30, and the parents admitted the allegations. The trial court then issued a dispositional order requiring them to participate in recommended programs, maintain regular income and abstain from alcohol or illegal drugs, among other things.

During the CHINS proceedings, K.S. “made little meaningful progress toward reunification” and tested positive for drugs twice. As a result, DCS filed a termination of parental rights petition on June 8, 2015.

K.S. attempted to improve her relationship with L.R. when she learned of the termination petition, maintaining relative stability from June to November 2015. But when the court took the matter under advisement for a one-year period, the mother returned to her previous habits of not meeting with L.R. or participating in her recommended services.  The Wells Circuit Court issued the termination order against both parents in November 2016, but only K.S. appealed.

K.S.’s first argument on appeal contends that DCS filed the termination petition too soon because L.R. had not been removed from her parents for at least 15 months from the time the May 2014 CHINS petition was filed, as is required under Indiana Code section 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A). Though the termination petition was filed 17 months after the original January 2014 CHINS petition, K.S. argued the calculation of the 15 months should have begun in May 2014.

But in a Friday opinion, Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik said state statute begins the removal period “with the date the child is removed from the home,” or, in this case, January 2014. Further, K.S. expressly acknowledged the need for the dismissal-and-refiling procedure, so the trial court did not err in its calculation of the time L.R. was removed, Vaidik said.

K.S. also tried to raise due process concerns due to “procedural irregularities” during the proceedings, but Vaidik said the mother waived that argument by failing to raise it in trial court and that, waiver notwithstanding, she failed to prove any due process violations. Finally, although K.S. did demonstrate relative stability between June and November 2015, that time was preceded by 17 months of instability, so the trial court did not err in its decision to terminate her parental rights, Vaidik said.

The case is In re the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of L.R. (Minor Child), K.S. (Mother) v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 90A02-1612-JT-2846.

 

 

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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