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COA: Parental rights should be ended

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's decision to continue the parental rights of two incarcerated parents, finding it to be in the child's best interest to sever the rights because the parents possibly won't be released from prison for two more years.

In In Re: The termination of the parent-child relationship of J.M.; Daniel G. Pappas, guardian ad litem v. A.S., mother, A.M., alleged father, and the Allen County Department of Child Services, No. 02A05-0807-JV-416, Daniel Pappas, as guardian ad litem for J.M., appealed the trial court's denial of the Allen County Office of Family and Children's petition to terminate A.S. and A.M.'s parental rights. Both had been incarcerated on drug charges since 2004, when J.M. was nearly 4 years old. J.M. had bounced around between family members and foster care and has remained in foster care since January 2006.

The trial court denied the petition to terminate parental rights, citing Rowlett v. Vanderburgh County Office of Family and Children, 841 N.E.2d 615 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), in which a father's parental rights weren't terminated because he would be getting out of prison in six weeks, had secured housing and a job, and the children would continue to live with their grandparents until he was able to care for them. The trial court in the instant case found the J.M.'s parents' release dates to be "soon" and that they had completed many required services under the dispositional decree while incarcerated.

But Rowlett is different from the instant case, wrote Judge Carr Darden. J.M.'s mother's earliest release date is April 2009 if she completes college courses; his father's current release date is January 2010. Neither has shown they have secured employment or housing once they are released, wrote the judge. As a result of the trial court's ruling, J.M. would have to remain in foster care for two more years, or possibly longer until his parents could secure a job and home.

The Allen County Office of Family and Children presented clear and convincing evidence A.S. and A.M. are unable to provide a safe and stable environment for J.M. and that it is in his best interest the parental rights are terminated, wrote Judge Darden. J.M. hasn't seen his parents since 2005 and only communicates with his mother through an occasional letter or phone call.

The appellate court remanded to the trial court with instructions to enter an order terminating A.S. and A.M.'s parental rights.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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