COA: Parental rights termination set aside

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a juvenile court's termination of parental rights of both parents of an infant, finding evidence presented to support the termination wasn't clear or convincing.

In In the matter of the termination of the parent-child relationship of A.B., and Angela B. and Brian J. v. Lake County Department of Child Services, No. 45A03-0712-JV-567, the appellate court ruled the court's judgment terminating the parental rights of Angela and Brian over A.B. was erroneous because the Lake County Department of Child Services failed to prove that the continuation of their relationship with the child posed a threat to their daughter's well-being.

DCS became involved with the parents after Angela took A.B. to the hospital because one of her toes had become black following an infection. A.B. was placed in emergency custody on the basis of suspected medical neglect.

A.B. was determined to be a child in need of services, and the juvenile court ordered the parents to participate in drug and alcohol evaluations, treatment recommendations, and parenting classes.

Both parents complied with all of the court orders. During the CHINS proceedings Angela and Brian moved their children - except A.B. who remained in the care of the state at the Nazareth Home - to Pennsylvania to better their home life and employment prospects. During this time, the juvenile court called for the termination of their parental rights and allowed for A.B. to be placed in a pre-adoptive foster home.

The juvenile court terminated the parents' rights to A.B. finding it wouldn't be in A.B.'s best interests to be reunified with her parents.

However, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote, the findings made by the juvenile court didn't satisfy the burden to show A.B. needed to be removed. Also, the parents complied with all of the court's orders and had no history of abuse or neglect of any of their children, including A.B.

"Without clear and convincing evidence to support each of the factors set forth in Indiana Code (Section) 31-35-2-4(b)(2), we cannot affirm the termination of a parent-child relationship. Accordingly, the juvenile court's decision to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights must be set aside," she wrote.

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