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COA: Social worker able to testify as expert witness

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A social worker who testified about a parenting assessment at a termination of parental rights hearing was properly allowed to testify as an expert witness, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled, because the Indiana Rules of Evidence control. The judges affirmed the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her two young sons.

T.H. argued the trial court erred by qualifying social worker Jillorna Uceny as an expert witness who testified about mother’s Child Abuse Potential Inventory score. The results of the assessment showed T.H. had little interaction with her children and that the boys would be at risk in her care.

“Although Indiana Code section 25-23.6-4-6 prohibits a licensed clinical social worker from providing expert testimony, Indiana Evidence Rule 702 contains no social-worker exclusion. And because the Indiana Rules of Evidence control when they conflict with a statute, we hold that the social worker in this case was able to testify as an expert witness and was properly qualified as such,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in In the Matter of the Parent-Child Rel. of: B.H. & B.H., and T.H. v. The Indiana Dept. of Child Services, 52A02-1210-JT-849.

T.H. also challenged Uceny’s testimony about her CAPI results because she claimed there was no showing the test is based on reliable scientific methodology or technique. But under Rule 702, no specific test is required to establish reliability, Vaidik pointed out. Uceny testified about the history of the test and how it is accepted and widely used in the psychiatric community. Her testimony is sufficient to establish CAPI’s reliability.

The judges did find errors in the trial court admitting Miami County Department of Child Services caseworker Sara Stolina’s progress reports and allowing her to testify about T.H.’s compliance and participation in services. The progress reports shouldn’t have been allowed under the business record exception to the hearsay rule, but the error is harmless as the judgment terminating the mother’s parental rights doesn’t refer to the progress reports or their contents. It was also a harmless error to allow Stolina to testify about mother’s participation in services because the majority of her knowledge came from service providers’ statements to her, which would be inadmissible hearsay.

There is also clear and convincing evidence to support the determination that there is a reasonable probability that the conditions leading to the boys’ removal and continued placement outside of T.H.’s care will not be remedied, the appellate court held.  

 

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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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