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Court: CHINS records aren't available to media

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The circumstances that led to two siblings being deemed as children in need of services and the media attention their family received don't justify the trial court allowing the media access to the children's CHINS records, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Siblings K.B. and B.L. were removed from their parents' care in April after criminal charges were filed against the mother, Amanda Brooks Lay, and the father, Terry Lay, for the death of their child, K.L., and the battery and neglect of K.B. and B.L. Shortly after charges were filed, the Vanderburgh trial court granted the media access to K.B. and B.L.'s CHINS records, citing Indiana Code Section 32-39-2-10 and previous access granted to CHINS cases.

In In the Matter of: K.B. and B.L., Amanda Brooks Lay, mother v. Department of Child Services, No. 82A03-0806-JV-266, Amanda Lay challenged granting the media access to the records. Lay filed a motion to correct error. The Vanderburgh County Department of Child Services also shared its concerns of opening the records to the media but left the decision to the trial court's discretion. The court denied Lay's motion.

But the trial court should never have granted media access to records dealing with K.B. and B.L., because the investigatory report by the caseworker, which is governed by I.C. Section 31-33-18-2, doesn't allow for media representatives to access the report, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. The investigatory report is confidential and not to be made available to the public.

The trial court erred in releasing the records under I.C. Section 32-39-2-10. In its order, it said it was granting access to educate the public, address the community's interest in the welfare of the children, and give the public new insight into the workings of the trial court and DCS. While these are laudable goals, they are not reasons to release the records at the expense of K.B. and B.L, wrote Judge Barnes. These children are entitled to the same type of privacy that would be afforded to less high-profile CHINS cases, the judge continued.

Because there is not a specific ongoing threat to the safety or welfare of the community, the trial court abused its discretion in disclosing the CHINS records to the media.

The court also addressed the ambiguity in Indiana statute addressing under what circumstances the legislature intended any interested person to be able to access juvenile court records and invited the legislature to clarify the statute to ensure the confidentiality of legal records involving children.

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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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