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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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