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High court reverses termination of mom's rights

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The majority of Indiana Supreme Court justices ruled in a parental termination case that the evidence presented didn't clearly show a mother's rights to her son should be terminated. One justice dissented because he believes an appellate court should defer to the lower court in assessing the facts of a case.

In the Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of G.Y.; R.Y., mother; and G.Y., father v. Indiana Department of Child Services and Child Services, No. 49S02-0902-JV-091, the high court April 24 reversed the termination of R.Y.'s parental rights to her son, G.Y., because the majority believed the termination was clearly erroneous based on the evidence.

R.Y. had her son in April 2004 and took care of him for nearly 20 months until she was arrested and incarcerated for a drug offense that took place a year before G.Y.'s birth. She failed in getting a relative or friend to care for her son while she was in prison, so G.Y. was placed in foster care and deemed to be a child in need of services. R.Y. was ordered to participate in certain classes, find a job and housing, and other matters before she could be reunited with G.Y. after being released from prison. While incarcerated, she maintained contact with her son and had regular visits with him.

In 2007, the state filed a petition to terminate the mother's parental rights, which the trial court granted. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.

The justices examined the evidence presented to support the termination of R.Y.'s parental rights, and the majority ruled the evidence didn't clearly and convincingly support ending her parental rights. They examined the likelihood she would re-offend, the effects on G.Y. of an additional period of instability, R.Y.'s new job and housing when she is released, G.Y.'s bond with his foster parents, and the degree of interaction with G.Y. while his mother was in prison to come to their conclusion.

The majority didn't find the likelihood she would re-offend, the amount of time it will likely take her to comply with the conditions of the court's participation decree, the fact G.Y. is closer to his foster parents right now than his mother, or G.Y.'s need for immediately permanency through adoption to be sufficiently strong reasons - alone or in conjunction with the trial court's other reasons - to determine termination was in G.Y.'s best interest, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan. The majority also noted there were some programs and assessments R.Y. couldn't complete until after she was released from prison.

In his dissent, Justice Theodore Boehm believed an appellate court should be very reluctant to conduct its own assessment of the cumulative effect of the factors above on the child and the mother's likelihood of addressing the problems that led to the dispositional order. The review of the factors turns on a judgment as to the credibility of the witnesses both to their accounts of past events and their evaluation of R.Y.'s future ability to parent and G.Y.'s ability to thrive.

"I certainly agree that there is unfairness in a CHINS dispositional order that includes directives to the mother that she is incapable of fulfilling while incarcerated," wrote the justice. "But I read the trial court's order as turning on the child's best interests and the determination that the conditions leading to the child's removal will not be remedied - not the mother's failure to comply fully with the dispositional order."

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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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