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Judges reverse termination of parents' rights

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In a case filled with several errors and discrepancies, the Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the termination of parental rights of a mother and two fathers because the Department of Child Services failed to meet the burden of proving that termination is in the best interest of the children.

Mother B.G., her husband H.H.G., and ex-husband C.L.D. appeal the termination of parental rights over the three boys – C.D., H.G. and E.G. The boys were declared children in need of services because of the mother’s and her ex-husband’s incarceration and H.H.G.’s drug use.

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of H.G., E.G., and C.D.; and B.G. (Mother), H.H.G. (Father), and C.L.D. (Father) v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, No. 30A01-1103-JT-267, the appellate court found the record showed that the children had a bond with their parents and that the parents had made progress during the pendency of the case. The case manager and court-appointed special advocate testified the children needed permanency, but the DCS didn’t identify any potential permanent home for the children.

“Because the parents appear willing to continue cooperating with DCS and working toward reunification and because there is no indication that allowing the parents more time to do so will harm the children, we conclude that DCS failed to show that termination is in the children’s best interest,” wrote Judge Terry Crone.

The judges pointed out in the 39-page opinion issues with how the trial court and DCS handled the case, including no explanation as to why the children’s grandmother couldn’t take the boys because of her dogs and that family case manager Katie Huntsman’s opinion that continuation of the parent-child relationship was a threat to the children’s well being because “no progress” was made wasn’t supported by the evidence. Crone pointed out that several findings in the termination orders took a similarly overstated tone or were inaccurate.

There was also an issue as to whether DCS technically complied with the law – which the judges decided not to resolve in the opinion – regarding Huntsman’s last two reports filed before the termination hearing that included documentation that the children’s foster parents,  E.N. and C.N., were considered the adoptive family.

“DCS left the parents, the court, and the children’s CASA with the misleading impression that E.N. and C.N. were in the process of adopting the children, when in reality that placement was in jeopardy due to a licensing complaint. The record in this case also raises the disturbing possibility that DCS intentionally delayed its response to the first licensing complaint in order to leave this misleading impression intact. We note that DCS is legally required to disclose a wide array of information to the court and parties,” wrote Crone in a footnote. “… we wish to emphasize that DCS’s actions were not consistent with its purpose and that we do not condone what happened in this case.”


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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