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Justices uphold termination of mother’s parental rights after years of drug abuse

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The Indiana Supreme Court Wednesday set aside the Court of Appeals order dismissing a Dearborn County mother’s appeal of the termination of her parental rights and took the case. The justices affirmed the decision to end her parental rights to her three children.

The Department of Child Services removed K.T.K., K.C. and K.R.K from mother R.C.’s home and placed them in foster care due to her serious substance abuse issues, which rendered her incapable of providing the necessary care and supervision that the children required. She admitted to having snorted hydrocodone and Xanax at that time, which contributed to the children’s removal, and that she has a serious substance abuse problem. The children’s father was incarcerated during the time at issue in this case.  

The children were at first placed with their paternal grandmother, then bounced around to various placements until ending up with foster parents. The DCS sought to terminate R.C.’s parental rights in 2011 after R.C. was released from her second term in prison and the children had been in DCS’ care for 13 months.

The record reflected her long history of substance abuse problems as well as her history of criminal behavior, which includes incarceration. The trial court found that her substance abuse problem is so severe that she will always be at risk for a relapse, and this finding is supported by the record, the justices ruled. Mother didn’t show up for recommended services to treat her drug problem or for parenting classes. Shortly after being released from incarceration in 2010, she began drinking again, which led to her second incarceration that year.

“It is of no small consequence that evidence presented during the hearing reveals that Mother had not used illegal drugs in approximately 17 months and she had not consumed alcohol in approximately 11 months, resulting in roughly 40 negative drug screens during that time,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote. “We are mindful, however, that the trial court was within its discretion to consider that the first eleven months of her sobriety were spent in prison where she would have not had access to any illegal substances, nor be subjected to the type of stressors — namely the responsibility of maintaining a household and raising three young and active children — that would normally trigger a desire to pursue an escape from the pressures of everyday life that drugs often provide.”

The record also showed that mother had a habitual pattern of exposing her children to her criminal behavior, which detrimentally impacted their psychological, emotional and physical development. In fact, 10-year-old K.T.K. begged the trial court to allow him and his siblings to remain with their foster parents. Termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the children, the justices concluded in Term. of the Parent-Child Rel. of: K.T.K., K.C., and K.R.K. (Minor Children), and R.C. (Mother) v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, Dearborn County Office, 15S01-1306-JT-402.

In a separate order, the Supreme Court denied the children’s father’s petition to transfer. His parental rights were also terminated, which was upheld by the COA last year.

 

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