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Mom loses bid to bar DCS child interviews after clean home check

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A mother who challenged a court order granting the Department of Child Services’ petitions to interview her minor children lost her appeal Wednesday, despite her argument that a DCS inspection of her home and her screening found no evidence of drug abuse that had been alleged in a complaint.

“We conclude that Mother has failed to establish that the trial court erred in granting DCS’s Petitions to Interview Children or that she was denied due process,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the majority in In Re: The Matter of A.H., and S.H., Minor Children, V.H., Mother v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 10A01-1302-JM-93. “Accordingly, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.”

Mother V.H. said she wished to shield her children from false allegations that she suspected were made by the children’s father, who V.H. claimed had previously made false complaints against her.

DCS on Jan. 9 received a report that V.H. was using methamphetamine and heroin on a daily basis and selling drugs while her 4-, 6-, and 8-year-old children were at home. A DCS caseworker visited the home two days later and found no such evidence, and the mother passed a drug screen.

But V.H. declined to agree to allow the caseworker to interview the children about the drug allegations. She said subjecting the children to the interview was a violation of her 14th Amendment right to direct the upbringing of her children.
 
The trial court said the mother’s argument was compelling, but ultimately held, “In this case, [DCS] has a compelling interest, and has no other means to directly assess the conditions of these children without an interview.”

“While we recognize the fundamental right of a parent to raise her child without undue interference by the state, we cannot say that due process requires DCS to conduct an assessment or a portion of an assessment in order to obtain information which would provide a basis supporting the accuracy or reliability of the report, prior to interviewing the child or children,” Brown wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Cale Bradford.

“Indeed, an interview of the child or children as part of this initial evaluation may provide the information needed for DCS to classify a report as substantiated or unsubstantiated. We cannot say that legislation allowing DCS the ability to interview a child as part of the initial assessment and after obtaining a court order if necessary violates due process.”

In dissent, Judge Patricia Riley said she would consider the appeal moot since the trial court refused to stay the interviews pending appeal, and that the matter is of limited public import.

“In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I must conclude that the children have been interviewed and no effective relief can be given to Mother,” Riley wrote.

“I conclude that the case does not present an issue of great public interest and, therefore, I would dismiss the appeal as moot.”
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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