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Mom's mental ability not reason for termination

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declined to write an opinion barring the state from pursuing termination of parental rights of a "retarded person," as requested by the mother in a termination of parental rights case. The appellate court affirmed ending her rights to two of her children, finding the evidence designated supports her children were taken away because she failed to comply with services and find work and a home, not because she was mentally disabled.

In the case In the matter of the termination of the parent-child relationship of A.S. and M.P.; L.P. v. Tippecanoe County Division of Child Services, No. 79A05-0901-JV-54, mother L.P. challenged the trial court's termination of her parental rights to two of her four children, claiming the court ended her rights because she is mentally handicapped.

The mother sometimes left her children with a neighbor but didn't know the neighbor's name. She didn't give M.P. medication, which required the child be transferred to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis. M.P. also wasn't current on immunizations and A.S. hadn't seen a doctor since his birth three weeks earlier.

The children were declared children in need of services, and L.P. was evaluated and found to have an intellectual ability falling in the range of borderline mental retardation of cognitive functioning. The petition to terminate her parental rights was granted after finding she didn't find suitable housing for her and her children, she was still unemployed, and didn't attend all of the required meetings or visitations.

Instead of challenging whether DCS met its burden of proof in terminating her rights, the mother argued she can't be subject to termination because of her low intellectual capacity even though she knows Indiana law doesn't recognize such a rule. She wanted the appellate court to write an opinion banning the state from pursuing a termination of parental rights of a "retarded person."

Mental retardation alone isn't grounds for ending parental rights, but the trial court found L.P. failed to comply with required meetings, didn't find work or housing for her children, and her lack of effort was more likely due to laziness than her mental state.

The mother also compared her situation to Indiana's prohibition on the execution of mentally retarded criminal defendants, which has nothing to do with ending parental rights, wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

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