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Mother loses appeal of CHINS finding

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a mother’s argument that child in need of services findings should be vacated because the judge in the matter should not have been able to make a negative inference from her invocation of her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

The Department of Child Services filed a petition alleging that A.G. was a CHINS after several doctors had concerns that his mother M.K. was causing the baby’s cyanotic episodes, which caused his skin to turn blue, his eyes to roll back in his head and his body to stiffen. A.G. was diagnosed with mild to moderate pulmonary hypertension, which is common among his father’s relatives. But M.K. was the only one to witness a cyanotic episode. The doctors were concerned if he was left in her care, he could die.

When A.G. was removed from M.K.’s care, he only had one episode, which was attributed to his diagnosis.  

While the CHINS proceeding was pending, an evaluation by a board-certified clinical psychiatrist determined that mother is afflicted with Factitious Disorder by Proxy and is responsible for A.G.’s life-threatening cyanotic episodes.

After A.K. was born, the child was also removed from mother’s care and a CHINS petition filed.

During the CHINS proceedings, M.K. refused to testify. The children were adjudicated as CHINS, during which the trial court entered the conclusion, “Mother’s refusal to testify in the state’s case in chief draws a negative inference that Mother was concerned about incriminating herself through her testimony, further indicative of mother’s guilt.”

M.K. only appealed this finding, arguing the rule in Gash v. Kohm, 476 N.E.2d 910, 913 (Ind. Ct. App. 1985), should not apply in CHINS proceedings. The rule outlined in Gash does not prohibit a trier of fact in a civil case from drawing adverse inferences from a witnesses’ refusal to testify.

In In the Matter of A.G. and A.K. Children Alleged to be in Need of Services, M.K. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 82A05-1306-JC-297, the Court of Appeals found the mother could not support her contentions or make a cogent argument based on public policy or constitutional law. Since she doesn’t challenge the remainder of the findings and conclusions, the adjudication stands.
 

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