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Statute must be followed in all CHINS cases

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The Indiana Court of Appeals today affirmed the involuntary termination of parental rights of a mother and father, but cautioned the Marion County Department of Child Services to continue to follow the statutory procedures in child in need of services cases and termination cases even if a court determines reunification efforts aren't required.

In In the Matter of the Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of C.T.; D.B., father, and K.T., mother v. Marion County Department of Child Services and Child Advocates, No. 49A02-0803-JV-231, Kristie Thompson and Dennis Brown appealed the juvenile court's termination of their respective parental rights over their infant son, C.T. The boy had been deemed a CHINS after he tested positive for cocaine at birth.

In June 2007, the Marion County Department of Child Services requested it no longer be required to make reasonable efforts to reunify Thompson with C.T. and filed a petition to terminate both parents' rights in September 2007. Brown wasn't present at the hearing because he was incarcerated; his motion for a continuance until he was released from prison was denied.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights, finding clear and convincing evidence there is a reasonable probability the conditions resulting in C.T.'s placement out of his parents' care wouldn't be remedied. Thompson testified she didn't use drugs despite the fact her other children had tested positive for drugs at birth, and she failed to receive treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Brown was in and out of prison during the CHINS proceedings for C.T. and failed to communicate with his attorney or with a family case manager regarding the case.

The appellate court also found Brown wasn't denied due process when the court denied his motion for continuance, finding he was represented by counsel during the proceedings and his lack of communication with his attorney invited the alleged error of which he now complains, wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

The Court of Appeals also addressed a serious concern raised by Thompson in her appeal - MCDCS failed to perform basic case management tasks once the juvenile court determined reasonable efforts to reunify her with C.T. weren't required.

Two of Thompson's caseworkers testified they hadn't visited Thompson at her home or inquired about her employment or services she completed after being released from prison. A parent's constitutionally protected right to raise his or her children doesn't go away once a court determines a department of child services isn't required to make reasonable efforts to reunify the family, wrote the judge.

The county departments of child services play an integral part in ensuring procedural safeguards are followed so parents receive a full and fair hearing before a termination may occur, and the comments and actions of Thompson's caseworkers aren't condoned by the appellate court or sanctioned by statute, wrote Judge Barnes.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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