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Termination rash in special needs CHINS case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the termination of a mother's parental rights to her special needs son, finding the decision would create a "sobering message" to parents of children who need ongoing assistance.

In the case In Re: The Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of M.S.; H.S., mother, No. 09A04-0805-JV-276, 8-year-old M.S. had been deemed a child in need of services as a result of his personality disorder and severe behavioral difficulties. His mother, H.S., who has two younger children, asked the Department of Child Services for help in caring for M.S. The mother had to sometimes hold M.S. down to protect him from hurting the other children or himself, and in the process would be harmed by her son.

Despite H.S.'s participation in services designed to help her parent M.S., she continued to need help caring for her son. DCS filed a petition to terminate her parental rights; several witnesses for the department testified the termination was in the best interest of M.S. because his mother wouldn't be able to provide the care he needed, despite her best efforts.

The termination of parental rights was premature, wrote Chief Judge John Baker, because no one knows if and when M.S. becomes stabilized if he will be able to live in the home with H.S. and his brothers.

"But to say that Mother's parental rights must be terminated merely because her child has special needs and she needs help to manage his behavior would send a sobering message indeed to all of the parents in Indiana with children who need ongoing medical or psychological assistance," wrote the chief judge. "In effect, as aptly put by Mother's attorney during the termination hearing, taking this step 'creates a message that if you've got a child that is difficult and you do seek help for that child, your reward is the child is removed, never to return.'"

The courts, instead of taking the "radical action" of severing the parent-child bond prematurely, should work with DCS to focus on helping M.S. become stabilized and re-evaluate his best interests later if that occurs.

The Court of Appeals remanded for further proceedings.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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