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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. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

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  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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