The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the finding that a child with special needs is a child in need of services after ruling that the circumstances of this case don’t support that the mother needed the court’s coercive intervention to address concerns in the CHINS petition.
Mother J.B. has five children, including S.D., who at 2 years old required hospitalization in Indianapolis for cardiomyopathy. She was placed on a ventilator, and given a tracheostomy and gastrostomy. As a result of her hospitalization, J.B. moved her other children from Gary to Indianapolis.
The Department of Child Services initiated CHINS proceedings regarding all of the children because J.B. failed to enroll them in school and had become disengaged from S.D.’s care plan. She allowed the state to remove the four siblings from her care to focus on S.D.’s treatment.
But J.B. found stable housing and the four children were returned to her care. The petition regarding S.D. continued because, although S.D. was ready to come home, J.B. had not met the training requirements regarding care of S.D. for her to be released. The hospital would not discharge S.D. until mother and a second caregiver completed significant medical training. S.D.’s grandmother initially was going to be the second caregiver, but DCS did not approve her based on a background check. The next person chosen as the second caregiver was unable to complete a 24-hour practice session at the hospital because of her work schedule.
“Mother’s most significant failure—to complete the home-care simulation—appears as much a product of DCS’s intervention as it is a sign of her need for that intervention,” Justice Loretta Rush wrote in In the Matter of S.D., Alleged to be a Child in Need of Services, J.B. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 49S05-1309-JC-585, pointing out that DCS’ disapproval of the grandmother required the mother to “go back to the drawing board” to recruit someone else.
“S.D. and her siblings were legitimately in need of services when DCS filed its petitions. But by the fact-finding hearing, Mother had voluntarily addressed all but one of those concerns to the trial court’s satisfaction. In view of that judgment, the remaining evidence fails to show that Mother was likely to need the court’s coercive intervention to complete that final item — and when that coercion is not necessary, the State may not intrude into a family’s life. We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment that S.D. was a child in need of services.”