Denial of expungement of child neglect case upheld by judges

April 15, 2015
A woman seeking to expunge a substantiated report of child neglect in order to keep her job as a cook at a child care provider did not meet the necessary statutory requirements to grant the expungement, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday in a case of first impression.
In the matter of: L.E., et al; G.E. v. Indiana Department of Child Services45A04-1404-JC-193, is the first time the Court of Appeals has reviewed a petition under I.C. 31-33-27-5, which took effect in 2012 and allows a person to ask for expungement of child abuse or neglect reports. 
G.E. had her parental rights terminated in December 2000 to her four children after they were removed from her home due to unsanitary living conditions, poor school attendance and mother’s drug abuse history. In June 2013, G.E. began working as a cook at Pinnacle Family Child Care in Gary, but her job was in jeopardy based on the substantiated report of neglect regarding her children. Pinnacle allowed her to stay and ensured she did not have direct contact with children.
Several months later, G.E. petitioned to expunge the records of her children in need of services case. Her only evidence was her testimony that she has been clean since 2003, in contact with all of her children, and she has not committed any other crimes or had contact with the juvenile courts. The juvenile court denied her petition. 
Pertinent language in the statute says the court “may” grant the petition if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that there is “little likelihood that the petitioner will be a future perpetrator of child abuse or neglect” and “the information has insufficient current probative value to justify its retention in records of the department for future reference.” 
Because G.E.’s burden of proof is clear and convincing evidence, it was not unreasonable for the juvenile court to deny her petition based on the evidence she presented, Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote. And even if her testimony alone established that she no longer posed a threat to children, G.E. did not show that her substantiated report of neglect or abuse no longer has current probative value to keep in DCS’ records. 
Because she works at a child care center, child care centers are prohibited from employing or using the services of someone known to have abused children, and employment of such people could be grounds to revoke a license, it’s clear that G.E.’s records have probative value, Pyle wrote.

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