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CHINS ruling splits Court of Appeals

September 2, 2015

A split Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a Child in Need of Services adjudication, ruling the child’s absent, out-of-state father should be presumed to be a fit and capable parent unless the state proves otherwise.

D.B., a 2-year-old, was found to be a CHINS after her mother was murdered by her half-brother’s father. After filing the CHINS petition, the Indiana Department of Child Services began the process set forth by the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children for both the child’s father and maternal grandmother.

The juvenile court held a fact-finding hearing and found the child was a CHINS, even though at that time the ICPC process had not been completed.

On appeal, the father argued the ICPC does not apply to the placement of a child with an out-of-state biological parent.

The Court of Appeals majority agreed. It ruled the plain language of the statute, Indiana Code 31-28-4-1 Art. III, makes clear the ICPC applies only to the placement of a child in foster care or as a preliminary to a possible adoption.

Subsequently, the appellate court tossed the portion of the CHINS determination that rested on the ICPC process.

Judge Elaine Brown broke with her colleagues over the interpretation of the ICPC. She faulted the majority for concentrating on Article III and pointed to Article VIII which does not preclude the ICPC’s application to agency placements with non-resident parents.

Brown argued the facts in this case support the application of ICPC. Namely, a home study and background on the father had not been completed; the father had little contact with the child and did not regularly pay child support; was not the lessee of the apartment in which he was living; had worked at his current job for only six months; and was essentially a stranger to the child.

She found the juvenile court properly considered and relied upon the fact that the ICPC process had not yet been completed in making its determination.

The case is In the Matter of D.B. (Minor Child), a Child in Need of Services: D.B. (Father) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc., 49A02-1501-JC-48.
 

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