COA: ADA does not apply in termination proceedings

June 21, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply in termination of parental rights proceedings in a case where a deaf father with cognitive and mental health problems appealed the termination of his parental rights to his son.

In 2007, A.C. admitted to the allegations in the petition alleging his son, N.C., is a child in need of services. A.C.’s visitation privileges were suspended during this time and he was diagnosed with a number of cognitive disorders. The court then ordered N.C.’s permanency plan changed to adoption.

When N.C. was enrolled at Damar Behavioral Services in 2010, his father was granted supervised visitation rights. During visits, A.C. promised his son he’d take him to Washington, D.C., and that they would live together. During father’s last visit with his son, he again made the promise they would live together. A Damar official reminded the father not to make those promises and he got very angry and threatened the foster mother. N.C. said he no longer wanted to visit with his father because of his behavior and false promises.

The Indiana Department of Child Services filed a petition to terminate A.C.’s parental rights, which was granted in September 2015. Father appealed.

Father argued that because he is deaf and has cognitive and mental health problems DCS was required to provide him accommodations under the ADA, and DCS’ failure to accommodate his disability is a defense.

The COA in a decision written by Judge Paul Mathias said A.C. did not bring up his ADA defense to the trial court, and as such waived the issue on appeal. A.C. argued that the failure to accommodate his disability was fundamental error, but the appeals court disagreed.

Even if he did not waive his arguments, however, A.C.’s claim would fail because the ADA does not apply in parental termination decisions, Mathias wrote, citing Stone v. Daviess Cnty. Div. of Children and Family Servs., 656 N.E.2d 824 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995). In that case, the COA ruled the services provided to the father were in connection with the CHINS proceeding and not in connection with or as a prerequisite to the termination proceedings and such services are not required in Indiana.

Also, the COA further said A.C.’s disability was accommodated by DCS. He was provided an interpreter and didn’t complain about the quality of the interpreter. Also, DCS recommended he see a psychiatrist and go to counseling, but A.C. did not do either.

The case is In the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of N.C. (Minor Child) and A.C. (Father) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 49A02-1510-JT-1711.


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