A trial court’s findings do not “clearly and convincingly support” its decision to terminate a father’s parental rights to his son based on it being in the best interests of the boy. In fact, the findings show that the father and son have a bond and often spend time together, the Indiana Supreme Court found Tuesday.
Father R.S. had a no contact order between himself and R.S.’s mother and was incarcerated for a Class B felony. While in prison, he stayed in contact with his son by writing him letters on a weekly basis. A year after father was released on probation in 2013, R.S., now 10, was found to be a child in need of services as to his mother and father based on his mother’s drug use and his father’s lack of involvement. R.S. began living with his maternal grandmother.
Father was supposed to participate in certain services, but did not and was largely absent during the CHINs action. But he did complete services while incarcerated and as a result of his probation. Also during the CHINS action, father was seeing R.S. on a regular basis and even exercised overnight visits with him.
The Department of Child Services, a therapist and the guardian ad litem all agreed adoption by the grandmother was in the boy’s best interest. But the trial court’s findings concluded that it would be best for R.S. to be able to keep visiting with his father and that he and his father share a bond.
The trial court terminated father’s parental rights based on it being in the boy’s best intersets.
“Father’s failure to attend every scheduled supervised visitation or attend hearings during the course of the CHINS proceedings is not clear and convincing evidence that Father is uninterested or unwilling to parent R.S.,” Justice Steven David wrote. “While we strongly encourage parents to comply with the procedures and practices set out by the court and DCS when a child has been found a CHINS, we cannot ignore the fostered relationship, parenting, and individual improvement efforts that Father has personally undertaken.”
David noted in the future, if it is apparent reunification is not a viable option, another petition for termination of parental rights could be filed or a legal guardian could be appointed.
The case is In Re the Involuntary Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of R.S., (Minor Child), and R.S. (Father) v. Marion County Department of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc., 49S04-1606-JT-350.