COA blasts DCS’ lack of action in CHINS case

August 18, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals in a child in need of services case questioned why the Department of Child Services was able to not comply with multiple court orders and face no consequences from the juvenile court.

A.H.’s daughter, also A.H., was found to be a child in need of services in November 2015. The daughter has had a difficult past, the Court of Appeals noted. She was bullied so much for being interracial that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. At 14, she became pregnant and was raped while eight months pregnant. Her son has been adjudicated as a CHINS.  

The girl has been arrested several times for violent outbursts and diagnosed with anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and depression. DCS became involved in June 2015 after it received a report the girl hit her brother. A month later, DCS filed a petition alleging the girl was in need of services because of her mother’s “inability, refusal, or neglect” to get her services. Mother told DCS she had been taking the girl to see mental health service providers for years but refused to participate.

The juvenile court ordered DCS to set up therapy and a psychological evaluation for the child, but for four months failed to do so. In fact, the evaluation wasn’t set up until November and the results were not available at the time of the Nov. 16 and 23 fact-finding hearings.

Mother testified at the hearing that her daughter was benefiting from therapy. But the juvenile court adjudicated the girl as a CHINS, noting “the statute also says unable and I do think you’ve been unable for whatever reason to get the help that your daughter needs,” according to the court record.

Citing In re S.D., 2N.E.3d 1283, 1287 (Ind. 2014), the COA reversed. There is no evidence in the record to support a finding that mother would not provide care to her daughter without the coercive intervention of the court, Judge John Baker wrote. Unless the lack of the daughter’s recovery is attributable to some action or inaction by the mother, the lack of recovery alone cannot support a CHINS determination.

He wrote the adjudication was “particularly troubling in this case, given DCS’s inexcusable lack of diligence in referring Child for a psychological evaluation.”

“For DCS to fail to refer Child to a psychological evaluation, for four months and despite multiple court orders, and then to pursue a CHINS petition in which it claims that Mother was unable to supply Child with medical care, is simply indefensible. Moreover, we question why the juvenile court put absolutely no consequences in place for DCS’s repeated failures to comply with court orders. DCS should not be permitted to violate court orders with impunity,” he wrote in In the Matter of: A.H. (Minor Child), Child in Need of Services, and A.H. (Mother) v. The Ind. Dept. of Child Services, 49A04-1601-JC-42.

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred in result without separate opinion.



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