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On rehearing, appeals court reins in DCS on CHINS custody change

September 8, 2016

The Department of Child Services lost on rehearing its argument that a custody modification ordered in a child in need of services case survives the CHINS proceeding.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in June that an order during the CHINS proceeding that removed children from the custody of mother after a car crash while under the influence of methamphetamine terminated as soon as the juvenile court discharged the parties.

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel that reaffirmed In the Matter of J.B. and L.B.: J.J. (Mother) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 20A05-1510-JC-1612.

“It is clear that the policy and purpose of the CHINS statutory scheme is not to remove children from their parents without giving the parents a reasonable opportunity to participate. But this goal was not furthered in this case. That is, DCS used the coercive power of the State to insert itself into a family relationship by obtaining a CHINS finding and then had the CHINS court modify sole custody to Father and close the CHINS case thirty days later — without entering a dispositional decree and giving Mother a meaningful opportunity to participate in services that DCS itself had recommended in both the petition for parental participation and the predispositional report. This is particularly troublesome given that a CHINS adjudication has adverse consequences for parents,” Vaidik wrote.

“We therefore reverse that part of the CHINS court’s order that discharged the parties and terminated the CHINS case and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with the CHINS statutes, including any appropriate services for Mother.”  
 

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