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COA restores mother’s parental rights after incarceration

November 10, 2016

A mother’s parental rights to her two children will be restored after the Indiana Court of Appeals found Thursday that the state Department of Child Services failed to prove that removing the children from their mother was in their best interests.

In 2011, H.S., the mother, married G.S., the father, and had one child together, G.A.S. The mother also had a child from a previous relationship, A.W., and together she and her husband raised both children.

After the couple got into a fight in March 2014, the police were called and arrested H.S. for possession of heroin and G.S. for violating a restraining order that H.S. had taken out against him. The Indiana Department of Child Services took protective custody of the children, and they were adjudicated as children in need of services.

H.S. was sentenced to probation in July, but she violated the terms twice and was instead sentenced to jail. G.S. was released from prison in May but was barred from living with his mother, E.S., who had custody of the children. When DCS discovered that the father had moved in with E.S., the children were removed from the home and placed in foster care.

DCS then filed a petition for the involuntary termination of H.S.’s parental rights to A.W. and both parents’ rights to G.A.S. During the hearings on DCS’ petition, both parents told the court that they intended to stay married and live in the same home after the mother’s release.

Despite the mother’s testimony, the trial court terminated H.S.’s rights to her children, but did not terminate the father’s rights to G.A.S. The court also concluded that DCS’ plan to have A.W. adopted by her foster parents was satisfactory.

H.S. appealed, arguing that the department had failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that there was a reasonable probability that the conditions that led to the removal of A.W. and G.A.S. would not be remedied.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed Thursday, reversing In re the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.W. and G.A.S.: H .S. (Mother) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 54A01-1604-JT-1090. Specifically, the appellate court wrote that because the trial court had terminated the mother’s rights, but not the father’s, it had undermined its finding that the conditions that led to the removal of the children would not be remedied.

H.S. was scheduled to be released from prison seven months after the hearing and intended to move back in with G.S. which would mean that she would also live with G.A.S. Further, the appellate court wrote that there was “seemingly nothing else” that H.S. could have done to demonstrate her commitment to becoming a better person and better parent to be reunited with the children, pointing specifically to the A.A. meetings, parenting classes and other similar programs she participated in while in prison.

Finally, the appellate court found that based on testimony at trial that the two children had a very close bond, DCS had failed to prove that separating A.W. from the rest of the family in favor of adoption was in the child’s best interests. The Court of Appeals therefore reversed the termination of H.S.’s parental rights to her children.

 

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