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COA: Continued placement with foster parents not in children’s best interests

July 28, 2017

Three Miami County children will not be returned to their previous foster parents after the Indiana Court of Appeals found Friday the trial court correctly determined the foster mother had become obsessed with the notion that the children were molested, making continued placement with her not in the children’s best interests.

In July 2015, three siblings – Ale.P., Ala.P., and J.P. – were placed in the custody of their foster parents. C.R. and A.R., after being alleged to be children in need of services. However, the children were removed from the foster home a little more than a year later, prompting the foster parents to file a for return of children, custody and guardianship.

The Miami Circuit Court granted the foster parents’ motion to intervene in the CHINS matter, and during a subsequent hearing, the children’s grandparents testified that J.P. had a tendency to play with his genitalia, while Ale.P. exhibited sexual behaviors. But Angela Isley, a Department of Child Services case manager supervisor, testified that the major deciding factor in the decision to remove the children was their testimony that A.R., their foster mother, had forced them to say their biological parents had molested them.

Further, DCS employee Brenda McGinnis testified she was concerned A.R. was planting ideas in the children’s heads about sexual abuse that didn’t occur. However, Alayne Cook, the children’s court appointed special advocate, testified that the siblings felt stable and secure in the foster parents’ home and that she had not witnessed them exhibit any sexual behavior.

Additionally, Indiana State Police Detective Michelle Jumper testified that she spoke with A.R. during her investigation and found the foster mother’s story changed and that she “wanted to believe so badly that these kids had been molested” to the point where “she was obsessed with this whole situation.” Jumper also interviewed the biological parents and cleared them as suspects.

The Miami Circuit Court denied the foster parents’ motions in October 2016, writing in an order that A.R. had exhibited a lack of restraint and obsessive behavior, including publicly accusing the children’s biological parents of being child molesters. Thus, continued placement with A.R. and C.R. was not in the children’s best interests, the trial court said.

After their motion to correct error was denied, the foster parents appealed, arguing first that they were denied due process when the trial court did not cite to the legal standard it would use when deciding the case. But in a Friday opinion, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Elaine Brown said the foster parents did not cite to authority that required the juvenile court to make such a specific citation.

Further, the foster parents’ counsel urged the court to primarily consider the children’s best interests when it made its decision as to the motions. The court did so by determining in its order that staying with A.R. and C.R. was not in their best interests, Brown said, so the foster parents were not deprived of due process.

The trial court additionally expressed concern about the “shifting” nature of the accounts of the children’s behavior, noting that A.R. testified the children behaved sexually while their teachers and cases workers did not identify such behavior. Such a finding, as well as the finding that A.R. behaved obsessively, was not clearly erroneous, Brown said.

The case is In the Matter of: Ale.P., Ala.P., and J.P., Children Alleged to be Children in Need of Services, C.R. and A.R. v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 52A02-1612-JC-2864.
 

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