The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a child in need of services determination based on the Department of Child Services’ agreement that reversal was required because there was insufficient evidence to prove a mother’s marijuana use ever harmed her minor child.
At the time of his birth in Nov. 2017, both B.V. and his mother tested positive for THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. That same month, DCS filed a petition alleging that B.V. was a CHINS after hospital staff reported concerns for mother’s mental health.
A family case worker testified that mother admitted to regularly smoking marijuana during her pregnancy while knowing the effects that marijuana can have on a child, and to smoking marijuana when B.V. was in the home. When case managers and law enforcement arrived at the home for the detention, they detected a strong odor of marijuana inside, and B.V. was placed in a foster home.
After several months of improvement and successful visitations in which a supervisor found mother to be a “a loving doting mom” and that she “took good care of him,” the Decatur Circuit Court placed B.V. with mother as an in-home CHINS. The trial court concluded it felt a CHINS determination was appropriate to make sure that Mother remained drug-free and consistent in her housing and employment.
But the appellate court found there was insufficient evidence to support the Decatur Circuit Court’s CHINS determination, and DCS agreed that reversal was required.
“(T)here is no evidence that Mother had any difficulty in meeting B.V.’s needs and that there were no findings that B.V. had any unmet needs. It asserts that the trial court’s only concern was that Mother was young and could backslide, which does not satisfy the statutory dictates,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court.
“DCS concedes that there was no evidence that Mother’s marijuana use ever harmed B.V. and her visitation supervisor thought Mother did very well at visits and was loving and doting.”
The appellate court also added that in light of the overwhelming number of Indiana CHINS cases, “all would be better served if the system focused its time, efforts, and resources on the families who really need them. This one did not.”
The case is In re the Matter of B.V., Minor Child, and D.V., Mother v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 18A-JC-988.