COA: Sisters separated from mother, brothers is in best interests

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court termination of parental rights in a “most unusual circumstance” when it found the separation of two minor daughters from their brothers and mother was in the girls’ best interests.

T.W. and L.W., the two minor daughters of mother J.W., were found to be children in need of services after two incidents resulted in near death and injury to one of the girls. J.W., who also has two sons, fell asleep after working third-shift and woke to one of her children saying that L.W. was “going to die” after she almost drowned in the bathtub. She was found to be purple and cold to the touch.

All four children were subsequently adjudicated CHINS and placed in outside care. The two sons were placed together in a separate foster home than the two girls, who also remained together. At some point during that case, J.W. was fired from her job when she arrived at work drunk. In Dec. 2015, a second incident occurred when, during an unsupervised visit with J.W., L.W. spilled hot cocoa on herself, resulting in a burn.

During testimony, it was determined that all four children have serious mental, physical and emotional conditions that require consistent attention and therapy. The Allen Superior Court ultimately ordered the termination of J.W.’s parental rights to her two daughters, but not her sons.

On appeal, J.W. argued that it was clearly erroneous for the juvenile court to determine that her termination of parental rights to T.W. and L.W. was in their best interests. J.W. contended that she made “continuous, dedicated efforts to cooperate and comply with the juvenile court and DCS” in order to have her daughters returned to her care.

However, she did not dispute the trial court’s conclusion that the girls had bonded to their foster mother, and that J.W. “is not likely to gain the ability to meet the extraordinary therapeutic and treatment schedule required for the four children, meet their individual behavioral and emotional demands, and maintain a household.”

“Therapist Laura Swanson testified, and the Court found, that Sons are bonded to each other but detached from Daughters. Similarly, Daughters are bonded to each other and their foster mother. (The girls’ foster mother) expressed a desire to adopt Daughters and T.W. expressed a desire to remain with (her),” Judge James Kirsch wrote.

“The juvenile court recognized that ‘[s]eparation of the siblings, while generally not a tenable position, is appropriate in this case.’ It was not clearly erroneous for the juvenile court to determine that termination of Mother’s parental rights to Daughters was in their best interests,” Kirsch wrote.The case is In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of J.W., Mother, and T.W. and L.W., Minor Children: J.W. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 18A-JT-981.

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