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COA affirms termination of parent-child relationship

May 21, 2019

A drug-addicted mother couldn’t convince the Indiana Court of Appeals to reconsider the termination of her parent-child relationship with her young daughter after the panel concluded there was sufficient evidence to prove the removal was in the child’s best interests, even if some of it was admitted in error.

When A.S. gave birth to her daughter L.S., the baby had drugs in her system due to her mother’s use of illicit substances during the pregnancy. L.S.’s withdrawal symptoms, coupled with A.S.’s admitted drug use and uncertainty about who L.S.’s father was, resulted in a child in needs of services determination.

Throughout L.S.’s CHINS case, A.S. was unable to produce a single clean drug screen and refused to take drug tests and random drug screens, admitting to using cocaine and benzodiazepines. Additionally, A.S. continually missed scheduled appointments with various mental health service providers and failed to complete inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

Likewise, A.S.’s failure to maintain contact with her family case manager resulted in only one scheduled visit with L.S. The Union Circuit Court ultimately awarded the Department of Child Services’ petition to terminate the parent-child relationship after concluding that L.S. did not know her biological mother and was bonded to her maternal aunt, living in a stable and permanent environment.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the termination in In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: L.S. (Minor Child), and A.S. (Mother) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 18A-JT-2881, finding that the admission of evidence of A.S.’s positive drug test results for cocaine did not fall under the business records exception to the rule against hearsay.

The appellate court found, however, that while the drug tests were inadmissible as hearsay because no expert testimony or opportunity for cross-examination was provided, the termination was nonetheless supported by substantial evidence independent of the admissions.

It further found sufficient evidence of A.S.’s failure to comply with requested services, her history of unstable housing, and her failure to consistently visit L.S. during the case.

“In sum, even excluding the improperly admitted evidence, we find that the juvenile court did not err by finding that DCS established by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions resulting in child’s removal are not likely to be remedied,” Judge John G. Baker wrote for the court.

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