Admission of parents’ drug tests upheld in TPR case

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Parents who objected to the admission of drug tests in their termination of parental rights hearing were unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that their children would not be affected by their drug use. The panel affirmed removal would be in the children’s best interests.

In Termination: A B, et al. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 19A-JT-00487, the four minor children of A.B. and J.R. were removed from their care due to poor living conditions, domestic violence and drug use. The kids, K.R., J.T.R., J.L.R., and E.R., were adjudicated as children in need of services and their parents were ordered to comply with a variety of measures, including maintaining suitable and safe housing, submitting to random drug screens and abstaining from using illegal controlled substances.

Nearly one year later, A.B. and J.R. were faced with petitions to terminate their parental rights after having failed to follow through with any of the trial court’s orders. The parents were living with A.B.’s brother, who lived with his own five children, and had yet to secure stable housing for K.R., J.T.R., J.L.R., and E.R. At the same time, A.B. and J.R. never progressed to unsupervised visitation, and their domestic violence issues had not changed.

The trial court overruled objections to the admission of exhibits for each parent of nearly 60 pages of consent and drug test results. Both A.B. and J.R. admitted to using methamphetamine and other substances in the months following the TPR petition filings. But J.R., who had two pending felony drug charges at that time, argued that it would be appropriate for his children to live with him even though he continued to use drugs because his drug use did not affect the children, in his belief.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the TPR order, finding first that A.B. and J.R.’s drug test results were admissible pursuant to the records of regularly conducted activity exception to the hearsay rule. It rejected the argument that the test results did not fit into the business records execution to the hearsay rule.

“We further note that even if we had concluded that the trial court had improperly admitted the Parents’ drug test results, any such error was harmless because the remaining evidence presented at the termination hearing … was more than sufficient to support the termination of Parents’ parental rights,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote for the court.

Additionally, the appellate court found sufficient evidence to prove there was a reasonable probability that the conditions resulting in the children’s removal or the reasons for their placement in foster care would not be remedied. It also concluded that the termination would be in the best interests of the children, and that a satisfactory plan of adoption was in place for their future.

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