COA affirms termination of mother’s parental rights

A Delaware County mother could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals on Wednesday that a trial court erred in terminating her parental rights to her minor child with special needs. The appellate court found the termination was in the child’s best interest.

C.R. gave birth to her child, M.R., in January 2018, and soon thereafter faced a petition from the Indiana Department of Child Services alleging M.R. to be a child in need of services. The department had alleged that in July 2018, C.R. left the child in the care of an acquaintance who left the child in the care of the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant.

It also alleged that C.R. had informed DCS that she has a cognitive delay, seizures and anxiety and that she is prescribed medication to address her seizures and anxiety but does not take it as prescribed. The department further alleged, among other things, that mother is unable to secure and maintain suitable housing and was arrested for a preliminary charge of neglect of a dependent related to the McDonald’s incident.

After the Delaware Circuit Court entered a dispositional order awarding DCS wardship of M.R. in October 2019, it eventually entered an order approving the permanency plan of adoption. The trial court later concluded there was a reasonable probability that the conditions that resulted in M.R.’s removal and continued placement outside the home will not be remedied, continuation of the parent-child relationship posed a threat to M.R.’s well-being, and termination of C.R.’s parental rights was in M.R.’s best interest.

In affirming that decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in its conclusion in In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent Child Relationship of M.R. (Minor Child), C.R. (Mother) v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 20A-JT-1013.

“While Mother does not specifically challenge the trial court’s finding that termination of the parent-child relationship is in the best interests of M.R., we note that in determining the best interests of a child, the trial court is required to look beyond the factors identified by DCS and to the totality of the evidence,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the appellate court.

“The court must subordinate the interests of the parent to those of the child.  The court need not wait until a child is irreversibly harmed before terminating the parent-child relationship.  Moreover, the recommendations by both the case manager and child advocate to terminate parental rights, in addition to evidence that the conditions resulting in removal will not be remedied, is sufficient to show by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in a child’s best interests,” it wrote.

“When asked for her ‘recommendation for the best interest’ of M.R., CASA (Tina) Yoder answered: ‘My recommendation is that the parental rights be terminated and that [M.R.] be adopted … .’ Based on the totality of the evidence, we conclude the trial court’s determination that termination is in the child’s best interests is supported by clear and convincing evidence.”

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