COA: Parents have no say in child’s adoption placement after TPR

A mother and father whose parental rights were terminated did not persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse the termination because they were deprived of the right to determine their child’s adoptive placement.

After C.D. was born with marijuana in her system, she was removed from her parents’ care and alleged to be a child in need of services by the Indiana Department of Child Services. Her mother, J.H., admitted to using marijuana while pregnant and that she had not provided the child with a safe, stable, and appropriate living environment free from substance abuse.

The trial court also determined that the child’s father, W.D., did not have housing, was unemployed, had issues with marijuana use and was unwilling to participate in services to address those issues. During the CHINS case, both parents failed to participate in a variety of services and visitations while the child was placed with her grandmother. However, law enforcement at some point arrested J.H. for possession of paraphernalia and neglect of a dependent while the child was at an unsupervised visit with her father, permitted by grandmother.

The trial court then denied a motion to place C.D. with her grandmother, and likewise changed the permanency plan from reunification to adoption. It later denied DCS’s motion for the child to be placed back in her grandmother’s care, after the child’s new foster parents argued that C.D. was not appropriately provided for while living with her grandmother, among other things.

A guardian ad litem for the child then filed a motion requesting that the trial court reconsider its denial of DCS’s motion, citing documentation from C.D.’s pediatrician that she was “was fully caught up on her vaccines, along with review of medical milestones, diet and other well check markers.” The GAL also noted that no concerns were ever brought up by the doctor about the child’s development or how the grandmother had treated her.

However, the GAL’s motion to reconsider was denied pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 53.4(B) because it was not ruled upon within five days. Parental rights were subsequently terminated for both parents, who appealed in Termination: J H, et al. v. Child Advocates Inc, et al., 19A-JT-01549. Together, the parents asserted that they had a fundamental right to choose who would adopt their child and that, by terminating their parental rights, the trial court effectively refused to place C.D. with her grandmother despite their wishes, as well as those of the GAL and DCS.

“… [T]ermination cannot be improper because it deprived the Parents of their right to consent to Daughter’s adoption. Termination is proper because they failed to address their substance abuse problems and because termination is in Daughter’s best interests,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the appellate court. “The result of this is that all of Mother and Father’s parental rights, including the right to consent to adoption, have been terminated. This fact is not grounds for reversing the termination, it is a consequence of the termination.”

Instead, the question before the trial court was whether the parents’ parental rights should be terminated, the appellate court noted.

“Who will ultimately be permitted to adopt Daughter is a question for the adoption court, not the termination court,” it wrote, concluding that the trial court did not err in its termination decision.

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