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In re Involuntary Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of A.C.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 3, 2014


Editorial Note:

These opinions are not precedents and cannot be cited or relied upon unless used when establishing res judicata or collateral estoppel or in actions between the same party. Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure 65(D).

APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Marilyn A. Moores, Judge. The Honorable Larry E. Bradley, Magistrate. Cause No. 49D09-1303-JT-8939.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JILL M. ACKLIN, Acklin Law Office, Westfield, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, Attorney General of Indiana, ROBERT J. HENKE, CHRISTINE REDELMAN, Deputy Attorneys General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

BRADFORD, Judge. MATHIAS, J., and PYLE, J., concur.




Appellant-Respondent M.C. (" Father" ) appeals the juvenile court's order terminating his parental rights to A.C. (" Child" ). Father alleges that the Indiana Department of Child Services (" DCS" ) did not provide sufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's findings that the conditions which resulted in Child's placement outside of his home were not likely to be remedied and that continuation of the parent-child relationship posed a threat to Child's well-being. Concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support the termination of Father's parental rights, we affirm.


Child was born on September 1, 2008. On November 19, 2010, DCS filed a petition to have Child found a child in need of services (" CHINS" ), alleging that Father was incarcerated for domestic battery and robbery, Mother was homeless and living in a shelter, Mother could not provide for Child's basic needs, and Father had demonstrated neither the ability nor the willingness to parent Child. On December 13, 2010, Child was found to be a CHINS. On January 10, 2011, the juvenile court held a dispositional hearing during which it ordered Mother to participate in reunification services, to wit: Mother was to obtain stable income and housing, participate in home-based counseling, and establish Child's paternity. At some point, apparently in October of 2011, a petition to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights was filed.

On September 10, 2012, Father established paternity of Child. That same day, the juvenile court issued an order, in which it noted that the petition to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights had been dismissed and that " Father was released from DOC in July and DCS wanted to give father an opportunity to participate in services." DCS Ex. 45 p. 1. The juvenile court ordered that Father participate in a domestic violence assessment and follow all recommendations, complete a substance abuse evaluation and follow all recommendations, continue with home-based counseling, complete a parenting assessment and follow all recommendations, work towards earning a GED, and participate in the Fathers and Families Program.

Six months later, the State filed another petition to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights to Child (" the TPR petition" ). On July 8, 2013, the juvenile court held an evidentiary hearing on the TPR petition. DCS family case manager Michelle Jeffries (" FCM Jeffries" ), who took over Child's case in March of 2011, testified at the hearing. FCM Jeffries testified that she made referrals for services for Father upon his release from incarceration in July of 2012, including a parenting assessment, home-based therapy, home-based case work (including visitation), a domestic violence assessment, and the Fathers and Families Program and later made a referral for a substance abuse assessment. Father did not complete the domestic violence assessment and, although he did complete the parenting assessment and substance abuse assessment, he failed to complete a subsequently-referred intensive out-patient program. Father inconsistently attended Fathers and Families and failed to complete the twelve-week program.

After July of 2012, Father lived with either his girlfriend or his brother, but Father never provided an address for either home to FCM Jeffries, who offered more than once to visit his residence to see if Child could be allowed to visit or potentially move in at some point in the future. Although Father told FCM Jeffries that he was working in construction through his father's business, he never provided any proof of income. Father participated in some home-based therapy and did have consistent parenting time with Child from July of 2012 until February of 2013, when he was again incarcerated.

DCS also presented evidence regarding Father's criminal history at the termination hearing. On November 24, 2009, Father was arrested for Class A misdemeanor criminal trespass and Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct. On January 26, 2010, Father was incarcerated pending trial for two counts of Class B felony Robbery, Class B felony criminal confinement, and Class D felony pointing a firearm. On July 7, 2010, Father was sentenced to four years of incarceration for Class C felony robbery, a sentence later modified to home detention. Father was incarcerated from September 14, 2010, to November 29, 2010, for Class D felony strangulation, Class D felony escape, Class D felony domestic battery, Class A misdemeanor domestic battery, Class A misdemeanor battery, Class A misdemeanor intimidation, and Class A misdemeanor interfering with the reporting of a crime. Father's home detention sentence for his robbery conviction was revoked and he was also convicted and sentenced for Class D felony escape.

As a result of all of these convictions and arrests, Father was incarcerated from November 29, 2010, to July 19, 2012. On February 25, 2013, Father was arrested for two counts of Class B felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, Class D felony receiving stolen property, and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. Father was incarcerated at the time of the termination hearing, and his latest criminal case was scheduled to go to trial on August 22, 2013.

FCM Jeffries testified that Child had been in the same pre-adoptive foster home for more than two-and-one-half years, that he had bonded with his foster family, and that all of his needs were being met. FCM Jeffries opined that the adoption of Child by his foster family was in his best interests and that Father was not likely to remedy the conditions that resulted in removal because he did not complete services even when the urgency of doing so was stressed to him. Guardian ad litem Jamie Walden (" GAL Walden" ) agreed that adoption was in Child's best interests, based on Parents' failure to complete services, Parents' failure to be a stable part of Child's life, the length of time Child had been in foster care, and that fact that his foster home was the only place Child had experienced stability. GAL Walden testified that she had never been able to recommend reunification and that she did not recommend that Father be given more time to complete services.

On July 25, 2013, the juvenile court issued its order terminating Father and Child's parent-child relationship. The order provides in relevant part as follows:

1. [Mother] is the mother, and [Father] is the father, of [Child], a minor child born on September 1, 2008.
2. A Child in Need of Services Petition " ChINS" was filed on [Child] on November 19, 2010, ... based on allegations of instability and his mother having an untreated medical condition that hindered her ability to parent. Allegations against [Father] included his ability or ...

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