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In re Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of A.W.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 3, 2015

In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: A.W. (Minor Child) And A.W.(Mother), Appellant,
The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee

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 Marshall Circuit Court. The Honorable Curtis D. Palmer, Judge. Cause No. 50C01-1401-JT-01.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Cindi J. Andrews, Plymouth, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Robert J. Henke, Deputy Attorney General; David E. Corey, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Friedlander, Judge. Kirsch, J., and Crone, J., concur.


Friedlander, Judge.

[¶1] As. W. (Mother) appeals the involuntary termination of her parental rights to A.W. (Child). Mother challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the juvenile court's judgment.

[¶2] We affirm.

[¶3] Mother gave birth to Child in February 2011. That same month, the Department of Child Services (DCS) filed a petition alleging that child was a Child in Need of Services (CHINS). A fact-finding hearing was held, at which the juvenile court found that Child was a CHINS pursuant to Mother's admission and based on its own findings that Mother was developmentally disabled and unable to independently meet all of Child's needs. At that time, the juvenile court granted wardship to the DCS, but Child remained in Mother's custody. The court ordered Mother and Child's Father, H.W. (Father), to participate in services.[1] At a review hearing in February 2012, the juvenile court granted the DCS's motion to dismiss the wardship.

[¶4] Within a few months of the dismissal, the DCS received reports that Mother's home was dirty, that she was engaging in sexual acts with men in Child's presence, that Mother had been talking about giving Child away, and that Mother had set Child down in a busy parking lot. By that time, Father was no longer living in the residence,[2] and the DCS and Mother entered into an informal adjustment. On October 9, 2012, staff at the Bowen Center reported to the DCS that Mother was no longer able to care for herself and had threatened to harm herself, and that she had agreed to be admitted for an emergency evaluation. Additionally, the DCS had continuing concerns about a number of parenting issues, including Mother's housing instability, her inability to read Child's cues, the dirty condition of Mother's home, and Mother's failure to properly bathe Child. Due to these concerns, the DCS determined that the informal adjustment had been unsuccessful and filed a CHINS petition on October 11, 2012. An initial hearing was held on the same date, and Child was adjudicated to be a CHINS based on the court's findings that Mother had threatened suicide and asked for Child to be removed. Child was placed in foster care.

[¶5] The juvenile court issued its dispositional order on November 13, 2012. Pursuant to the order, Mother was required to participate in home-based therapy, continue with Rehabilitative Service Provider services through the Bowen Center, participate in supervised visitation with Child, attend individual therapy at the Bowen Center, and cooperate with the DCS. At a subsequent review hearing, Mother was also ordered to complete a psychological assessment.

[¶6] Mother's participation in services was sporadic at best, and she made little to no progress in those services. A review hearing was held on March 7, 2013. In a subsequently-issued order on the review hearing, the juvenile court found that Mother had not complied with the case plan, noting specifically that she had missed several appointments and visits for various reasons, including that she was " angry with the service provider, was visiting [Child's] father, or was out of town without providing notice to providers or [the] DCS." Appellant's Appendix at 46. The court further found that the parents had not enhanced their ability to fulfill their parental obligations, and that " Mother's behavior indicates a lack of ability to care for her child, as she is unable to grasp and apply the skills that are being taught to her through home based services." Id. On May 30, 2013, the DCS filed a motion for rule to show cause alleging that Mother was in violation of the juvenile court's orders. The juvenile court declined to hold Mother in contempt, finding that she " lacks the mental ability to willfully disregard the dispositional orders of this court." Id. at 45.

[¶7] Another permanency hearing was held on August 1, 2013, at which Mother failed to appear but was represented by counsel. In an order issued after the hearing, the court found that Mother had not participated consistently in services and visitation since April 2013. In another order issued following a January 2, 2014 review hearing, the court found that Mother had not complied with the case plan, had not visited with Child, and " [did] not understand how to keep or maintain an appropriate and safe environment for her daughter." Id. at 38.

[¶8] The DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights on January 14, 2014. An evidentiary hearing was conducted on May 27, 2014, at the conclusion of which the juvenile court granted the petition. The juvenile court issued a written termination order the following day, in which it set forth the following relevant findings and conclusions:

12. The conditions that resulted in the child's removal from the mother's home and placement outside of the home included unsanitary living conditions, developmental delays and the mother not having stable housing, she was allowing unknown men to enter her residence and have sex with her in the presence of the child and there was insufficient food in the ...

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