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In re Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of J.W.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 25, 2015

In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of J.W., Jr., A.W., and D.D., Minor Children, T.D., Mother, and J.W., Sr., Father, Appellants-Respondents,
v.
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner

Page 1186

Appeal from the Vanderburgh Superior Court. Case Nos. 82D01-1401-JT-4, 82D01-1401-JT-5, and 82D01-1401-JT-6. The Honorable Brett J. Niemeier, Judge, The Honorable Renee Allen Ferguson, Magistrate.

FOR APPELLANTS: Erin L. Berger, Thomas G. Krochta, Vanderburgh County Public Defender's, Office, Evansville, Indiana.

FOR APPELLEES: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Robert J. Henke, Deputy Attorney General; Abigail R. Miller, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Najam, Judge. Mathias, J., and Bradford, J. concur.

OPINION

Page 1187

Najam, Judge.

Statement of the Case

[¶ 1] T.D. (" Mother" ), and J.W., Sr. (" Father" ) (collectively, " the Parents" ) appeal the trial court's termination of their parental rights over J.W., Jr., Z.W., and D.D. (" the Children" ). The Parents raise a single issue for our review: whether the statutory waiting period under Indiana Code Section 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A)(iii) is tolled during any period in which the Indiana Department of Child Services (" DCS" ) fails to provide or otherwise make services available to a parent prior to seeking the termination of that parent's parental rights. On this question of first impression, we hold that Indiana Code Section 31-35-2-4(b)(2)(A)(iii) simply requires the DCS to demonstrate compliance with the statutory waiting period--namely, that a child has been removed from a parent for fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months immediately prior to the termination hearing. That statute does not condition the waiting period on whether the DCS provided or otherwise made available any type of services to the parent. As such, we affirm the trial court's termination of the Parents' parental rights.

Statement of the Facts

[¶ 2] On August 31, 2012, DCS filed verified petitions alleging the Children to be Children in Need of Services (" CHINS" ). On September 11, 2012, the court adjudicated the Children to be CHINS. Thereafter, the court issued a dispositional order and ordered the Parents to participate in parenting aid services, supervised visitation, and random drug screens.

[¶ 3] On July 2, 2013, DCS filed a petition to terminate the Parents' parental rights. On August 13, the court suspended that part of its dispositional order in the CHINS proceeding that required the Parents to participate in services and visitation. However, on December 17, the court dismissed the DCS's termination petition as prematurely filed, and the court reinstated the suspended requirements for the Parents to participate in services and visitation.

[¶ 4] On January 14, 2014, DCS filed its second petition to terminate the Parents' parental rights, which was a timely petition. After a fact-finding hearing, the court terminated Mother's and Father's parental rights over the Children. In doing so, the court found, among other things, that the Children had been removed from the Parents' care for at least fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months; that both Mother and Father had been unemployed and unable to maintain employment throughout most of the CHINS proceedings; that both Mother and Father were homeless throughout most of the CHINS proceedings and at the time of the termination hearing; that Mother and Father had admitted at the termination hearing that they were not in a position to take custody of the Children; and that Mother and Father had repeatedly failed to cooperate with, attend, or make progress in the parenting aid services, visitation, and drug screens when those programs had been made available to them. This appeal ensued.

Discussion and Decision

[¶ 5] The Parents appeal the termination of their parental rights. We begin our review of this issue by acknowledging that " [t]he traditional right of parents to ...


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