In the Matter of: A.H. (Minor Child), Child in Need of Services, and A.H. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,
from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Marilyn A.
Moores, Judge The Honorable Rosanne T. Ang, Magistrate Trial
Court Cause No. 49D09-1507-JC-2165
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Kimberly A. Jackson Indianapolis,
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of
Indiana Robert J. Henke David E. Corey Deputy Attorneys
General Indianapolis, Indiana.
When a parent is unwilling or unable to provide help to his
or her child, Indiana's Department of Child Services can
seek the "coercive intervention" of a court to
compel that parent to provide help through a Child in Need of
Services (CHINS) adjudication, but this intrusion of the
coercive power of the State into family life is
"reserved for families who cannot meet those
needs without coercion-not those who merely have
difficulty doing so." In re S.D., 2
N.E.3d 1283, 1285 (Ind. 2014). Nor is that power
appropriately applied to a parent who seeks reasonable care
for her traumatized child, merely because that care is
ultimately unsuccessful through no fault of the parent.
A.H. (Mother) appeals the juvenile court's order finding
her daughter, also initialed A.H. (Child), to be a CHINS.
Mother argues that the evidence is insufficient to support
the CHINS adjudication. Finding no evidence that the coercive
power of the court is necessary to ensure Child receives
care, we reverse.
Child has had a difficult past. She was bullied in school for
being interracial. The bullying became so serious that she
was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. At fourteen years
old, she became pregnant, and when she was eight months
pregnant, she was raped. As a result of these traumas, Child
slept poorly and was often violent. Police were called to the
house several times, and Child was arrested on some of these
occasions. She has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder,
separation anxiety, and depression. Mother has taken Child to
receive mental health care since Child was in fifth or sixth
June 2015, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS)
became involved with the family when it received a report
that Child had struck her brother. A family case manager
(FCM) spoke to Mother, but Child refused to speak to the FCM.
Mother informed the FCM that she had been taking Child to
mental health service providers but that Child refused to
participate in the services.
July 14, 2015, DCS filed a petition alleging that Child was a
Child In Need of Services (CHINS) because her "physical
or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously
endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect
of the child's parent, guardian, or custodian to supply
the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical
care, education, or supervision." Appellant's App.
p. 26. That same day, the juvenile court held an initial
hearing on the petition. Mother was not present, as DCS had
not yet served her. Along with ordering continued in-home
placement of Child, the juvenile court ordered therapy and a
psychological evaluation for Child, and ordered "DCS to
staff the matter for possible services through Cross Systems
of Care." Id. at 38-39.
the next hearing, two weeks later, DCS still had not served
Mother, and still had not arranged any services. The juvenile
court noted, "Mother is willing to participate in
services." Id. at 44. It also "order[ed]
DCS to ensure that the services ordered at the initial
hearing be arranged for the family by the end of today."
Id. at 44-45. Another hearing was set for a week
that next August 4, 2015, hearing, DCS still had not arranged
a psychological evaluation. So again, the juvenile court
"order[ed] DCS to ensure that services that were ordered
at the last hearing [are] in place." Id. at 57.
At the next hearing on August 18, DCS still had not made the
referral for a psychological examination. At the next hearing
on August 25, DCS still had not arranged a psychological
evaluation, but told the juvenile court that it "will be
in place soon." Id. at 66. The juvenile court
"admonishe[d] DCS for not having the referral for the
psychological evaluation for [Child] in place [and] order[ed]
that DCS have the psychological evaluation . . . in place for
[Child] within 48 hours." Id. DCS, however, did
not comply with this order either.
September 2, Child became violent with her sister. Mother
called the police and asked them to take Child to the
hospital, where Mother hoped a psychological evaluation could
be completed. DCS eventually referred Mother to an
organization named Damar for a mental health evaluation.
However, when Mother followed up on DCS's referral, Damar
informed her that it only works with mentally handicapped
persons, not mentally ill persons, and does not perform
mental health evaluations.
first psychological evaluation of Child began at her home on
September 14, 2015, by Midtown Mental Health. Midtown
required a second evaluation. When Midtown sent out a
representative on October 14, 2015, however, that individual
did not have the training required to complete the
evaluation, and so left. No one from Midtown contacted Mother
again. A psychological evaluation was finally completed in
November 2015 by Caring Associates in Brownsburg. Because of
DCS's four-month delay from the initial court order, the
results of the evaluation were not available at the time of
the November 16 and 23 fact-finding hearing.
that hearing, several witnesses, including Mother, told the
juvenile court that Child was benefitting from therapy. At
the conclusion of the hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated
Child a CHINS. The juvenile court did not make a written set
of findings, but ended the hearing by saying the following:
• Mother is not unwilling to provide for Child's
• "but the statute also says unable and I do think
that you've been unable for whatever reason to get the