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D. B. v. Indiana Department of Child Services

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 15, 2016

D. B. and V. G., Appellants-Defendants,
v.
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Montgomery Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 54C01-1510-JT-246, 54C01-1510-JT-247, 54C01-1510-JT-248, 54C01-1510-JT-249, 54C01-1510-JT-250 The Honorable Harry A. Siamas, Judge

          Attorneys for Appellants Mark Small Indianapolis, Indiana

          Brian A. Karle Lafayette, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorney General Abigail R. Recker Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ALTICE, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] D.B. (Father) and V.G. (Mother) appeal following the involuntary termination of their parental rights. On appeal, they argue that the termination of their rights was improper because the termination petition was prematurely filed. Additionally, Father argues that the Department of Child Services (DCS) presented insufficient evidence to support the termination of his parental rights.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts & Procedural History[1]

         [¶3] During the time relevant to this appeal, Mother and Father (collectively, the Parents) had two daughters together, Bi.B and Br.B. (collectively, the Girls), who were born in 2012 and 2013, respectively.[2] Mother also has three older sons, Ra.G., H.G., and Ru.G (collectively, the Boys), who were born in 2005, 2006, and 2008, respectively, from a previous relationship. The Boys' father is deceased.

         [¶4] DCS became involved in April 2014 after receiving a report that the home was in poor condition, the Parents were using illegal drugs, and the Boys had been left at home alone. When law enforcement and a DCS investigator arrived at the home, they found Ra.G. and H.G., who were then eight and seven years old, alone and without a working telephone. The investigator also discovered that the home was dirty, with trash and dirty dishes piled up and a mouse infestation. When the Parents returned home after receiving a phone call from the DCS investigator, Mother submitted to a drug screen and tested positive for methamphetamine. Father refused a drug screen but admitted to using marijuana three weeks earlier.

         [¶5] As a result of these events, DCS filed petitions alleging that all five children (collectively, the Children) were Children in Need of Services (CHINS). On May 8, 2014, the Children were adjudicated CHINS following the Parents' admission to the allegations in the CHINS petitions. On June 6, 2014, the CHINS court issued its dispositional order, pursuant to which the Children were made wards of DCS but remained in the Parents' home. The court also ordered the Parents to participate in a number of services, including home-based case management, substance abuse treatment, and random drug screens.

         [¶6] On July 14, 2014, DCS received a report that there had been an incident of domestic violence between the Parents. DCS Family Case Manager (FCM) Charlene Tolley made contact with Mother, who confirmed that the Parents had been in a physical altercation while the Children were present. Mother also admitted that she and Father had used methamphetamine together a few days earlier and had driven with the Children in the car less than an hour later. Father again refused to submit to a drug screen. In light of these developments, DCS removed the Children immediately. The Boys were placed in one foster home and the Girls in another. A detention hearing was held the next day, and the CHINS court entered an order approving the Children's removal and continued placement in foster care. The Parents were subsequently ordered to participate in supervised visitation.

         [¶7] The Parents' participation in reunification services was sporadic throughout the underlying CHINS proceedings. Father refused to submit to random drug screens for the first several months of the CHINS proceedings. Father eventually submitted to a total of thirty-five drug screens throughout the course of the underlying proceedings, twenty-three of which were positive for marijuana, methamphetamine, or both. Father was also referred for an eight-week intensive outpatient program (IOP) for substance abuse. Due to his poor attendance and failed drug screens, Father did not complete the program in the allotted time frame. Father completed IOP after receiving a one-month extension. Father was then referred to a relapse prevention program, and although he did not begin that program when he was originally supposed to, he did eventually complete the program. Despite completing treatment, he continued to test positive for marijuana and methamphetamine.

         [¶8] The Parents were also referred for couple's counseling, but Father stopped attending after only two sessions. Father testified that he stopped going to couple's counseling because he "didn't want to go no more[.]" Transcript at 32. Father was also referred for individual therapy, but he did not attend a single session.

         [¶9] The Parents' participation in home-based services was limited. According to home-based case manager Jamie Selby, the Parents refused to work on budgeting and "were reluctant or resistant to complying with services or recommendations." Id. at 59. Additionally, Father exhibited ongoing disrespectful behavior toward Selby. When she would attempt to redirect him, he would yell at her and tell her that she did not know how to do her job. Selby thought that Father might take better direction from a man, so she brought on a male case worker. Father made some limited progress for a few months until the male case worker was reassigned to another location and Father had to begin working with Selby again.

         [¶10] During supervised visits, Parents struggled with engaging with the Children and imposing discipline. Additionally, Father exhibited disruptive behavior. For example, when a visit at a park was ended early due to inclement weather, Father became very loud and argumentative in the presence of the Children. On other occasions, visits were ended early because Mother and Father got into heated arguments and continued "to cuss and holler" in front of the Children after being told to stop. Id. at 66. Father fell asleep during a number of visits and at other times appeared to be under the influence. Additionally, the Parents sometimes failed to show up for visits at all, eventually resulting in the implementation of a policy requiring them to arrive for scheduled visits thirty minutes early in order to prevent the Children from being transported to the visitation facility only to find that the Parents were not there.

         [¶11] On May 18, 2015, the CHINS court found that the Parents were not compliant with the case plan and changed the permanency plan to reunification with a concurrent plan of adoption. On September 23, 2015, the CHINS court changed the permanency plan to adoption only and relieved DCS of the obligation to provide services other than supervised visitation. DCS filed its termination petitions on October 9, 2015. An evidentiary hearing was held on March 9, 2016, and approximately one week later, the trial court entered its order terminating Mother's rights to all five of the Children and Father's rights to the Girls. This appeal ensued. Additional facts will be provided as necessary.

         Discussion ...


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