D. B. and V. G., Appellants-Defendants,
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Plaintiff.
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.
Attorneys for Appellants Mark Small Indianapolis, Indiana
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
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.
& Procedural History
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.