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In re Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of N.C.

Supreme Court of Indiana

December 1, 2016

In the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of N.C. and A.C.; A.C., Appellant(s),
v.
Indiana Department Of Child Services; Child Advocates, Inc., Appellee(s).

         Trial Court Case No. 49D09-1405-JT-216

          ORDER

          Loretta H. Rush Chief Justice

         This matter has come before the Indiana Supreme Court on a petition to transfer jurisdiction, filed pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rules 56(B) and 57, following the issuance of a decision by the Court of Appeals. The Court has reviewed the decision of the Court of Appeals, and the submitted record on appeal, all briefs filed in the Court of Appeals, and all materials filed in connection with the request to transfer jurisdiction have been made available to the Court for review. Each participating member has had the opportunity to voice that Justice's views on the case in conference with the other Justices, and each participating member of the Court has voted on the petition.

         Being duly advised, the Court DENIES the petition to transfer.

          Rush, C.J., and Massa and Slaughter, JJ., concur.

          David, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Rucker, J., concurs.

          David, Justice, dissenting.

         I respectfully dissent from the denial of transfer in this case as I believe this Court should grant transfer and address the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issue to provide further guidance and to expressly overrule part of the holding in Stone v. Daviess Cnty. Div. of Children and Family Srvs., 656 N.E.2d 824 (Ind.Ct.App. 1995).

         Let me first make it clear that I acknowledge that pursuant to our statutes, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) is not required to provide services to parents prior to seeking termination of parental rights. I further acknowledge that there may be times when providing such services would be fruitless. It is not my intent to require DCS to provide services in all cases. Nevertheless, I recognize that DCS often does provide services to parents, and that often, parents must complete such services pursuant to the court's dispositional order in child in need of services (CHINS) cases, which are the precursor to termination. Some of the parents that DCS provides services to are disabled, and it is my belief that, generally, DCS provides reasonable accommodations to these parents. I believe that is true in the current case.

         I seek only to clarify the law on when a disabled parent may use DCS' failure to comply with the ADA as a defense in a termination action. Specifically, it seems to me that if DCS would be required to comply with the ADA when it provides mandatory services and failure to do so could be a defense to a termination action, then when DCS uses its discretion to provide services, it must also comply with the ADA, and accordingly, a disabled parent could raise failure to comply as a defense to a termination action.

         Turning to the current case, in reaching its decision that Father could not use DCS' alleged failure to comply with the ADA as a defense to the termination of his parental rights, our Court of Appeals relied upon and cited Stone. Specifically, it quoted Stone for the proposition that:

If our termination statute required that services be provided to all parents prior to the termination of parental rights, under the doctrine of preemption an ADA violation by the [DCS] in fulfilling that statutory duty would provide grounds for attacking a termination pursuant to the statute. Such services, however, are not required in Indiana.

N.C. v. Indiana Dep't of Child Servs., 56 N.E.3d 65, 70 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016) (quoting Stone, 656 N.E.2d at 830). I agree with that portion of Stone.

         I also agree with the portion of Stone that provides: "[a]side from the operation of our termination statute, once the agency opts to provide services during the CHINS proceedings to assist parents in improving parental skills, the provision of those services must be in compliance with the ADA." Stone at 830. Finally, as I noted above, I agree with the Court of ...


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