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In re S.G.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 12, 2017

In the Matter of: S.G., L.G., D.G., & A.W. Children in Need of Services And S.S. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Indiana Department of Child Services, And Child Advocates, Inc. Appellee (Guardian ad Litem).

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Heather Welch, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D09-1510-JC-3009, 49D09-1510-JC-3010, 49D09-1510-JC-3011 & 49D09-1510-JC-3012

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Patricia Caress McMath Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill Attorney General of Indiana Robert J. Henke James D. Boyer Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Respondent, S.S. (Mother), appeals the trial court's determination that the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) need not undertake reasonable efforts to reunite her with four of her minor children-A.W., S.G., L.G., and D.G. (collectively, the Children)-following their adjudication as children in need of services (CHINS).

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶3] Mother raises two issues on appeal, which we restate as follows: (1)Whether Indiana Code section 31-34-21-5.6 is unconstitutional; and

         (2)Whether the trial court abused its discretion by ordering that DCS was not required to undertake reasonable efforts to reunite Mother with her children.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] Mother is the biological parent of ten children: D.P., born January 12, 1996; J.R., born February 5, 1999; A.R., born September 4, 2001; A.W., born January 5, 2003; M.G., born March 1, 2004; A.G., born November 3, 2006; S.G., born October 7, 2011; L.G., born December 11, 2012; D.G., born December 8, 2013; and I.K., born February 11, 2016. Six men have been identified as the fathers of these children.[1]

         [¶5] The Marion County DCS first became involved with Mother and her family in February of 1999, when J.R. tested positive at birth for marijuana. DCS initiated an informal adjustment, and Mother successfully complied with her case plan. The case was closed in August of 1999. In February of 2002, DCS commenced an investigation after five-month-old A.R. perished in an apartment fire while Mother was not at home. DCS substantiated allegations of neglect against Mother, but it is unclear as to how that case proceeded.

         [¶6] In March of 2003, D.P., J.R., and A.W. were adjudicated CHINS after Mother used a belt to whip seven-year-old D.P., resulting in a black eye. Mother admitted that her actions endangered the children and that she had failed to provide adequate supervision. Mother was directed to secure and maintain a stable source of income and suitable housing and participate in various services recommended by DCS, including, in part: home-based counseling, a parenting assessment, a psychological evaluation, a drug and alcohol assessment and substance abuse treatment, random drug screens, and visits with the children. Mother successfully completed her case plan and was reunited with D.P., J.R., and A.W. in June of 2004.

         [¶7] In March of 2005, D.P., J.R., A.W., and M.G. were adjudicated CHINS following a finding that the children were endangered as a result of ongoing domestic violence in the home. In addition to the children witnessing the physical abuse of Mother by S.G. Sr., J.R.'s body was covered in bruises, A.W. had what appeared to be cigarette burns all over his body, [2] and D.P. was arrested for taking a firearm to school. Mother was again directed, in part, to secure and maintain a source of income and suitable housing and to complete services, most of which were the same as in the previous CHINS case: home-based counseling, a parenting assessment, parenting classes, a drug and alcohol assessment and substance abuse treatment, random drug testing, and visitation with the children. Mother was compliant with her case plan, her children were returned home, and the case was successfully closed in December of 2005.

         [¶8] Five months after being reunited with her children, in May of 2006, D.P., J.R., A.W., and M.G. were again adjudicated CHINS. In that case, Mother admitted to allegations of endangerment to the children and, in particular, that she had physically abused seven-year-old J.R., who sustained scratches on her eyes and bruising to her face, and that she had been convicted of Class A misdemeanor battery against D.P.[3] For the third time, Mother was ordered to complete the same services as in her two prior CHINS cases. In addition, the trial court directed her to ensure that her school-aged children regularly attend school and that she participate in a program addressing issues of domestic violence. After A.G. was born in November of 2006, she was also adjudicated a CHINS because of Mother's violent history and because Mother's psychological evaluation indicated that the children would not be safe in her care. Mother completed all of the necessary services and was reunited with D.P., J.R., A.W., M.G., and A.G. in December of 2007.

         [¶9] Less than a year later, in October of 2008, DCS took D.P., J.R., A.W., M.G., and A.G. into custody. However, no CHINS case was filed, and no services were ordered. Eight days after the children were detained, the case was dismissed. Then, in October of 2009, D.P., J.R., A.W., M.G., and A.G. were adjudicated CHINS after Mother admitted that she lacked the ability to appropriately parent the children without assistance and based on her issues with domestic violence and substance abuse. At the time, Mother was abusing crack cocaine, and DCS alleged that she, in the children's presence, struck S.G. Sr. in the back of the head. Once more, Mother was directed to, in part, secure and maintain a source of income and suitable housing, participate in home-based counseling, complete a parenting assessment, complete a psychological evaluation, undergo random drug testing and intensive outpatient drug treatment, and participate in a program to address her domestic violence issues. This time, Mother did not comply, and in April of 2011, the trial court granted DCS' request that it be able to pursue a reunification plan of adoption.

         [¶10] In October of 2011, S.G. tested positive for cocaine at birth, and Mother admitted to cocaine use during the pregnancy. Mother left S.G. at the hospital, and in January of 2012, he was adjudicated a CHINS. Mother was ordered to participate in services. According to Mother, at that time, she "was a full blown crack head with no direction, no home, no nothing." (Tr. Vol. III, p. 24). She was unemployed, "living on the streets and in abandoned houses, " and was stealing to feed her daily cocaine habit. (Tr. Vol. III, pp. 24-25). In February of 2012, Mother sought substance abuse treatment at the Dove Recovery House and remained there until October of 2012. In September of 2012, Mother had a relapse with cocaine. On October 22, 2012, Mother's parental rights to M.G. and A.G. were terminated.[4] In December of 2012, Mother gave birth to L.G., whose meconium tested positive for cocaine. As a result, in January ...


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