In the Matter of: Ad.M., An.M., and S.M. (Minor Children);
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner. A.M. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,
from the Lake Superior Court Trial Court Cause Nos.
45D06-1706-JC-722 45D06-1706-JC-723 45D06-1706-JC-724 The
Honorable Thomas P. Stefaniak, Jr., Judge The Honorable
Jeffrey Miller, Magistrate
Attorney for Appellant Renee M. Ortega Lake County Juvenile
Public Defender's Office Crown Point, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana David E. Corey Deputy Attorney General
of the Case
A.M. ("Mother") appeals the trial court's
adjudication of her three minor children, Ad.M., An.M, and
S.M. ("Children"), as children in need of services
("CHINS"). Mother raises a single issue for our
review, which we restate as whether the trial court erred
when it adjudicated Children to be CHINS.
and Procedural History
Mother is married to P.G. ("Father"). Mother and
Father have one child, S.M., born October 27, 2015. Mother
also has two children from a prior relationship: Ad.M., born
December 19, 2005, and An.M., born February 24, 2014. When
S.M. was born, she tested positive for marijuana. As a
result, the Indiana Department of Child Services
("DCS") began an informal adjustmentwith Mother, which
she successfully completed in 2016.
Mother owns a trailer on Melton Road in Gary. However, in
2017, Mother and the Children were staying in a house on
Whitcomb Road because the power had been shut off at the
trailer. The house belonged to a family friend named B.V.
Father did not reside at the house with Mother. On June 22,
2017, Mother and Father got into a physical altercation at
the house while the Children were present. Mother and Father
believed that the Children were asleep. However, Ad.M. was
awake and walked in on the altercation. Ad.M. saw that Father
was holding Mother down. Ad.M. attempted to break up the
fight, but Father shoved Ad.M. Ad.M. got scared, and he
called the police. Officers arrived at the home and conducted
an investigation. During their investigation, officers found
six marijuana plants that B.V. admitted belonged to him.
Officers arrested B.V.
DCS received a report that there had been a domestic dispute
at the house while the Children were present and that there
were drugs in the house. DCS investigator Erin Kujawa was
assigned to investigate the report. On Friday, June 23,
Kujawa attempted to find Mother, but Mother was not at either
the house or the trailer. Kujawa was finally able to reach
Mother by telephone, and they set up an initial meeting for
Monday, June 26. During that weekend, Mother and the Children
moved their belongings from the trailer into the house.
On June 26, Kujawa met Mother at the house. Kuajwa noticed
that the house was "cluttered." Tr. Vol. II at 25.
During the meeting, Kujawa spoke with Mother about the
marijuana plants that officers had found, and she learned
that Mother knew that the plants had been there. Kujawa also
noticed that Ad.M. had a bruise on his face. Mother stated
that Ad.M. was bruised when he tripped over An.M.'s foot
while at the doctor's office. Kujawa asked Mother to take
a drug test, but mother refused.
On June 29, Janet Taylor, a permanency case manager with DCS,
visited Mother at the house. Taylor observed that the house
was in "terrible condition." Id. at 34.
She noticed that the water from a bathroom sink was brown,
the kitchen faucet did not work, there was a "minimal
amount of food, " and the carpet was "extremely
dirty. It felt sticky under your feet." Id. at
36. She also saw that S.M.'s bed was right in front of a
television. Taylor thought that that was dangerous because
S.M. could "easily pull the television down on
herself." Id. at 35. An.M. and Ad.M. slept on
air mattresses on the floor, but the air mattresses were not
blown up. Taylor also noticed that the toilet was not
operable and there was a "very bad odor" coming
from the toilet. Id. at 37. Taylor observed that
there was no water in the home, and there was very little
food. Mother told Taylor that she went to the store daily to
buy food and water, but there was no drinking water at the
time of Taylor's visit.
Based on her observations, Taylor told Mother that the house
was not suitable for children. Mother called Father and
arranged for her and the Children to stay with Father at
Father's mother's home. Taylor visited that home and
found it to be appropriate. As ...