In the Matter of: A.Q., K.Q., and R.Q. (Minor Children), R.O. (Mother) and C.Q. (Father), Appellants-Respondents,
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner
from the Lawrence Circuit Court The Honorable Andrea K.
McCord, Judge The Honorable John M. Plummer III, Referee
Trial Court Cause Nos. 47C01-1501-JC-030 47C01-1501-JC-031
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT R.O. (MOTHER) Nicole A. Zelin Pritzke
& Davis, LLP Greenfield, Indiana ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT
C.Q. (FATHER) Linda Klain Law Office of Linda B. Klain, LLC
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana
VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.
In children in need of services (CHINS) cases, the Department
of Child Services (DCS) sometimes proposes changes to the
trial court regarding the permanency plan for the children.
At the start of the CHINS case, the permanency plan typically
calls for reunification of the children with their parents.
As the CHINS case proceeds, however, DCS may recommend a
number of changes to the plan, including termination of the
parents' rights. We determine that when the trial court
approves DCS's proposal to change a permanency plan from
reunification to termination in a CHINS case, the decision is
generally not suitable for interlocutory appeal, particularly
where, as here, reunification services are not terminated,
because parents are unable to prove actual harm by the change
in the permanency plan. Rather, the parents are only able to
show the potential for future harm-termination of their
In the matter before us, R.O. ("Mother") and C.Q.
("Father") bring their interlocutory appeal
challenging the trial court's order approving changes in
the permanency plans in their children's CHINS cases from
reunification to termination. This Court's motions panel
accepted jurisdiction of the interlocutory appeal, and the
parties fully briefed the case. Accordingly, we address the
merits of the parents' claims. Finding no error, we
and Procedural History
Mother and Father are a non-traditional couple; Father is
seventy-nine years old, and Mother is twenty-seven years old.
They have a long history with DCS that dates back to 2006. At
that time, DCS substantiated a claim of sexual misconduct
with a minor against Father; Mother, who was fifteen years
old at the time, was the victim. Since then, however, Mother
and Father have continued their relationship and have three
children together: A.Q., K.Q., and R.Q., born in 2010, 2012,
and 2015, respectively.
In 2013, DCS substantiated claims of neglect of A.Q. and K.Q.
against both Mother and Father due to a domestic-violence
incident between the parents. Two months later, A.Q. and K.Q.
both presented with injuries, and DCS again substantiated
claims of neglect against Mother and Father. A.Q. had several
physical injuries, some of which were over a year old, and
K.Q. had a knot on the back of her head. Tr. Vol. VII pp. 82,
86. A.Q. and K.Q. were removed from the home and later
adjudicated CHINS. Mother and Father engaged in services with
DCS, and the children were ultimately returned to their care.
Less than two years later, DCS received an allegation that
A.Q. had been physically abused. A.Q. "had several marks
and bruises on her, " including a bruise about "1
½ inches in diameter on her chin that was
purple." Id. at 7. DCS responded the same day
and went to Mother and Father's house to speak with them
and A.Q. Upon seeing the "almost black" bruise on
A.Q.'s chin and other bruises on her head, DCS told
Mother and Father to take A.Q. to the hospital. Id.
Photographs of the bruises were taken and sent to a doctor at
Riley Hospital for Children. Based on the photographs and
A.Q.'s medical records, the doctor concluded that A.Q.
was injured as a result of physical abuse. The doctor told
DCS, "To obtain an injury to that degree, there must
have been a lot of force behind it ..... [A.Q.] was either
propelled to the floor or someone hit her directly under the
chin." Id. at 8. The doctor also stated that
the other injuries to A.Q.'s head were consistent with
A.Q. being grabbed or slapped. Mother and Father both stated
that they did not know how A.Q. was injured and that the
bruise appeared after A.Q. came home from school. DCS
immediately removed A.Q. and K.Q. from the home and placed
them with Father's granddaughter ("foster
mother"). At the time of removal, Mother was pregnant
with R.Q. On January 28, DCS filed CHINS petitions for both
A.Q. and K.Q., and three months later, the children were
Meanwhile, the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department was
informed of A.Q.'s injuries and launched a criminal
investigation. In March 2015, Mother was charged with Level 5
felony battery of a child less than fourteen years old. The
criminal court issued a no-contact order for Mother and A.Q.
A dispositional hearing in the CHINS cases was held in June
2015. Six days later, Mother gave birth to R.Q. Because of
the CHINS adjudications for A.Q. and K.Q., DCS removed R.Q.
from Mother and Father's care while still in the
hospital. R.Q. was also placed with foster mother, and DCS
filed a CHINS petition for R.Q. On September 8, the court
entered its dispositional order in A.Q. and K.Q.'s CHINS
cases. Mother and Father were ordered, in part, to maintain
weekly contact with the Family Case Manager (FCM), keep all
appointments with service providers, engage in home-based
counseling, and have supervised visits with A.Q. and K.Q. The
permanency plan for A.Q. and K.Q. was reunification with
Mother and Father.
Around the same time as the dispositional order, A.Q.
disclosed that Father had sexually abused her, and DCS
substantiated the claim. K.Q. also made statements that
Mother and Father had abused A.Q., but K.Q.'s disclosures
had already been investigated by DCS. DCS moved to cease all
parenting time and visitation for both parents and all three
children. In January 2016, the court ordered that all
parenting time and communication with A.Q. and her parents
cease. However, the court ordered that K.Q. and R.Q. should
continue to have supervised visitation with Mother ...