In the Matter of: K.A.H., a Child in Need of Services, and A.V.U. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,
The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner.
from the Allen Superior Court Trial Court Cause No.
02D08-1711-JC-731 The Honorable Richard Karcher, Temporary
Judge, The Honorable Sherry Hartzler, Magistrate Judge
Attorney for Appellant Roberta L. Renbarger Fort Wayne,
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Katherine A. Cornelius Deputy Attorney General
A.V.U. ("Mother") appeals from the trial
court's finding that her minor child, K.H., is a child in
need of services ("CHINS"). We affirm.
Mother raises one issue, which we restate as whether the
evidence establishes, by a preponderance of the evidence,
that K.H. is a CHINS.
Mother, her boyfriend, M.V. ("Boyfriend"), and
Mother's children, M.G. and K.H. lived together in Fort
Wayne, Indiana. Mother and Boyfriend had a verbally and
physically abusive relationship. M.G. and K.H. often
overheard and witnessed Boyfriend's screaming,
belittling, and battering of Mother. Still, Mother often left
M.G. and K.H. in Boyfriend's care because Mother believed
that Boyfriend was only violent with her.
In October 2017, the Allen County Department of Child
Services ("DCS") opened an investigation regarding
alleged abuse or neglect of then-two-year-old M.G., who had a
black eye and exhibited petechiae. Mother told investigators
that M.G. had received stitches after falling in the bathtub,
and that, after the stitches were removed, the resulting
bruising and scarring resembled a black eye. DCS determined
that the claim was unsubstantiated and closed the
On November 28, 2017, Boyfriend babysat M.G. Later that day,
M.G. complained to Mother that his head hurt. The following
day, Boyfriend again babysat M.G., while K.H. was at school.
When K.H. returned from school, Boyfriend would not allow
K.H. inside the house despite the cold; Boyfriend insisted
that K.H. should play in the backyard. Boyfriend subsequently
telephoned Mother to say that M.G. was nonresponsive. M.G.
was transported to the hospital, where he was declared
After M.G.'s death, DCS observed "significant and
apparent bruising" on M.G.'s "face, forehead,
back, hips and buttocks in multiple stages of healing."
App. Vol. II p. 18. An autopsy revealed that M.G. had
sustained "multiple blows and strikes from a closed
fist," "severe[ ] injur[ies]," and "blunt
force trauma to his appendix" before his
death. Id. at 15, 20. DCS removed K.H.
from Mother's care that day.
On December 4, 2017, DCS filed a petition alleging that K.H.
was a CHINS.After a hearing, the trial court ordered
that K.H. be placed with her maternal grandparents and
granted supervised visits to Mother and A.H.
On January 16, 2018, DCS filed a petition to introduce a
videotaped forensic interview ("Statement") of K.H.
On or about January 30, 2018, the State charged Mother with
neglect of a dependent. On March 14, 19, and 23, 2018, the
trial court conducted a fact-finding hearing and a hearing to
determine whether child hearsay was admissible. On March 23,
2018, the trial court granted DCS' petition to introduce
On July 10, 2018, the trial court entered the following
findings of fact and conclusions of law:
** * * *
16. The Court finds that the following is undisputed and
** * * *
i. During the course of Mother's relationship with
[Boyfriend], the couple would often fight in the family home
for which the fights would range from arguments about bills
to cheating accusations.
j. . . .[A]t times [Boyfriend] would physically abuse Mother
in the home with the children present in the home by pushing,
shoving her to the ground, and hitting her causing her
bruising to her back on one occasion. Mother does not dispute
that the children would either be on the trampoline or in
their rooms within earshot of the fighting.
k. During the course of arguments, [Boyfriend] would hit
[Mother] if she could not dodge his punch. [Boyfriend] would
frequently confine Mother to the bedroom and prevent her from
leaving. [Boyfriend] would strike Mother either with an open
hand or closed fist and he would hit her on her head, back
* * * * *
17. The Court finds that what is disputed is whether the
coercive intervention of the Court is required for which the
Court finds as follows:
a. Mother has long been the victim of domestic violence by
b. Mother's previous husband, [L.], the father of
[Boyfriend, was convicted of domestic battery
precipitating the end of their marriage.
c. Prior to these current proceedings, Mother had never
received any counseling concerning domestic violence.
d. During the course of Mother's intake interview with
SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect) concerning her visitation
on December 13, 2017, Mother stated that [Boyfriend] only
ever pushed her.
e. Through the testimony of Mother, she claimed that she was
only ever concerned with domestic violence if her children
actually witnessed the abuse; that [Boyfriend] didn't
"get physical" often and "would stop and
immediately start to apologize."
f. Through the testimony of Mother, the court finds that
Mother contended that [Boyfriend] wouldn't scream at the
kids like he screamed at her; that she would intervene during
his discipline of the children if he was mad about them
spilling things; that she did frown upon his responses and
discipline; and that she thought they "agreed they
wouldn't touch each other's kids."
g. However, despite Mother's victimization, she left the
children with [Boyfriend] on nearly a daily basis.
h. After the inception of these proceedings, Mother has been
receiving therapy and has started to address domestic
violence for the first time. According to Mother[, ]
"now that I know what I know, it concerns me."
However, also according to Mother "I wasn't
concerned if I was being abused because he couldn't do
that to a child."
i. At the time of the fact-finding proceedings, and having
seen the autopsy, [Mother] now accepts [Boyfriend] is a
"dangerous guy." However, leading up to
[M.G.'s] death, [Boyfriend] would provide [Mother with]
an explanation that made sense to her. "My son never had
marks that were hidden-the marks made sense-I never suspected
anything was going on." Mother now accepts that the
child was severely injured and additionally sustained blunt
force trauma to his appendix.
18. Mother has not been able to and is currently unable to
obtain sufficient help on her own without the State's
aid. Prior to the inception of these proceedings, Mother had
no recognition that she and her children were in danger. It
wasn't until the death of her two-year-old child, the
provision of some therapy, and viewing the autopsy report did
[sic] Mother accept that [Boyfriend] committed this heinous
act against two-year-old [M.G.]. At the time of these
proceedings, Mother had not completed her counseling and has
not full [sic] comprehended the danger of domestic violence.
19. However, [Mother's] acceptance of the brutality of
[Boyfriend] does not conclude the need for the coercive
intervention of this Court. Despite having been the victim of
domestic violence in the past, Mother did not comprehend that
she was being abused again. Moreover, Mother did not
comprehend the danger that domestic violence posed to her
children. Now, Mother is facing criminal charges for which a
no contact [order] has been issued against her in favor of
her surviving child.
20. Mother's own supports [sic] did not recognize that
two-year-old [M.G.] was being abused even despite having
witnessed bruises on the child prior to his death. The Court
is struck with the fact that it took the death of [M.G.] for
anyone to intervene. Sadly, although it is too late for
[M.G.], it is not too late to protect [K.H.].
21. The Court concludes that [K.H.] was [a] witness to the
domestic violence to her Mother and was present in the home
on the day that [M.G.] died. Yet, Mother persists in her
contention that the coercive intervention of the Court is not
22. The evidence and the reasonable inferences from the
evidence and testimony support this Court's determination
that Mother had not fully addressed the issue of domestic
violence and that she will not remedy the issue without the
coercive intervention of the court. Moreover, [K.H.] had
witnessed domestic violence and could verbalize what she saw.
Furthermore, because of the continuing prospect of domestic
violence absent this Court's coercive intervention,
[K.H.'s] physical and mental health remain in serious
danger. Thus, the evidence is sufficient to support the CHINS
23. "A child's exposure to domestic violence can
support a CHINS finding." K.B. v. Indiana Dep't
of Child Servs., 24 N.E.3d 997, 1003 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015).
Additionally, a single incident of domestic violence in a
child's presence may support a CHINS finding, and it need
not necessarily be repetitive. See id. at 1003-04.
In K.B., there was evidence that the parties'
children witnessed domestic violence and were old enough to
24. Acting under its parens patriae power, the State
may interfere with parental autonomy when it is
"necessary to protect the health and safety of
children." In re V.H., 967 N.E.2d 1066, 1072
(Ind.Ct.App. 2012). The purpose of the CHINS statute is
"to help families in crisis-to protect children, not