In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: L.S. (Minor Child),
The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner and A.S. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent,
from the Union Circuit Court No. 81C01-1802-JT-13. The
Honorable Mathew R. Cox, Judge.
Attorney for Appellant Adam G. Forrest BBKCC Attorneys
Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana David E. Corey Deputy Attorney General
A.S. (Mother) appeals the termination of her parent-child
relationship with L.S. (Child), arguing that the trial court
erred by admitting certain evidence and that the evidence was
insufficient. Finding no reversible error and the evidence
sufficient, we affirm.
Child was born on October 28, 2015, with drugs in her
system. The following day, the Department of Child
Services (DCS) filed a petition alleging Child to be a Child
in Need of Services (CHINS). On October 30, 2015, Mother
admitted to the allegations in the CHINS petition, including
Mother's use of illicit substances, Child experiencing
withdrawal symptoms due to Mother's use of illicit
substances, and Mother's uncertainty about the identity
of Child's father. At the time of the hearing, Child was
in the hospital, and the juvenile court ordered relative
placement upon Child's release from the hospital. The
juvenile court found Child to be a CHINS.
At the December 22, 2015, dispositional hearing, the juvenile
court ordered Mother to participate with certain services,
including contacting the Family Case Manager (FCM) weekly;
completing a parenting assessment and complying with any
recommendations; completing a substance abuse assessment and
complying with any recommendations; submitting to random drug
screens; attending all scheduled visits with Child; and
completing a detoxification treatment program and an
inpatient treatment program and complying with all
The FCM, who was assigned to this case in August 2016,
testified that during her involvement in this case, Mother
did not have a single clean drug screen. On December 15,
2015, Mother tested positive for cocaine and benzodiazepines.
On January 7, 2016, Mother admitted to recently using
cocaine. On January 10, 2016, when Mother went to Harbor
Light Center, she admitted that she had used cocaine that
day. On March 8, 2016, Mother was ordered to take a drug
screen; she refused and left court before a screen could be
administered. She refused to meet with the FCM for testing
and did not return phone calls to set up tests.
At the December 13, 2016, review hearing, there was evidence
that during the review period, Mother had not appeared for
other scheduled or random drug screens. During the hearing,
she was ordered to take a drug test, but she failed to do so.
Mother tested positive for cocaine on March 14 and June 13,
2017. On September 19, 2017, she refused to submit to a drug
screen. A drug-testing service suspended its services due to
Participation with Services and Visits
In October 2015, Mother was referred for detoxification
services at Harbor Light. On January 10, 2016, Mother went
there for an assessment and detoxification. She completed the
detoxification, but left the facility on January 19, 2016,
before completing in-patient treatment. She failed to notify
DCS that she left. At Mother's request, she was referred
to Meridian Health Services. She completed her substance
abuse assessment there but did not comply with the
recommended intensive outpatient treatment, attending three
out of twelve sessions in August 2016. Meridian eventually
discontinued services, partly because Mother missed
appointments and partly because Meridian learned that Mother
was living in Ohio, and Meridian would not offer services
there. In June or July 2017, DCS offered Mother services
through Community Mental Health Center (CMHC), which was
closer to Mother's location in Ohio; Mother cancelled
three scheduled appointments, and as a result, CMHC would not
schedule additional meetings with Mother.
Mother did not maintain regular contact with the FCM, making
supervised visits with Child difficult to schedule. She
visited Child in June 2016. At the March 14, 2017, review
hearing, there was evidence that Mother had not contacted the
FCM since the previous review hearing on December 13, 2016.
Mother did not attend the Child and Family Team Meeting
scheduled for March 3, 2017. A hearing took place on April
25, 2017, during which Mother's visits with Child were
suspended; Mother had not visited Child during the reporting
period before this suspension of visits.
On February 15, 2018, DCS filed a petition to terminate the
parent-child relationship. The factfinding hearing took place
on May 2 and June 5, 2018. At the hearing, evidence was
presented that Child does not know Mother, that Child is
bonded to her maternal aunt and other family members, and
that her caregivers have provided her permanency and
stability. The FCM testified that in her opinion, termination
is in Child's best interest.
During the factfinding hearing, DCS offered Exhibits Sixteen
and Seventeen into evidence. Each exhibit was an affidavit of
Bridget Lemberg, the laboratory director of Forensic Fluids
Laboratories, Inc. In the affidavits, Lemberg detailed the
laboratory's procedures and stated that the procedures
were followed for Mother's drug tests; the results of
Mother's drug tests from August 31 and October 12, 2016,
and May 3, 2017, were attached to the affidavits. Mother
objected to the admission of these exhibits, arguing that the
test results appeared to be unreliable and that the forensic
lab technician was not there to testify. The State argued
that the drug test results could be admitted because they met
the requirements of the business records exception to the
rule against hearsay.
The juvenile court stated:
. . . The Court will take the matter under advisement but
will proceed as if they are admitted into evidence. So any
subsequent testimony regarding drug screens will be allowed.
If I determine that they are not admissible, then that . . .
testimony will be stricken from the record. If I determine
they are admissible, then the evidence submitted, uh, for
their testimony will be admitted. Okay?
Tr. Vol. III p. 34.
On November 2, 2018, the trial court issued an order
terminating the parent- child relationship. The order
included the following findings of fact:
19. On or about August 31, 2016, October 12, 2016, and May 3,
2017, Mother submitted to drug screens, and the results were
positive for cocaine.
21. Mother did not complete services through Meridian, and
around January 2017 Meridian ended services for Mother ...