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In re R.L.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 29, 2019

In the Matter of R.L. (Minor Child)
v.
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner, and J. R. (Mother), Appellant-Respondent, and Child Advocates, Inc., Guardian Ad Litem.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Marilyn Moores, Judge The Honorable Gael Deppert, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 49D09-1803-JC-638

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Andrew Bernlohr Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Abigail R. Recker Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Respondent, J.R. (Mother), appeals the juvenile court's denial of her motion to dismiss the petition of Appellees'-Petitioners', Department of Child Services (DCS) and Child Advocates, Inc., (collectively, DCS), alleging that her minor child, R.N.L. (Child), is a child in need of services (CHINS).

         [¶2] We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] Mother presents one issue on appeal: Whether the juvenile court erred in denying her motion to dismiss the instant CHINS case.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] Mother and R.L. (Father)[1] are the parents of a daughter, J.L., born early in 2017. Shortly after J.L.'s birth, Mother became pregnant with Child. Father is also father to Child. On a date which is unclear from the record, J.L. was removed from the care of Mother and Father in 2017 when DCS initiated a CHINS proceeding based on allegations of neglect (the J.L. CHINS). Child was born on November 2, 2017.

         [¶5] On November 7, 2017, DCS filed a petition alleging that Child was a CHINS (the 2017 CHINS) based on allegations that, among other things, Mother and Father had failed to provide a safe home, had not completed services referred in the still-ongoing J.L. CHINS proceeding to rectify conditions for removal, Mother was unable and unwilling to care for Child, Mother struggled with anger issues, service providers had not recommended unsupervised parenting time, and Father had not demonstrated the ability to safeguard Child while Child was in Mother's care. Child was removed from Mother and Father's care and placed with the same foster family caring for J.L. On January 26, 2018, the juvenile court held a fact-finding hearing on the 2017 CHINS. On March 2, 2018, the juvenile court denied the 2017 CHINS, finding that DCS had made no referrals for Mother in the 2017 CHINS, DCS had failed to establish the foundation for evidence of any prior referrals in other CHINS proceedings involving Mother, and that Mother had a stable home, knew about community resources available to her, and had strengthened her parenting skills. The juvenile court dismissed the 2017 CHINS.

         [¶6] The juvenile court's order denying and dismissing the 2017 CHINS was entered and served on the parties at 8:33 a.m. on March 2, 2018. It is unclear from the record before us whether that order was the subject of an administrative hearing with the parties present. Without informing Mother that the 2017 CHINS had been denied and dismissed, sometime prior to 2:00 p.m. on March 2, 2018, the family case manager for Child, Britney Whittaker (FCM Whittaker), contacted Mother by telephone and asked to inspect Mother's residence. FCM Whittaker also acted as case manager for the J.L. CHINS. Mother denied FCM Whittaker's request to inspect the residence and admitted that the home was not safe for a baby due to having condition issues.

         [¶7] On March 2, 2018, at 2:00 p.m., FCM Whittaker "detained" Child, even though Child had never left the physical custody of his foster family after the juvenile court denied the 2017 CHINS. (Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 50). After being detained on March 2, 2018, Child remained in the custody of his foster family. On March 6, 2018, FCM Whittaker filed a report of ...


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