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In re M.I.

Supreme Court of Indiana

August 9, 2019

In the Matter of M.I., N.I.1, N.I.2, N.I.3, N.I.4, S.I. (Minor Children); Denis Koehlinger, Appellant (Guardian ad Litem)
v.
K.H. (Mother), Appellee (Respondent) A.I. (Father) and L.M. (Father), Appellants (Respondents)
v.
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee (Petitioner)

          Argued: June 4, 2019

          Appeal from the Allen Superior Court, Nos. 02D08-1710-JT-146, -147, -148, -149, -150, -151 The Honorable Daniel G. Heath, Judge

          On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A-JT-1948

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT DENIS KOEHLINGER Roberta L. Renbarger Fort Wayne, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE K.H. Thomas C. Allen Fort Wayne, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS A.I. AND L.M. Gregory L. Fumarolo Fort Wayne, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Robert J. Henke Abigail R. Recker Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          OPINION

          Rush Chief Justice

         Here, a trial court refused to terminate a mother's parental rights, concluding termination was not in the children's best interests. The court found that the children shared a strong bond with their mother, that DCS would struggle to find adoptive homes for the children, and that the mother had made progress complying with the requirements of her parent-participation plan. Yet the children's guardian ad litem appealed, insisting that the mother's parental rights should be terminated—solely because she had not yet found suitable housing for herself and her children.

         We affirm the trial court. Even though the mother still lacked suitable housing, the court's findings-which are supported by ample evidence- reflect that termination would sever the children's strong family bond with a mother who was making progress, only to leave them with doubtful prospects for a permanent adoptive home. And so, the court's conclusion that DCS failed to clearly and convincingly show that termination was in the children's best interests was not contrary to law.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In late 2015, K.H. (Mother) took six of her children to an Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) office. She told the department that she couldn't care for them because of her alcohol addiction and recent homelessness. At the time, the children ranged in age from one to ten years old.

         On DCS's petition, a court found the children in need of services. And it imposed on Mother a parent-participation plan with twenty-three requirements. That plan required her, in part, to maintain suitable housing and employment, attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, take part in counseling, enroll in home-based services, submit to random drug screens, and participate in visitations.

         The children remained with Mother, and they all moved in with her aunt. During this time, Mother was working and looking for housing. But when her aunt moved away in June 2016, Mother had not yet ...


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