In the Matter of Ma.H., Le.H., Lo.H., W.H., La.H., Me.H., and S.W. (Minor Children); M.H. (Father) and R.H. (Mother), Appellants (Respondents)
Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee (Petitioner)
Argued: June 18, 2019
from the Wells Circuit Court, Nos. 90C01-1707-JT-22, -29,
-30, -31, -32, -34, -35 The Honorable Kenton W. Kiracofe,
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT M.H. Yvonne M. Spillers Fort Wayne,
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT R.H. Mark Small Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana, Stephen R. Creason Chief Counsel, Katherine A.
Cornelius Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorneys General
child welfare proceedings often implicate a parent in
criminal activity. In such cases, the trial court needs to
strike a delicate balance: it must safeguard children's
well-being, while protecting parents' constitutional
mother and a father appeal the termination of parental rights
to seven children, arguing that the trial court violated the
father's Fifth Amendment privilege against
self-incrimination. After a court found that the father
sexually abused his stepdaughter, he was required to select
and complete a sex-offender treatment program. He briefly
attended a program but stopped when it required an admission
of wrongdoing. The father has always denied the sexual abuse,
and the mother has likewise never believed her daughter.
no constitutional violation. The trial court's order did
not require the father to admit to a crime at the risk of
losing his parental rights. And because the parents failed to
address the sexual abuse allegations-several of which a court
found were true-we find sufficient evidence to support the
trial court's termination decision and affirm.
and Procedural History
(Father) and R.H. (Mother) have a blended, Amish family of
nine children. Seven of the children were born during their
marriage; the oldest two, S.W. and R.W., are Mother's
daughters from a prior relationship.
early spring 2016, seventeen-year-old R.W. abruptly left
home. About a week later, the Department of Child Services
(DCS) received a report alleging that Father had sexually
abused R.W. for years and that the condition of Parents'
home was unacceptable. Parents denied both allegations; but
after a detective interviewed R.W., DCS removed the remaining
children from the home. They were placed with their maternal
uncle and his family, who are also part of the Amish
alleged the children were in need of services (CHINS) based
on the Parents' actions. At the hearing, DCS provided
testimony on the home's deplorable condition, and R.W.
testified to numerous and specific instances of sexual abuse
by Father. The court found the children to be CHINS, noting
that R.W.'s testimony was credible and that most of the
allegations in DCS's petition were true.
result, Parents were ordered to complete services, including
ones to address sexual abuse. Specifically, Father had to
complete sex-offender treatment; and Parents were required to
create a safety plan to protect the children from future
objected to the sex-offender treatment. He was concerned that
completing such a program would involve a polygraph
examination, which he argued would require him to waive his
Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The
trial court disagreed. In its order, the court explained that
Father could refuse to answer questions during treatment, but
that if Father chose to remain silent, then the court could
"infer what his answer[s] might have been."
month later, Father began sex-offender treatment. But because
of his continued denial, little progress was made. So, the
therapist recommended a polygraph test to show that Father
had done nothing wrong-"to help things move
forward." Father took the polygraph, and the results
showed he was "deceptive" when asked about the
point, the therapist could not continue the program with
Father unless he admitted wrongdoing. Father refused and
stopped attending. During this time, Mother never wavered in
her support of Father or in her belief that R.W. lied about
the sexual abuse. Thus, Father never completed sex-offender
treatment, and Parents never created a safety plan.
summer 2017, DCS petitioned to terminate parental rights,
citing Parents' failure to adequately address the CHINS
court's finding that Father sexually abused R.W. During a
four-day hearing, R.W. described Father's sexual abuse
and explained that she twice told Mother about it, including
once after the first encounter. The court also heard
testimony about Father's failure to complete sex-offender
treatment; Parents' continued denial of R.W.'s
allegations; and Parents' failure to develop a safety
plan. Additionally, both the ...