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In re Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of G.F.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 19, 2019

In Re The Termination of The Parent-Child Relationship of G.F. (Minor Child)
The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner and J.W. (Father) Appellant-Respondent,

          Appeal from the Cass Circuit Court The Honorable Stephen Roger Kitts II, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 09C01-1812-JT-35

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Mark K. Leeman Logansport, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Monika Prekopa Talbot Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Altice, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] J.W. (Father) appeals from the involuntary termination of his parental rights to his daughter, G.F. (Child). He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the termination order. [1]

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts & Procedural History

         [¶3] Child was born to Mother on February 24, 2008, with paternity undetermined. Mother has a lengthy history of criminal behavior and drug abuse both before and after Child's birth. The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) became involved with the family in July 2008. Following an unsuccessful period of informal adjustment and erratic behavior by Mother, DCS obtained emergency custody of Child and her sibling at the end of December 2008. Child and her sibling were placed in relative care with their maternal grandmother (Grandmother) and the children were adjudicated CHINS. Mother continued using drugs and did not comply with services offered by DCS or with the terms of her probation in a criminal matter. Accordingly, in September 2009, Grandmother established a legal guardianship over Child and her sibling, and the CHINS proceedings were subsequently terminated.

         [¶4] The guardianship lasted for over six years, while Mother continued her pattern of criminal behavior and drug use. In January 2014, Mother's in-home detention was revoked following her use of several illegal substances, and she was sent to prison for the remainder of her sentence, over four years.

         [¶5] After her release from prison back to in-home detention, Mother was doing well and was drug-free, so she and Grandmother agreed to dissolve the guardianship in November 2015. By June 2016, however, Child was again adjudicated a CHINS. In August 2016, Child was removed from Mother's care and placed in foster care, where she has since remained.

         [¶6] Around July 2017, Mother identified Father as Child's potential father, and DCS family case manager (FCM) Kimberly Ross contacted him in Maryland, where he had been living for about a year. Father did not initially complete paternity testing. On September 27, 2017, Father, by his own report, was depressed and attempted suicide in an abandoned house by injecting himself with heroin. Thereafter, he went into rehab for over three months, during which time he took a paternity test that established him as Child's biological father. He moved back to Indiana in January 2018 to be a part of Child's life.

         [¶7] Father had one supervised visit with Child on January 31, 2018. Child, who was almost ten years old at the time, was excited to meet her biological father for the first time. This, however, was her one and only visit with Father because he turned to methamphetamine and was incarcerated within weeks of the visit.[2]

         [¶8] Father had an extensive criminal history in Indiana prior to his return in January 2018. His prior convictions include: possession of marijuana (2008, followed by revocation of probation on three separate occasions), battery resulting in bodily injury (2007), conversion (2011), theft (2012), attempted theft (2013, with probation revoked twice), conversion (2015), theft (2016), and theft (2016).

         [¶9] Shortly after his return to Indiana, Father continued his criminal lifestyle and use of illegal drugs. On February 16, 2018, Father was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a syringe, possession of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia. Father remained in jail until May 3, 2018, when he entered into a plea agreement, pled guilty to possession of marijuana, and received a sentence of time served.

         [¶10] Father was arrested again within a few weeks and charged, on May 30, 2018, with possession of methamphetamine under cause number 34D04-1805-F6-124 (Cause F6-124). He posted bond the following day but then failed to appear for his initial hearing on June 8, 2018, and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

         [¶11] On August 11, 2018, Father was arrested following a dangerous police chase, where Father disregarded stop signs and drove at a high rate of speed before crashing into two parked vehicles and then fleeing on foot. He was charged, on August 20, 2018, with unlawful possession of a syringe, resisting law enforcement, and possession of methamphetamine under cause number 34D02-1808-F6-862 (Cause F6-862).

         [¶12] Father was released on bond on September 7, 2018, but he then failed to make any contact with the probation department or otherwise comply with the conditions of bond and failed to appear at a pretrial hearing. As a result, a warrant was issued under both pending causes for Father's arrest on October 12, 2018. ...

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