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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Ind. Decisions - "COA decision may affect parents, children with mental illness"

The May 22nd COA opinion in In the Matter of V.H.; J.H. v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services is the subject of a story today in the NWI Times, reported by Marisa Kwiatkowski.

Here is how the opinion itself begins:

Here, a single mother of two teenage daughters was faced with a situation that is, unfortunately, not that uncommon to many parents of teenagers. On two occasions, the mother’s sixteen-year-old daughter, who outweighed her by about thirty pounds, became physically aggressive with her during an argument. To diffuse the situation, the mother called the police, who then reported the incidents to the Department of Child Services (DCS). The DCS investigated, and although it was determined that the daughter had been the aggressor in both incidents, the DCS filed a petition alleging that the daughter was a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) because of the mother’s failure to provide her with necessary care. The juvenile court granted this petition and ordered the mother to participate in services that were unrelated to the CHINS adjudication. We hold that the adjudication and the participation decree are erroneous.
Here is a quote from a worth reviewing May 20th entry quoting a story by the same reporter relating to a Morgan County decision:
A Times investigation published earlier this month found families throughout the state struggling to find services for children with severe mental illnesses or disabilities. When all other efforts fail, those families are told to let DCS file a petition for child in need of services 1, known as CHINS 1. Doing so results in parents claiming they neglected their children.
From today's lengthy story:
A recent Indiana Court of Appeals opinion could affect how judges handle cases involving some parents of children with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.

[In May], the appellate court reversed a juvenile court judge's order that a Marion County parent had neglected her teenage daughter, identified in court documents as V.H. The woman had refused to pick up her daughter from an emergency shelter until the girl received counseling services, court records state.

"It is apparent that mother, who is a working single parent, was addressing V.H.'s behavioral issues," Judge John Baker wrote in the appellate court's unanimous opinion. "This is something for which we should applaud parents rather than condemn them through coercive action."

Legal experts say the court's opinion may affect the Indiana Department of Child Services' policy of substantiating neglect findings against some parents in order to help them obtain services for their children with mental illness or a developmental disability. * * *

In the case heard by the Court of Appeals, a Marion County woman had twice called police on her teenage daughter after the girl became physically aggressive. Police contacted DCS officials, who initiated an assessment on the family as required by state law.

After the second incident, the woman refused to bring her daughter home until the girl received counseling, court records state. The teenager had been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder.

DCS filed a petition alleging the girl was a child in need of services, also known as CHINS, because of the mother's failure to provide her with necessary care, court records state.

The juvenile court judge granted DCS' CHINS petition, which resulted in a finding of neglect against the mother. The Marion County woman was ordered to participate in services and pay DCS $25 per week for reimbursement of service costs, court records show.

The Court of Appeals overturned the judge's finding and order for the woman to participate in services. In the opinion, Baker referenced the Marion County woman's efforts to help her daughter.

Finally, here is a quote from another story by the NWI Times reporter, also quoted in the May entry:
But some prosecutors and public defenders said a better option for mentally ill or disabled children facing criminal proceedings would be having the Indiana DCS file a petition for child in need of services 6, or CHINS 6. The law states that is applicable when "the child substantially endangers his/her own health or the health of another individual."

DCS rarely uses this portion of state law — a decision that infuriates some parents and court officials.

DCS Director James Payne told The Times he does not like to use CHINS 6 because it creates an adversarial relationship between the parent and child. Under CHINS 6, the child and parents have separate attorneys, and the child's attorney is legally bound to defend the child's interests. The result likely is that the child will be placed in an institution.

Payne said using a child in need of services 1, or CHINS 1, is the best option under current law. That portion of the law applies when "the child's physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the parent/guardian/custodian being unable, refusing or neglecting to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education or supervision."

See also this May 24th ILB entry headed ""Mentally ill kids caught in Catch-22: Prosecutors at odds with DCS over care"."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 1, 2012 09:30 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions