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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Ind. Decisions - "Juvenile judge erred by putting kids in child welfare system"

In the Matter of S.M. (ILB summary here), decided yesterday by the Court of Appeals, is the subject of a just-posted Indianapolis Star story by Marisa Kwiatkowski. Some quotes:

Marion Juvenile Court officials ordered four children into the child welfare system despite "wholly lacking" evidence of the need to do so, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided Monday.

The appellate judges reversed the juvenile court's decision. In a unanimous opinion, the appeals court determined the Indiana Department of Child Services had failed to prove the children were seriously endangered, failed to prove the parents were unable or unwilling to properly care for the children and failed to prove the intervention of the court was necessary.

Magistrate Danielle Gaughan decided the juvenile case, and her order was approved by Marion Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores. On Tuesday, Moores said the judicial code of conduct prohibited her from commenting on a pending case. * * *

The woman, who was not named in the opinion, admitted she had smoked marijuana once while she was pregnant but before she knew about it. She said she stopped as soon as she found out she was pregnant, court records state.

According to the opinion, DCS had found evidence of neglect against the parents three times before — twice involving domestic violence among the parents and once for marijuana use by the mother while she was pregnant.

In this most recent case, the boy's mother voluntarily took random drug screens about every two weeks from January through April. All of her drug screens came back negative, according to court records. She also participated in home-based therapy. * * *

In the opinion written by Judge John Baker, the appeals court said "there is no evidence in the record that at any point in time any of the children were endangered." There also was no evidence they ever lacked food, shelter, love or care, according to the opinion. * * *

"The juvenile court found four children to be in need of services when the record is devoid of evidence supporting such a finding," Baker wrote in the opinion.

"We are well aware that DCS and the courts are overwhelmed with the growing numbers of CHINS cases statewide," he wrote. "All would be better served if the system focused its time, efforts and resources on the families who really need them. This one did not."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 1, 2015 01:15 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions