In re A.M. (Minor Child), 031519 INCA, 18A-JC-2330

Docket Nº:18A-JC-2330
Opinion Judge:CRONE, JUDGE.
Party Name:In re the Matter of A.M. (Minor Child), Child in Need of Services, and J.M. (Mother) and D.M. (Father), Appellants-Respondents, v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner
Attorney:Attorney for Appellant J.M. Jason Meredith Monroe County Public Defender's Office Bloomington, Indiana Attorney for Appellant D.M. Amy P. Payne Monroe County Public Defender's Office Bloomington, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorney G...
Judge Panel:Vaidik, C.J., and Mathias, J., concur.
Case Date:March 15, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of Indiana
 
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In re the Matter of A.M. (Minor Child), Child in Need of Services, and J.M. (Mother) and D.M. (Father), Appellants-Respondents,

v.

The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner

No. 18A-JC-2330

Court of Appeals of Indiana

March 15, 2019

Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision shall not be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

Appeal from the Monroe Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 53C06-1708-JC-634, The Honorable E. Michael Hoff, Special Judge.

Attorney for Appellant J.M. Jason Meredith Monroe County Public Defender's Office Bloomington, Indiana

Attorney for Appellant D.M. Amy P. Payne Monroe County Public Defender's Office Bloomington, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Robert J. Henke Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

MEMORANDUM DECISION

CRONE, JUDGE.

Case Summary

[¶1] J.M. ("Mother") and D.M. ("Father") (collectively "Parents") appeal the adjudication designating their daughter A.M. ("Child") a child in need of services ("CHINS"). They challenge the trial court's admission of Child's forensic interview on hearsay grounds and assert that the evidence is insufficient to support the CHINS determination. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] Parents are the biological parents of Child, born October 12, 2012. Child spent a portion of her first three years in relative care with B.S. due to a previous CHINS adjudication. Mother completed services, and the CHINS case was closed. When Child was four, she lived with Parents at their apartment and slept in the same bed with them.

[¶3] In August 2017, the Indiana Department of Child Services ("DCS") received a report that Child had accused Father of molesting her. DCS family case manager ("FCM") Catherine Hall went to Parents' apartment, accompanied by police. FCM Hall had a private conversation with Mother, while officers remained with Father and Child. According to FCM Hall, Mother did not believe Child's allegations against Father. The officers apprised Father of the allegations, and although he denied them, he packed a suitcase and left.

[¶4] That same day, Child was taken to Susie's Place child advocacy center, where she underwent a forensic interview. During the interview, she disclosed that Father had touched her breasts, vagina, and buttocks while she was in bed with him and Mother. FCM Hall, a police detective, and a victim advocate observed a live feed of the interview from another room. FCM Hall subsequently had a meeting with Parents, and Mother reiterated that she disbelieved Child's allegations. FCM Hall later testified concerning her conversations with Mother, [W]e have some serious safety concerns if you do not believe your daughter. How can you keep your daughter safe if you do not believe her? Um, she's disclosing that her father did this and then, of course, I went through the whole of reasons of why, ah, based upon her previous history with us that she had been previously ruled as the one parent who needed help and assistance. That [Father] was the more stable parent and now he was leaving the home, she was left to do this, and then she didn't believe her daughter. At that point, we no longer felt that she could keep this child safe. So the child was removed from both their cares.

Tr. Vol. 1 at 41-42. Child was placed with B.S., who had previously adopted two of Child's older siblings.

[¶5] DCS filed a petition seeking to have Child designated a CHINS. The CHINS allegations included child molesting by Father, Mother's presence during the alleged molestations, and Mother's neglect/disbelief of Child's allegations. Father was legally prohibited from visiting Child due to a protective order. Child initially had therapeutic supervised visits with Mother. The visits temporarily ceased, but Mother filed a motion to reinstate, which the trial court granted. Mother's therapeutic supervised visits are once a week for approximately two hours.

[¶6] DCS sought and was granted a child hearsay hearing, seeking to introduce at the factfinding hearing the abuse disclosures that Child had made during her forensic interview. After the child hearsay hearing, the trial court concluded that Child's statements bore sufficient indications of reliability and that Child was unavailable to testify at the factfinding hearing. At the factfinding hearing, the trial court took judicial notice of other DCS orders involving Parents. These include four previous termination orders (two voluntary and two involuntary)...

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