In re Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of B.M., 011119 INCA, 18A-JT-1503

Docket Nº:18A-JT-1503
Opinion Judge:Tavitas, Judge.
Party Name:In Re the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: B.M., R.M., and K.M., Jr. (Minor Children) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner. and T.M. (Mother) and K.M., Sr. (Father), Appellant-Respondent,
Attorney:Attorney for Appellants Erin L. Berger Evansville, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Katherine A. Cornelius Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana
Judge Panel:Baker, J., and May, J., concur.
Case Date:January 11, 2019
Court:Court of Appeals of Indiana
 
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In Re the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: B.M., R.M., and K.M., Jr. (Minor Children)

and

T.M. (Mother) and K.M., Sr. (Father), Appellant-Respondent,

v.

The Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner.

No. 18A-JT-1503

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 11, 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 Vanderburgh Superior Court No. 82D04-1709-JT-1637, 82D04-1709-JT-1638, 82D04-1709-JT-1639 The Honorable Brett J. Niemeier, Judge The Honorable Reneé A. Ferguson, Magistrate

Attorney for Appellants Erin L. Berger Evansville, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Katherine A. Cornelius Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Tavitas, Judge.

Case Summary

[¶1] T.M. ("Mother") and K.M., Sr. ("Father") appeal the trial court's termination of their parental rights to B.M., R.M., and K.M., Jr. (the "Children"). We affirm.

Issue

[¶2] Mother and Father raise one issue, which we restate as whether the evidence is sufficient to support the termination of their parental rights.

Facts

[¶3] In December 2014, the Vanderburgh County Office of the Department of Child Services ("DCS") was notified after Mother was hospitalized for threatening to commit suicide and kill her child, K.M., Jr. At the time, Mother was not receiving mental health treatment for her anxiety and depression. Mother tested positive for amphetamine use, and Adderall medication that was prescribed for K.M., Jr.'s attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder was missing.1

[¶4] DCS removed eight-year-old K.M., Jr.2 from Mother's and Father's care on December 6, 2014, "due to the lack of a caregiver to provide appropriate supervision." App. Vol. II p. 39. On December 9, 2014, the trial court conducted a detention hearing. The trial court deemed K.M., Jr.'s removal to be necessary; determined that detention was in K.M., Jr.'s best interest; and placed K.M., Jr. with a relative. That same day, DCS filed a petition alleging that K.M., Jr. was a child in need of services ("CHINS").

[¶5] At a hearing on December 16, 2014, Mother admitted to the allegations and Father stated that he had no objection to a CHINS determination. The trial court adjudicated K.M., Jr. as a CHINS. At a dispositional hearing on January 20, 2015, the trial court granted DCS' petition for parental participation as to Mother and ordered Mother to: (1) submit to random drug screens; (2) complete substance abuse evaluation and follow any treatment recommendations; (3) remain drug and alcohol free; (4) obtain a mental health assessment and evaluation to address her mental health needs and follow all treatment recommendations; (5) attend supervised or monitored visitation; (6) complete nurturing classes; (7) participate in case management services; and (8) comply with her parent aide. The trial court ordered Father to maintain contact with DCS.

[¶6] B.M. was born on August 7, 20153 and tested positive at birth for methamphetamine. DCS removed B.M. from Mother's and Father's care the following day. "At the time of [B.M.'s] birth, the parents had not been compliant" with the trial court's orders regarding K.M., Jr. Mother used methamphetamine during her pregnancy with B.M. and was noncompliant as to mental health services and visitation. Id. at 40. Father was enrolled in a work release program and, therefore, was unable to supervise and parent K.M., Jr. and B.M.

[¶7] On August 11, 2015, DCS filed a petition alleging that B.M. was a CHINS. Mother admitted B.M. was a CHINS on August 11, 2015, and Father agreed that B.M. was a CHINS on October 29, 2015. B.M. was adjudicated as a CHINS. The trial court subsequently ordered Mother and Father "to comply with specific services and to fulfill specific obligations as to [B.M.]." Id.

[¶8] On March 17, 2016, DCS removed the Children due to Mother's and Father's drug use. The Children were placed in foster care.

[¶9] R.M. was born on September 16, 2016, 4 and DCS removed R.M. From Mother's and Father's care at the hospital, "[d]ue to ongoing concerns for stability, illegal and impairing substance use by the parents, criminal activity by the parents, and mother's ongoing failure to address mental health issues." Id. at 41. On September 20, 2016, DCS filed a petition alleging that R.M. was a CHINS. The trial court adjudicated R.M. as a CHINS on December 13, 2016.

[¶10] After Mother's and Father's numerous arrests, relapses, and sustained non-compliance with the trial court's orders, DCS filed petitions to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights to K.M., Jr. and B.M. in September and October 2016. The trial court granted Mother and Father additional time to comply with the trial court's orders. Subsequently, in November 2016 and December 2016, respectively, Mother and Father tested positive for narcotics.

[¶11] On September 7, 2017, DCS filed petitions to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights to the Children. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on January 9 and February 26, 2018. In an order dated May 15, 2018, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and terminated Mother's and Father's parental rights to the Children. The order provided in part: 1.[Each] [c]hild has been removed from his parents for more than six (6) months pursuant to the terms of the dispositional decree or the child has been removed from his parents' care for at least fifteen of the past twenty-two months, and

2.There is a reasonable probability that:

a. The conditions which resulted in [the] Child[ren]'s removal and continued placement outside the home will not be remedied;

b. That continuation of the parent-child relationship poses a threat to [the] Child[ren]'s wellbeing.

3.Termination of parental rights is in [the] Child[ren]'s best interests.

4.There is a satisfactory plan for the care and treatment of [the] Child[ren], that being adoption.

Id. at 51. Mother and Father now appeal.

Analysis

[¶12] Mother and Father challenge the termination of their parental relationship with the Children. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the traditional right of parents to establish a home and raise their children. In re K.T.K. v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services, Dearborn County Office, 989 N.E.2d 1225, 1230 (Ind. 2013). "[A] parent's interest in the upbringing of [his or her] child is 'perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by th[e] [c]ourt[s].'" Id. (quoting Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65, 120 S.Ct. 2054 (2000)). We recognize, of course, that parental interests are not absolute and must be subordinated to the child's interests when determining the proper disposition of a petition to terminate parental rights. Id. Thus, "'[p]arental rights may be terminated when the parents are unable or unwilling to meet their parental responsibilities by failing to provide for the child's immediate and long-term needs.'" Id. (quoting In re D.D., 804 N.E.2d 258, 265 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004), trans. denied).

[¶13] When reviewing the termination of parental rights, we do not reweigh the evidence or judge witness credibility. In re. I.A., 934 N.E.2d 1127, 1132 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010). We consider only the evidence and reasonable inferences that are most favorable to the judgment. Id. We must also give "due regard" to the trial court's unique opportunity to judge the credibility of the witnesses. Id. (quoting Ind. Trial Rule 52(A)).

[¶14] Pursuant to Indiana Code Section 31-35-2-8(c), "The trial court shall enter findings of fact that support the entry of the conclusions required by subsections (a) and (b)."5 Here, the trial court did enter findings of fact and conclusions of law in granting DCS's petition to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights. When reviewing findings of fact and conclusions of law entered in a case involving a termination of parental rights, we apply a two-tiered standard of review. First, we determine whether the evidence supports the findings, and second, we determine whether the findings support the judgment. Id. We will set aside the trial court's judgment only if it is clearly erroneous. Id. A judgment is clearly erroneous if the findings do not support the trial court's conclusions or the conclusions do not support the...

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