R.E. v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs. (In re the Parent-Child Relationship of J.E.), 22A-JT-164

Case DateSeptember 23, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

In the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: J.E. (Minor Child), and R.E. (Father), Appellant-Respondent,

Indiana Department of Child Services, Appellee-Petitioner .

No. 22A-JT-164

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 23, 2022

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 Allen Superior Court The Honorable James R. Heuer, Senior Judge Trial Court Cause No. 02D08-2102-JT-50


Michael D. Ghilardi Law Office of Michael D. Ghilardi Fort Wayne, Indiana


Theodore E. Rokita Attorney General of Indiana

Katherine A. Cornelius Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana


Robb, Judge


Case Summary and Issue

[¶1] R.E. ("Father") is the father of J.E. ("Child"). In September 2017, the Child was adjudicated a child in need of services ("CHINS") and in March 2021, the Indiana Department of Child Services ("DCS") filed a petition for the involuntary termination of Father's parental rights. On December 27, 2021, the juvenile court issued an order making findings and concluding Father's parental rights should be terminated. Father now appeals, raising one issue for our review which we restate as whether sufficient evidence supported the termination of Father's parental rights. Concluding that clear and convincing evidence supports the termination, we affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] In January 2017, DCS received a report that Father and the Child were involved in a car accident. Father had been drinking and hit a guard rail. As a result, Father was arrested on multiple charges related to driving while intoxicated with the Child in the vehicle. DCS was unable to contact any immediate family members, including M.E. ("Mother"),[1] and the Child was


placed in foster care. The Child was returned to Father's care in early February 2017.[2]

[¶3] Throughout early 2017, Father demonstrated issues with substance use or abuse. In February, Father attended a family team meeting with DCS. Despite adamantly denying having drank alcohol since his January arrest, he smelled of alcohol. DCS tested Father and his blood alcohol content registered at 0.13. Throughout the Spring, Father consumed alcohol while providing care to the Child.

[¶4] In May 2017, DCS filed a verified petition alleging the Child to be a CHINS. Both Mother and Father entered an admission. Father's admission was based, in part, on having cared for the Child while consuming alcohol. In September 2017, the juvenile court adjudicated the Child a CHINS. A dispositional hearing was held and the juvenile court ordered both Father and Mother, among other things, to refrain from criminal activity; maintain clean, safe, and appropriate housing; cooperate with all caseworkers and the guardian ad litem ("GAL"); attend all conferences and maintain contact with DCS; fully cooperate with all rules of the Child's placement; submit to random drug screens; refrain from the use of alcohol, illegal drugs, and other substance abuse; and attend all visits with the Child as directed. Father was also ordered to submit to a diagnostic assessment and follow all recommendations; obtain a


drug and alcohol assessment and follow all recommendations; enroll in drug and alcohol counseling; enroll in family counseling; enroll in parenting classes; and obtain a psychological evaluation. Father was ordered to complete all drug, alcohol, and parenting counseling sessions and successfully complete each program. The Child was placed with Father and the permanency plan was reunification.

[¶5] Around this time, Father completed a substance abuse assessment and was diagnosed with severe alcohol use disorder. Father was referred to outpatient treatment, a substance abuse support group, and random drug and alcohol screens through Park Center. However, he could not begin with Park Center because he was currently prescribed a narcotic medication that would interfere with his treatment and was against Park Center's treatment policy. Father was advised to seek a change in his prescription so that he could begin treatment. However, Father was unwilling to seek medical advice regarding changing his medication. Park Center then referred Father back to DCS and his referral with Park Center was closed.

[¶6] Father completed another substance abuse assessment with Dockside and began a group treatment program. However, he was disruptive and adamant that he did not have a drinking problem. As a result, Father was removed from group treatment and began individual sessions which resulted in improved behavior. He subsequently completed some alcohol treatment as well as some parenting work with Dockside, but before Dockside could successfully discharge him, Father incurred a new driving while intoxicated charge and was


discharged from Dockside as "noncompliant." Transcript, Volume 2 at 53. Charles Redwine, a counselor at Dockside, later opined that although Father had made some progress when he actually engaged in services, his need for treatment for his alcohol abuse disorder remains an "outstanding issue[.]" Id. at 79.

[¶7] A detention hearing was held in November 2017. Although it was determined that Father was compliant with his services, he had recently tested positive for alcohol and struck the Child in the face resulting in an injury. The Child was not removed from Father's care for fear that it would cause additional trauma to her. Between November 2017 and Spring 2018, Father appeared to benefit from services; however, no services were fully complete.

[¶8] In May 2018, Father and Mother were arrested after an incident of domestic violence in the presence of the Child. As a result, the Child was removed from Father's care for approximately one week. In June, Father was involved in another car accident. Father had been driving, without passengers this time, while highly intoxicated and flipped his vehicle. Father required hospitalization and the Child was again removed from Father's care. The Child was placed in foster care and all of Father's visits were ordered to be supervised. The Child has remained in foster care ever since.

[¶9] In July, Father and Mother were engaged in another violent episode. Father pointed a gun at Mother's head and threatened to "blow [her] brains out[.]" Id. at 132. Around this same time, Father again started to attend individual and


group substance abuse treatment through Bowen. It was recommended that he attend group meetings twice a week, individual therapy once a week, and skills coaching. Father attended twenty-two group sessions and eight individual sessions, but he never successfully completed his treatment through Bowen.

[¶10] In October 2018, a review hearing was conducted, and the juvenile court determined that Father did not have stable housing, had several services discontinued, and tested positive for alcohol and drugs. At a subsequent hearing in November, Father's visitations with the Child were suspended because he refused to sign a release of information to health care providers who had treated him after a MERSA diagnosis.

[¶11] Between November 2018 and April 2019, Father struggled to adhere to the Child's case plan. Father did not regularly visit with the Child and failed to demonstrate an ability to benefit from services. Moreover, Father was arrested twice and unsuccessfully discharged from drug and alcohol group counseling. In mid-April 2019, the Child's permanency plan was changed to adoption.

[¶12] In late July 2019, Father and Mother were again involved in an incident of domestic violence where Father, while intoxicated, shot Mother in the arm. As a result, Father was arrested and charged with domestic battery by means of a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon. While out on bond and awaiting trial, Father did not participate in services, he was homeless, and his visits were suspended. In March 2020, Father was


convicted of domestic battery by means of a deadly weapon for the 2019 shooting incident and sentenced to a four-year executed sentence.

[¶13] While in prison, Father has had no contact with the Child. Father testified that he wrote the Child numerous letters. However, the Child's foster father could only remember the Child receiving one letter. Although Father testified that he completed a parenting class which also provides help with substance abuse and behavioral issues, Father never provided DCS with documentation confirming his participation in this program. In March 2021, DCS filed a verified petition to involuntarily terminate Father's relationship with the Child.

[¶14] At the fact-finding hearing, the State presented extensive testimony of Father's non-compliance with the Child's case plan. The Child's former family case manager ("FCM"), Rachel Deford, testified that DCS made numerous recommendations for services, but Father had failed to complete any of those services, including those related to domestic violence and his drug and alcohol use. According to Deford, Father continued to use drugs and alcohol throughout the duration of the Child's case plan. Deford indicated that Father did not believe he needed any services and accordingly, would not cooperate. GAL Rachel Guin-Lowry echoed Deford in that she testified Father had failed to benefit from services. According to Guin-Lowry, Father continued to be angry and argumentative, sought to conceal his alcohol issues, and continued to deny that he has a problem with alcohol consumption. Guin-Lowry and Deford each testified that the termination of Father's parental rights was in the


Child's best interest. This sentiment was reiterated by the Child's current FCM,...

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