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Indiana court ruling could affect mentally ill kids

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A recent Indiana Court of Appeals opinion could affect how the state Department of Child Services obtains treatment for some children with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.

The agency sometimes substantiates neglect findings against parents who are unable to get care for their children, according to The Times of Munster. Entering the court system as juvenile delinquents or children in need of services is sometimes the only way such kids receive treatment.

But the court last month reversed the decision of a Marion County juvenile court judge who found a woman had neglected her teenage daughter and ordered her to obtain care for the girl. The appeals judges said the woman had already tried to get treatment for her daughter, referred to as V.H. in court documents.

"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."

The Indianapolis woman had twice called police after her daughter became physically aggressive, court records say. After the second incident, she refused to pick up the girl, who was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, from an emergency shelter until the girl received counseling services.

Police contacted the DCS, which investigated and then filed a petition claiming that the girl was a child in need of services because her mother hadn't provided the necessary care. The juvenile court judge granted the petition, found the mother in neglect, and ordered her to participate in services and pay the DCS $25 a week.

Attorney Amy Karozos, who represented the mother in the appellate case, said her client did not neglect her daughter, who is now 17. "I would hope (this opinion) would make DCS think about it before bringing a CHINS (children in need of services) case against a family that hasn't neglected their child," she said.

DCS spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said the agency will not change any of its policies relating to children-in-need-of-services cases as a result of the court opinion. She said the agency's attorneys interpreted the ruling as a need for more evidence.

"It looks like DCS tried to help, tried to provide services," McFarland said.

Joel Schumm, a professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said the opinion shows the judges' concern about pursuing children-in-need-of-services proceedings against parents who are trying to help their children.

Schumm said the ruling puts judges in a difficult position because they may have parents before them who desperately need help.

"If DCS cannot pursue CHINS cases, then the child and the family end up in a position where they can't get help that they need," he told The Times.

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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