Steven Knecht Wins Appeal
Steven Knecht won a reversal on appeal of a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) deterimination because the coercive intervention of the trial court was not required to protect the children.
The Department of Child Services (DCS) filed a CHINS petition immediately after the Mother gave birth because the child tested positive for methamphetamine; the Mother lied about her drug use; and the Mother and her children were homeless. DCS argued the children should be determined CHINS because the Mother had a history of drug use; she lied about her drug use; she used methamphetamine during her pregnancy; the Mother had previously been convicted of a drug-related crime; the Mother's job offer was contingent on her passing a drug screen and background check; and absent the income from this job, the Mother would not be able to afford the apartment she had located. However, the Mother had sought drug counseling on her own; DCS had "overlooked" offering the Mother any substance abuse assessment; the Mother tested negative at all her drug screens; and she was cooperative and proactive with all services provided by DCS.
The Court of Appeals found that the possibility that the Mother might relapse or be unable to afford her apartment was mere speculation about a potential future problem and the fact of an unemployed parent alone does not make a CHINS. Also, CHINS findings must be based on facts and reasonable inferences from the facts, not on speculation on future concerns that may or may not ever happen.