BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A Bloomington man said the way the Indiana Department of Child Services handled his daughter's case leaves him questioning how and when the agency is stepping in to help children.
The father reached out to FOX59 after he requested all the DCS records related to his 14-month-old daughter. Through the records, he learned his daughter was born with drugs in her system and that the mother failed at least 25 drug screenings since last May. Many of those screenings happened while the mother was on house arrest.
"I was frustrated, disappointed and a little overwhelmed," said Trevor Richardson about his feelings after reading the paperwork.
Richardson said DCS has pretty much been involved with his child since she was born.
"That’s a really long time for me for them to not have taken a more active role," Richardson said.
Notes from DCS case managers detail the mother's repeated drug use and failure to follow instructions to get help. There are statements like "she's not taking this seriously" and "strong marijuana was wreaking all over the home" in the files.
"If you feel it’s serious enough for you to not only be involved but remain involved and somebody’s not in compliance or keeping the person you’re supposed to protect safe, then at some point in time you have to be accountable," Richardson said about the approach taken by DCS.
At first, Richardson was not listed as the baby's father. He proved his paternity last fall.
In November, case managers wrote they were going to try to reach Richardson to see if he would be willing to take the child in case the mother ended up back in jail. While DCS cites efforts to contact him, he said he never got any letters or calls.
"Even if I hadn’t been an option, if you truly fear for my daughter’s safety, why would you leave her where you feel she was unsafe?" Richardson said.
In February, a case manager wrote "[mother] continues to use marijuana despite the fact that DCS is involved, she's on probation and that she is also smoking in the care of her child."
"If you’re failing drug screens for DCS, how are you not being supervised enough to deal with house arrest?" Richardson asked. "Our justice system unilaterally failed my daughter."
FOX59 reached out to DCS about this matter. A spokesperson said they cannot comment on an open case. But, she did share this about general practices when it comes to parental drug use:
"Drug use (alone) is not enough for a child to be removed from their parents under the law. Even repeated failure to pass drug tests and non-compliance with counseling are not automatically a basis for removal from the home. There has to be neglect and/or abuse of the child. Examples of neglect could include failing to give a child medical care and failing to provide food. If parents neglected to provide medical care because they were under the influence of drugs, that could result in a removal."
A Child In Need of Services case was filed for the little girl on March 9. Richardson said that happened one week after he requested all the paperwork.
According to court documents and Richardson, the child remains in her mother's care.