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State ex rel. MTS

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 14, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF MTS

Appealed from the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 148423. Honorable E. Paul Young, III, Judge.

AFFIRMED.

GEORGE E. HARP, Counsel for Appellant, SMS.

KIMBERLY S. SMITH Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services.

NANCY G. COOPER, MATTHEW BURROUGHS, Counsel for Appellee, MTS.

ROSS S. OWEN Counsel for Appellee, BDG.

Before WILLIAMS, MOORE and PITMAN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1026

WILLIAMS, J.

[49,630 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] SMS, the mother of four minor children, appeals a judgment of the Caddo Parish juvenile court that irrevocably dissolved and terminated her parental rights to one of her children, MTS, and certified the child for adoption. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the juvenile court's decision.

FACTS

SMS is 23 years old; she is the mother of four children, including four year old MTS. BDG is MTS's biological father.

During his infancy, MTS was admitted to the hospital on multiple occasions due to respiratory difficulties. He was diagnosed with asthma and laryngomalacia.[1] On March 5, 2011, MTS, who was then six months old, was admitted to the hospital; his condition was described as " lethargic and gasping for breath." He was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (" PICU" ) and was subsequently discharged on March 17, 2011. His discharge orders included prescriptions for a number

Page 1027

of medications, breathing treatments, the administration of oxygen as needed, a home health nurse to assist the parents with MTS's care and follow-up medical appointments.

On March 22, 2011, the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Children and Family Services (" DCFS" ), received a report that the parents had not had any of MTS's prescriptions filled and were not administering his breathing treatments or oxygen. Thereafter, DCFS and the home health agency attempted to provide the parents with assistance in arranging follow- [49,630 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] up medical appointments and additional home health assistance. Two days later, DCFS learned that the parents still had not taken the prescriptions to a pharmacy to be filled. By this time, MTS was experiencing difficulty breathing and his oxygen levels were decreasing.

DCFS obtained an instanter order removing MTS from the custody of his parents and placing him in its custody based on allegations of medical neglect. Initially, MTS was placed in the care of his maternal grandmother and his parents were given " liberal visitation." However, that arrangement was unsuccessful because DCFS learned that the grandmother was " giving the child back to [SMS]." MTS was removed from his grandmother's care and placed in foster care with CH, his current foster mother.

On May 20, 2011, MTS was adjudicated a child in need of care. DCFS developed, and the juvenile court approved, an initial case plan wherein the permanent plan for MTS was reunification with his parents. The case plan contained the following requirements: (1) undergoing psychological evaluations; (2) maintaining adequate housing; (3) completing parenting classes; (4) completing an anger management course; (5) attending and participating in medical appointments scheduled for MTS; (6) attending scheduled weekly visitations with MTS; (7) attending court appearances, (8) attending family team meetings; (9) keeping DCFS apprised of the parents' whereabouts; and (10) providing financial support for MTS.

Subsequently, following multiple disposition hearings, the juvenile court approved a number of additional case plans, with which the parents failed to comply. Other than undergoing psychological evaluations, neither [49,630 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] parent completed any of the classes/services arranged for them. SMS moved frequently, and DCFS was often unable to locate her. The parents also failed to attend more than one-half of the scheduled visitations with MTS and did not attend his medical appointments. The father provided some financial support; however, the mother failed to provide any support for MTS. Additionally, during the reunification attempt, both parents pled guilty to criminal charges and were incarcerated for much of 2012.[2]

By early 2013, both parents had been released from prison. However, they continued to be largely non-compliant with the reunification case plan. A DCFS case worker described the parents' attempts to

Page 1028

comply with the plan as " a pattern of starts and stops." The worker explained that SMS would verbally agree to attend classes and counseling sessions, but she would fail to follow through. DCFS attempted to obtain SMS's cooperation by alternating between in-home services and group sessions, and by providing transportation to and from counseling sessions, visits and appointments. SMS failed to comply with the alternate plan.

On September 13, 2013, DCFS filed a petition for involuntary termination of the parental rights of both parents and to certify MTS for adoption. Following a hearing, the juvenile court found, by clear and [49,630 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] convincing evidence, the necessary grounds for terminating the parental rights of both parents. The court stated, in pertinent part:

[T]he crux of the case is the parents' repeated failure to comply with a required program of treatment and ...

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