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State ex rel. Z.C.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

February 11, 2015

STATE IN THE INTEREST OF Z.C

APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF IBERIA, NO. 11-J-453. HONORABLE GERARD B. WATTIGNY, DISTRICT JUDGE.

AFFIRMED.

J. Phillip Haney, District Attorney, Sixteenth Judicial District Court, New Iberia, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana.

Barry L. LaCour, Mental Health Advocacy Service, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Z.C. (child).

Tamara D. Rahim, Claude Amcar, Diane E. Cote, Lafayette, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services.

Joseph A. Tabb, Aloise, Baudry & Tabb, Franklin, LA, COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: A.C. (mother).

Court composed of Jimmie C. Peters, Marc T. Amy, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.

OPINION

Page 1205

[14-1082 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] GREMILLION, Judge.

In this case, the mother, A.C., appeals the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to her child, Z.C., born January 29, 2007.[1] For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In June 2011, Z.C. was placed in the custody of the State of Louisiana, through the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), pursuant to an instanter order following a May 2011 report that Z.C. had been left in the care of his grandmother and his mother could not be found. The grandmother told investigators from DCFS that she and her husband often cared for Z.C., that Z.C. reported traveling to many different locations where lots of men were, and that he slept in beds with lots of people he did not know. The grandmother further stated that Z.C. told her that he witnessed his father, C.C., throw a knife at his mother.[2] The grand mother

Page 1206

believed that her daughter was using drugs because she rarely ate, complained of itching, and an intercepted text message sent by A.C. in which she refers to " tweaking." [3] A drug screen of A.C. was positive for marijuana.

The petition to adjudicate Z.C. in need of care was based on the neglect of A.C., pursuant to La.Ch.Code art. 603(14). Z.C. was adjudicated in need of care in September 2011. Various case plans were instituted, and permanency hearings were held. The original case plan of June 2011, set forth various goals for reunification, including obtaining employment, undergoing a psychological [14-1082 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] evaluation, submitting to random drug screens, participating in substance abuse assessments and treatment, if necessary, and attending parenting classes.

At the first review hearing in December 2011, DCFS reports indicated that A.C. had not been compliant, because she had not maintained stable housing or employment. Custody was continued with the state.

The next report to the court submitted by DCFS, dated April 10, 2012, found that A.C. " has been compliant with pursing [sic] most of her case plan goals." A.C. found permanent employment in March 2012. DCFS determined that A.C. did not need substance abuse treatment but should attend Al-Anon meetings, which she had been doing. She completed an online parenting course. DCFS further reported that A.C. was cooperative with the weekly visitation schedule. The overall assessment was that A.C. was complying with some aspects of her case plan. Following an April 26, 2012 hearing, custody was maintained with the state.

The next report, dated September 19, 2012, found that A.C. had completed some of her case plan. The goal continued to be reunification with A.C. Following an October 3, 2012 hearing, custody was continued with the state.

Another hearing took place on December 20, 2012. This hearing report refers to a December 5, 2012 case plan, which is not in the record. This report states that " [A.C.] is no longer complying with her case plan." Custody was continued with the State.

A March 11, 2013 letter to the trial court indicated that the case-plan goal was adoption, because A.C. was no longer compliant with her case plan. A May 9, 2013 letter to the court from DCFS stated that the agency had offered A.C. the opportunity to have weekly weekend visits with Z.C., but that she had failed to cooperate with this and other parts of her case plan. This letter indicates that [14-1082 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] adoption is the plan goal.[4] The next report submitted by DCFS is dated May 13, 2013, and indicates that A.C. had not made any progress on her case plan since the last court hearing, primarily because of failure to keep in contact with the agency.[5] Following a May 22, 2013 permanency and case-review hearing, the trial court found that A.C. was no longer complying with her case plan and continued custody with the state.

An October 17, 2013 letter from DCFS to the trial court continued to note A.C. as non-compliant with her case plan and a goal for Z.C. of adoption. Following a November 7, 2013 hearing, the trial court issued a report finding that " Case plans

Page 1207

goals are not being met. [A.C.] has not complied with any parts of her plan." The trial court further determined that adoption would be the permanent plan for Z.C. and continued custody with the state.

The state filed a petition for termination of parental rights and certification for adoption in November 2013, claiming that the parents' rights should be terminated due to abandonment and failing to provide significant contributions to the child's care and support for any period for six consecutive months, pursuant to La.Ch.Code art. 1015(4). Following a January 14, 2014 trial, A.C.'s parental rights to Z.C. were terminated. A.C. filed a motion for new trial, which was denied on April 1, 2014. A.C. now appeals.

ISSUES

1. The State of Louisiana failed to prove that there had not been substantial parental compliance with a case plan for services which has been previously been filed.
[14-1082 La.App. 3 Cir. 4] 2. The State of Louisiana failed to prove that there is no reasonable expectation of significant improvement in the parent's condition or conduct in the near future and the court did not find the same, but yet terminated parental rights.
3. The Mother was denied Due Process when the court allowed evidence to be presented, without prior notice, via the petition, and later when denied the right to present rebuttal testimony.
4. The mother was improperly denied a New Trial pursuant to La.Code Civ.Proc. art ...

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