Appealed from the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court, Parish of Caddo, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 148,370A. Honorable E. Paul Young, III, Judge.
M.S., In Proper Person.
CHARLES REX SCOTT, District Attorney, Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana.
PAMELA ROXANNE MOSER, JESSICA D. CASSIDY, Assistant District Attorneys; AUDIE LEWIS JONES, Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services.
WILBERT DALE PRYOR, Counsel for Appellee, H.G.
MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCACY SERVICE AND CHILD ADVOCACY PROGRAM, By: Matthew Burroughs, Nancy G. Cooper, Counsel for Appellee, C.S.
Before CARAWAY, PITMAN, and GARRETT, JJ.
[49,955 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] This case concerns an infant who was placed in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (" DCFS" ) shortly after birth. Due to the failure of the mother to comply, the goal of the permanent case plan was changed from reunification with the parents to adoption. The mother has appealed that ruling in proper person. For the following reasons, we affirm.
On December 16, 2013, 40-year-old M.S. gave birth to the child at issue here, C.S. The father of the child is H.G. At the hospital, M.S. told the staff that she had been living at the Levingston Motel in Shreveport, but did not want to take the infant back there. She stated that she could live with her sister, L.S. However, L.S. refused to allow M.S. to live with her due to a previous physical altercation. Because M.S. was homeless and had nowhere to go with the infant upon discharge from the hospital, and because other valid complaints had previously been lodged regarding her other children, the DCFS was contacted. In an instanter order signed on December 19, 2013, the juvenile court determined that C.S. was a child in need of care and gave temporary custody to the DCFS. The child was physically placed with another sister of M.S, K.N., and her husband, E.N.
M.S. had three other young children in DCFS custody who had been living with K.N. and E.N. since June 2013. This occurred after one of the children reported that H.G. had touched her inappropriately and an investigation found that child's claims to be credible. M.S. did not believe the child, claiming K.N. encouraged the child to make false allegations of [49,955 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] sexual abuse so that K.N. and E.N. could keep the children for monetary gain. M.S. also had a 15-year-old child she claimed was living with L.S.
In January 2014, the state filed a petition alleging that C.S. was a child in need of care under La. Ch. C. art. 606. The petition set forth the facts outlined above, as well as allegations that M.S. claimed to have tried drugs for the first time in January 2013, and could not understand how a positive drug screen showed up in her hair. The DCFS also claimed that M.S. had threatened K.N. with physical harm for trying to take away her children. The DCFS alleged that C.S. could not be adequately protected if he remained in parental custody. According to the DCFS, emergency circumstances existed indicating that there was a substantial immediate danger to the health and welfare of the child, precluding reasonable efforts of previous services being offered as an alternative to removal. Those circumstances included neglect due to inadequate shelter, substance abuse, and toleration of sexual abuse. The DCFS asserted there was good cause to believe that C.S. should be removed from the parents pending its investigation and temporary custody should be placed with the state.
On January 29, 2014, the court issued a judgment requiring M.S. to enroll in a drug treatment program called Family Preservation Court; she was given a series of requirements to fulfill. Visitation with C.S. was established, as well as with two of the other children.
In March 2014, the juvenile court issued a judgment of disposition finding that C.S. was a child in need of care, that continued custody would [49,955 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] remain with the DCFS, and the child would remain with relatives. A review hearing was set for May 2014.
In May 2014, the DCFS submitted a letter to the court stating that the case plan had been developed without cooperation from M.S. The case plan action steps for M.S. included the following:
1. [M.S.] will locate and secure housing that is free of any safety hazards and meets the basic needs of her children.
2. [M.S.] will demonstrate an ability to maintain a safe and clean environment by maintaining the same home for at least six months, keeping it free of any safety hazards, maintaining a supply of food, and keeping the home clean.
3. [M.S.] will provide proof of income to worker.
4. [M.S.] will apply for concrete services such as SNAP benefits, SSI, Medicaid, and any other services that may assist in the care/supervision of her child.
5. [M.S.] will participate in both individual therapy and family . . . therapy. She will arrive on time. She will notify the Agency and mental health provider of the need to re-schedule an appointment. If transportation is needed, she will notify the Agency within 24 hours. The Agency will assist with transportation when possible.
6. [M.S.] will submit to a mental health evaluation. She will notify worker at least 2 days prior to the scheduled appointment if unable to keep the appointment. [M.S.] will notify worker if unable to arrange transportation to the evaluation at least 2 days in advance.
7. [M.S.] will complete random drug screens as directed by the Agency or substance abuse treatment provider. Failure to comply with random drug screens will be considered a positive screening.
8. If found appropriate, [M.S.] will participate in and successfully complete an Agency-approved substance abuse treatment program.
[49,955 La.App. 2 Cir. 4] 9. The Agency will refer [M.S.] for parenting education. She will participate in this program and be able to demonstrate her knowledge gained and understanding of her children's needs.
10. [M.S.] will attend all Family Team Conferences (FTC's)/Family Team Meetings (FTM's), court hearings, visits with her children, and any other appointments regarding her children.
M.S. entered a transitional living facility called Grace Home, but left there claiming it was under investigation by the FBI. According to the DCFS, the real reason she left was she was asked to change rooms with another resident. At that point, M.S. began staying at the Merryton Motel in Shreveport.
M.S. was observed to have difficulty distributing her attention among the children during visitation. She insisted on giving C.S. a bottle every time he cried, even though the child was on a feeding schedule. M.S. believed that caretakers were neglecting C.S. by not giving him a bottle every time he cried. In February 2014, M.S. was referred to an agency for visit coaching services. ...