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State ex rel. J.J.S.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

July 7, 2015

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF J.J.S

          On Appeal from the Juvenile Court. In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana. No. 11,708, Division B. The Honorable Pamela Taylor Johnson, Judge Presiding.

         Laura G. Slocum, Bureau of General Counsel Department of Children and Family Services State of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Appellant, State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services.

         Leslie L. Lacy, Mental Health Advocacy Service/ Child Advocacy Program, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Appellee, J.J.S. (Minor Child).

         Jane Thomas, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Attorney for Appellee, J.S. (Father).

         Jack Harrison, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Curator for Appellee, B.V. (Mother).

         BEFORE: GUIDRY, PETTIGREW, WELCH, THERIOT, AND DRAKE, JJ. GUIDRY, J., dissents and assigns reasons.

          OPINION

Page 320

          [2014 1574 La.App. 1 Cir. 2] DRAKE, J.

         The State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), appeals the judgment of the juvenile court,[1] which dismissed the DCFS's petition to terminate the parental rights of the father (J.S.) as to a minor child adjudicated in need of care (J.J.S.).[2] For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the juvenile court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         J.S. is the father of J.J.S., a son who was bom on August 8, 2008. On August 12, 2008, DCFS[3] learned that J.J.S. was bom prematurely and tested positive for amphetamines and marijuana. On October 29, 2008, the juvenile court granted an oral instanter order directing DCFS to take J.J.S. into its immediate custody based on allegations of neglect and dependency. A verified complaint that contained the information that was previously orally relayed to the court for the issuance of the oral instanter order was filed with the court the same day. J.S. was considered a non-offending parent in those proceedings. DCFS had a previous working history with

Page 321

 the minor child's mother, B.V. In August 2007, DCFS opened a family services case whereby the agency paid numerous bills for the family, including rent, water, and electric.

         On November 6, 2008, a custody hearing was held, after which custody of J.J.S. was returned to his mother, B.V., with three months of protective supervision by DCFS. J.S. was present at the hearing, agreed with the transfer of custody to [2014 1574 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] B.V., and agreed to provide some financial assistance. DCFS continued to supervise the case. The protective supervision period was extended through July 30, 2009, subject to B.V. enrolling in a substance abuse treatment facility program. The court also recommended that DCFS provide J.S. substance abuse counseling. At the July 30, 2009 hearing, the juvenile court reinstated the October 29, 2008 verified complaint and placed J.J.S. back in the custody of DCFS.

         Thereafter, pursuant to the stipulation of B.V. and based on evidence contained in the verified complaint, the juvenile court ordered the assistant district attorney (ADA) assigned to the case to file a petition to initiate proceedings to adjudicate J.J.S. as a child in need of care. At an appearance hearing, J.S. and B.V. both denied the allegations of the petition, and the matter was set for an adjudication hearing. At the adjudication hearing held on October 19, 2009, B.V. stipulated that J.J.S. be adjudicated a child in need of care, and the juvenile court rendered judgment adjudicating J.J.S. as a child in need of care as it related to B.V. The adjudication in relation to J.S. was continued until December 10, 2009, at which time the assigned ADA sought leave to amend the child in need of care petition. Over the objection of J.S., the juvenile court granted the ADA's motion to amend the original petition to add specific factual allegations of neglect committed by J.S. The matter was then set for an appearance and an adjudication hearing relative to J.S. At the appearance hearing, J.S. again denied the allegations of the petition.

         At the adjudication hearing on January 12, 2010, the parties entered into an Informal Adjustment Agreement (IAA). The IAA provided as follows: (1) J.S. was to comply with the December 28, 2009 case plan; (2) J.S. would cooperate and comply with DCFS in allowing sibling visits; (3) DCFS would provide daycare services for three months; (4) J.S. would continue to work with Capital Area for substance abuse treatment and the Infant Child & Family Center; (5) J.S. would [2014 1574 La.App. 1 Cir. 4] submit to random drug screens; (6) DCFS would assist J.S. in obtaining childcare assistance through the Office of Family Support; (7) CASA would provide supervision for the duration of the IAA; and (8) DCFS would continue to provide protective supervision for the duration of the IAA. The IAA w as effective for six months. That same day, custody of JJ.S. was transferred to J.S. A hearing to review compliance with the IAA was held on April 22, 2010. The trial court extended the IAA for another six months and ordered J.S. to submit to a drug screen every other week.

         The IAA was not successfully completed by J.S. On March 10, 2011, the court terminated the IAA and returned J.J.S. to the custody of DCFS over the department's objection. Although J.J.S. was returned to DCFS custody, he remained placed in the home of J.S. From March 10-23, 2011, however, the whereabouts of J.S. and J.J.S. were unknown. A meeting between DCFS and J.S. was scheduled for March 18, but J.S. did not attend. Once J.J.S. was located, he was placed ...


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