STATE IN THE INTEREST OF B.W., C.D. & C.D.
FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ACADIA,
NO. JU 6203 HONORABLE JOHN DAMIAN TRAHAN, DISTRICT JUDGE
E. Cote Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR OTHER APPELLEE: State of
La., Department of Children & Fam. Services
Chantel Conrad Acadiana Legal Services COUNSEL FOR OTHER
APPELLEES: B.W. C.D. C.D.
Melancon COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: T.W.
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Shannon J.
Gremillion, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.
KENT SAVOIE JUDGE
T.W. appeals the decision
of the trial court terminating her parental rights to her
minor children, B.W., C.D., and C.D. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 20, 2014, the State of Louisiana, Department of
Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a report
indicating that T.W., the biological mother of B.W., born
September 22, 2005, C.D., born November 11, 2007, and C.D.,
born July 25, 2012, was incarcerated on the charge of Armed
Robbery. Her bond was set at $100, 000. It was further
reported that the children's father, R.D., was also
incarcerated for Simple Battery of the Infirm. The children
were residing with their maternal grandmother, T.R., and
maternal aunt, B.W.
T.W. lived with T.R. and her sister, the children primarily
resided with them as well. However, immediately prior to
DCFS's involvement, C.D. and C.D. began residing with
their paternal grandparents, B.P. and W.P. T.R. and the aunt
admitted to using a methamphetamine more commonly known as
crystal meth. The aunt also admitted to illegal use of the
drug suboxine. Due to suffering from a previous stroke, T.R.
was on multiple prescription medications. T.R. and the aunt
both agreed to submit to a urinalysis screening. The aunt
tested positive for Amphetamines and Methamphetamines.
T.R.'s urine was unable to be tested after she admitted
to pouring water in the specimen cup to dilute the results.
There were allegations that B.P. and W.P. were also using the
illegal drugs cocaine and marijuana.
DCFS case worker observed that the home of T.R. and the aunt
had minimal food, no refrigerator and no stove. The minor
child, B.W., could not recall the last time that she had
eaten. At the time of the report, both C.D. and C.D. had
lice, scabies and ringworms. The two school aged children,
B.W. and C.D., had not attended school in over a year. B.W.
reported that she taught herself math by looking at books and
counting on her fingers.
March 24, 2014, an instanter order, along with the supporting
affidavit of Bridget LeDoux, investigator with DCFS, was
filed and signed by the trial court, placing the children in
the temporary custody of DCFS. On May 12, 2014, this case
came for hearing wherein the trial court took evidence and,
thereafter, DCFS requested that the case be adjudicated as a
Child In Need of Care (CINC) case. DCFS further requested
that it have continued custody with the placement to remain
the same. DCFS's requests were ordered by the court.
matter came for review on August 25, 2014, February 11, 2015,
May 20, 2015, and August 5, 2015. A case plan was developed
for B.W., C.D. and C.D. B.W. and the elder C.D. were placed
in the home of E.G., a certified foster home, in New Iberia,
LA. The younger C.D. was placed in the certified foster home
of B.B., also in New Iberia, LA. Visitation was scheduled for
T.W. with the children every other Wednesday from 1:30 p.m.
to 2:30 p.m. at the Acadia Parish DCFS office in Crowley, LA.
In an August 12, 2014 report to the trial court, T.W. was
reported to have visited her children according to the
visitation schedule since her release from incarceration.
R.D. had not visited the children since he was released from
his incarceration. T.W. informed DCFS that she did not want
her children placed with any of her or R.D.'s relatives.
The goal for B.W., C.D., and C.D. was reunification with a
concurrent goal of adoption.
February 11, 2015 review hearing, the goal was changed from
reunification to adoption. The court found that there was a
lack of parental progress in the case plan which prevented
the children from being reunited with their parents. Judgment
was signed February 15, 2015.
12, 2015, a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights and
Certification for Adoption was filed by DCFS. It alleged that
the minor children B.W., C.D., and C.D., had been in the
custody of DCFS since March 20, 2014 because of neglect due
to dependency on drugs in their home, physical abuse of the
children, and lack of adequate shelter and food. The petition
requested that the parental rights of T.W. and R.D. be
terminated based on their failure to comply with the case
plan and based on the same behavior that led to the
children's removal being present. A termination of
parental rights hearing was set for September 16, 2015.
review hearing was held August 5, 2015. At that hearing, both
T.W. and R.D. entered general denials in response to the
allegations in the Petition for Termination of Parental
Rights. On September 16, 2015, the trial was continued to
October 28, 2015, and a transport order was signed by the
trial court, ordering the Acadia Parish Correctional Center
to transport R.D. to the Crowley District Courthouse on
October 28, 2015 for the termination of parental rights
was not present at the termination of parental rights hearing
on October 28, 2015. Her attorney stated that, while T.W. was
present earlier in the day, at some point she left, even
though her attorney advised her that the trial would go
forward that day. R.D. did attend the hearing.
Benoit, a child welfare specialist, was called as the first
witness. She worked on the case from March 2014 until
December 2014. Part of T.W.'s case plan was to secure
stable housing, however, Ms. Benoit testified that she failed
in this regard. From March 2014 until May 2014, T.W. was
incarcerated. After she was released, she would not let Ms.
Benoit know where she was living with the exception of two
occasions. Ms. Benoit was able to observe a home on the
outskirts of Crowley, LA. Ms. Benoit testified that the home
did not have room for the children because she had a
roommate, someone who had also had their parental rights
terminated. The second place Ms. Benoit was able to visit was
within the city limits of Crowley, LA, however, T.W. never
allowed Ms. Benoit into that home for observation. The rest
of the time that Ms. Benoit worked on the case, T.W. did not
seem to have a permanent residence and moved around a lot.
T.W. did not want to give Ms. Benoit information about with
whom she was staying.
also had a mental health component to her case plan. She was
referred to Crowley Mental Health Center, but she never made
an appointment. Crowley Mental Health Center was also the
place that T.W. would have sought help for her substance
abuse problem - another component of her case plan. She did
not follow-up on this referral.
to the case plan, T.W.'s parental contribution was
seventy-five dollars (twenty-five dollars per child) per
month. During the time that Keashia Benoit worked on the
case, T.W. never contributed monetarily to the children's
welfare. She never provided Ms. Benoit with proof of legal
submitted to a drug screen once during this period, and the
result was negative. She was also referred for parenting
classes as part of her case plan. They were to be in-home
classes, however, because Ms. Benoit never knew where T.W.
was living, she was unable to set up the parenting classes.
Ms. Benoit mailed T.W. a letter regarding January parenting