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State ex rel. S.C.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

April 20, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF S.C., M.C., K.C., AND A.C.

         APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. MARTIN, NO. 15-18146 HONORABLE CURTIS SIGUR, DISTRICT JUDGE

          S. Marie Johnson Counsel for Appellant: N.D. (mother)

          Shentell Brown Attorney at Law Counsel for Appellee: B.C. (father)

          M. Bofill Duhé District Attorney W. Claire Howington Assistant District Attorney Sixteenth Judicial District Counsel for Appellee: State of Louisiana

          Robert "Bobby" Odinet Assistant District Attorney Counsel for Appellee: State of Louisiana

          Charlotte Bordenave Barry L. LaCour Mental Health Advocacy Service Child Advocacy Program Counsel for Appellees: S.C. (child) M.C. (child) K.C. (child) A.C. (child)

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Phyllis M. Keaty, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE

         The mother, N.D., [1] appeals the trial court's judgment ordering S.C., M.C., K.C., and A.C to remain in foster care. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         N.D. is the biological mother and B.C. is the biological father of four children: S.C., born on January 6, 2011; M.C., born on May 27, 2012; K.C., born on May 28, 2013; and A.C., born on March 8, 2015. On October 26, 2015, the State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a report that N.D. and B.C. were not adequately supervising the children. The children were placed in the temporary custody of the DCFS pursuant to an Oral Instanter Order on October 27, 2015, and a confirmed written Instanter Order dated October 28, 2015. At the time of their removal from their parents' custody, the children were the following ages: four years old; three years old; two years old; and seven and one-half months, respectively. Following an adjudication hearing on March 8, 2016 and April 6, 2016, the trial court determined they were children in need of care. A disposition hearing was held on April 25, 2016, and the parties stipulated to the continued custody of the children with the State. Following the hearing, the trial court signed the disposition judgment.

         On May 11, 2016, N.D. filed the instant appeal from the April 25, 2016 judgment. On appeal and in her sole assignment of error, N.D. contends the trial court erred in granting judgment in favor of the State, adjudicating S.C., M.C., K.C., and A.C. as children in need of care. B.C. has not appealed.

          STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "We review the juvenile court's findings of fact under the manifest error standard of review[.]" State ex rel. J.Y.M., 09-1335, p. 5 (La.App. 3 Cir. 8/4/10), 45 So.3d 1128, 1132. In State ex rel. D.H., 04-2105, pp. 7-8 (La.App. 1 Cir. 2/11/05), 906 So.2d 554, 560, the first circuit noted:

[I]t is important that the appellate court not substitute its own opinion when it is the juvenile court that is in the unique position to see and hear the witnesses as they testify. [In re A.J.F., 00-948 (La. 6/30/00), 764 So.2d 47.] Where there is conflicting testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed upon review, even when the appellate court may feel that its own evaluations and inferences are as reasonable as those of the juvenile court. Id.; see Rosell v. ESCO, 549 So.2d 840 (La.1989). If the juvenile court's findings are reasonable in light of the record reviewed in its entirety, the appellate court may not reverse, even though convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently. Id.; see Pinsonneault v. Merchants & Farmers Bank & Trust Co., 2001-2217 (La. 4/3/02), 816 So.2d 270.
In order to reverse a fact finder's determination of fact, an appellate court must review the record in its entirety and (1) find that a reasonable factual basis does not exist for the finding, and if such a basis does exist, (2) further determine that the record establishes that the fact finder is clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous. See Stobart v. State, through DOTD, 617 So.2d 880 (La.1993). If there are two permissible views of the evidence, the fact finder's choice between them cannot be manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         In her sole assignment of error, N.D. contends the trial court erred in granting judgment in favor of the State, adjudicating the minor children in need of care. Louisiana Children's Code Article 606 sets forth the grounds on which a child can be found in need of care providing, in pertinent part:

A. Allegations that a child is in need of care must assert one or more of the following grounds:
(1) The child is the victim of abuse perpetrated, aided, or tolerated by the parent or caretaker, by a person who maintains an interpersonal dating or engagement relationship with the parent or caretaker, or by a person living in the same residence with the parent or caretaker as a spouse whether married or not, and his welfare is seriously endangered if he is left within the custody or control of that parent or caretaker.
(2) The child is a victim of neglect.
. . . .
B. A child whose parent is unable to provide basic support, supervision, treatment, or services due to inadequate financial resources shall not, for that reason alone, be ...

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