STATE IN THE INTEREST OF T.M.B. & T.T.B.
FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. JC-2014-511 HONORABLE THOMAS R. DUPLANTIER,
Dangerfield COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: T.G. (father)
Antoinette Beard COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana,
Department of Children & Family Services
M. Guidry COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: E.L.B. (mother)
Franchesca L. Hamilton-Acker Acadiana Legal Service Corp.
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEES: T.M.B. (child) T.T.B. (child)
Davenport-McGraw Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR
APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D.
Saunders, and Marc T. Amy, Judges.
T. AMY JUDGE
minor children came into the custody of the State due to
allegations of their parents' drug use. Citing a lack of
substantial compliance with the case plan, the State filed a
petition to terminate parental rights. Following a trial, the
trial court terminated the parental rights of both parents
and certified the children eligible for adoption. The father
appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
to the record, T.M.B. and T.T.B. were one year old and four
months old, respectively, when they were placed into the
State's custody on June 23, 2014. The Department of Children
and Family Services (DCFS) became involved with the family in
February 2014, after receiving a report that E.B., the
children's mother, tested positive for cocaine while in
labor with T.T.B. During the ensuing investigation, the
children's father, T.G., admitted to using marijuana.
the children were removed from their parents' custody,
DCFS developed a safety plan for the family, which required
E.B. and T.G. to attend substance abuse programs and submit
to random drug screenings. However, according to the
State's Affidavit in Support of Instanter Order, E.B. and
T.G. continued to test positive for illicit drugs. In August
2014, T.M.B. and T.T.B. were adjudicated children in need of
care and were placed with a foster parent. While the
State's initial primary goal was reunification of the
children with their parents, it later converted its primary
goal to adoption, which was approved by the trial court in
April 21, 2016, the State filed a petition seeking to
terminate E.B. and T.G.'s parental rights and to certify
the children eligible for adoption. In its petition, the
State alleged that E.B. and T.G. abandoned their children
pursuant to La.Ch.Code art. 1015(4),  as they "failed to
provide significant contributions to their children's
care and support for a period of six consecutive
months." The State further alleged that T.G.
"failed to maintain significant contact with [his] minor
children by failing to visit or communicate with said
children for a period of six consecutive months[.]"
Additionally, the State alleged that termination of parental
rights was justified pursuant to La.Ch.Code art. 1015(5),
"greater than one year has elapsed since the children
were removed from the parents' custody pursuant to a
court order, there has been no substantial parental
compliance with the case plan[, ]" and "there is no
reasonable expectation of significant improvement in the
parents' condition or conduct in the near future,
considering the children's ages and need for a safe,
stable, and permanent home[.]"
trial, the trial court took the matter under advisement. On
October 19, 2016, the trial court rendered a judgment, with
written reasons for ruling, terminating the parental rights
of E.B. and T.G. and freeing T.M.B. and T.T.B. for adoption.
appeals,  assigning as error that:
1. The trial court erred in terminating the rights of T.G.
for substantial non-compliance when he was complying with the
2. The trial court erred in terminating the rights of T.G.
where D.C.F.S. failed to prove by clear and convincing
evidence there was no reasonable expectation of significant
improvement in the parent's condition or conduct.
3. The trial court erred in terminating the rights of T.G.
where D.C.F.S. failed to demonstrate that termination was in
the best interest of the children.
(Upper case font removed.)
first assignment of error, T.G. asserts that the trial court
erred in determining that he failed to substantially comply
with his case plan, such that termination of his parental
rights pursuant to La.Ch.Code art. 1015(5) was unwarranted.
T.G.'s case plan, which substantially remained the same
throughout these proceedings, required him to: 1) maintain
adequate housing and income, 2) provide contributions of
$25.00 per month toward the care and support of the children,
3) complete substance abuse treatment while submitting to
random drug screens, 4) attend parenting classes, and 5)
attend weekly visits with the children.
argues that he "substantially complied with each
component of the case plan except for completing the
parenting class and making monthly contributions."
Regarding the parenting class component, he argues that he
was "appropriate" with the children during their
visits and that "[b]ased on the case managers[']
observations of T.G. during the visits, there appears to be
no real need for the parenting class other than to try to
improve upon what is already appropriate." Additionally,
regarding the monthly contributions component, T.G. appears
to argue that he could not afford to make contributions,
stating that he "maintained the expenses of the
household where he and E.B. lived" and that "[i]t
is understandable that an individual without a driver's
license and without a vehicle would be hindered in seeking
and maintaining gainful employment[.]"
to La.Ch.Code art. 1035(A), "[t]he petitioner bears the
burden of establishing each element of a ground for
termination of parental rights by clear and convincing
evidence." Moreover, "the State need only establish
one ground for termination[.]" State in the Interest
of J.K.G., 11-908, p. 5 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1/11/12), 118
So.3d 10, 14. This principle is particularly pertinent to the
defendant's concession that he failed to substantially
comply with the case plan in two respects. Additionally,
La.Ch.Code art. 1036(C) provides the following:
Under Article 1015(5), lack of parental compliance with a
case plan may be evidenced by one or ...