STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF T. D.
APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON PARISH JUVENILE COURT PARISH OF
JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-TP-17, DIVISION
"B" HONORABLE ANDREA PRICE JANZEN, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA,
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN & FAMILY SERVICES Jessica Coalter.
COUNSEL FOR PARENT/APPELLANT, T. D., MOTHER Jennifer G.
COUNSEL FOR PARENT/APPELLANT, W. D., III, FATHER M. Elizabeth
composed of Susan M. Chehardy, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans
STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE.
Juvenile Court for the Parish of Jefferson rendered judgment
in this case on the petition filed by the State of Louisiana,
Department of Children and Family Services
("DCFS"), terminating the parental rights of the
mother, T. and the father, W.D., to the minor child,
Both T. and W.D. appeal from that judgment. For the following
reasons, we affirm the decision of the juvenile court.
History and Facts
was born on February 4, 2002, and was 14 at the time of the
termination hearing. T.D.'s aunt, D.M., was his legal
guardian and primary caregiver for most of his life.
January 30, 2015, the Jefferson Parish District
Attorney's Office (D.A.'s Office) filed a petition
against T.D. alleging that he committed simple battery,
simple robbery and criminal damage to property. On February
19, 2015, a petition was filed charging T.D. with theft of
goods valued under $500.00. On March 4, 2015, the matter came
for adjudication. The State dismissed the charges of simple
battery and simple criminal damage to property and T.D.
entered an admission to the charge of simple robbery. On
March 5, 2015, T.D. entered into an Informal Adjustment
Agreement with the D.A.'s Office and was enrolled in the
March 17, 2015, the D.A.'s Office filed a petition
against T.D. alleging that he committed theft of goods and
criminal trespass. On March 31, 2015, T.D.'s bond was
revoked on the simple robbery charge, and he was remanded to
the Rivarde Detention Center.
the March 17, 2015 petition was amended to charge a Family in
Need of Services ("FINS"): ungovernable. T.D.
entered an admission to the FINS charge. At this time, he was
placed in the custody of DCFS. On the allegation of simple
robbery, T.D. was sentenced to the Office of Juvenile Justice
for one year, suspended, and placed on two years active
probation. The DCFS held several review hearings in 2015 and
2016, during which time it was noted that, although there was
a visitation schedule set, T.D.'s parents failed to visit
him. In May of 2016, T.D. was hospitalized three times for
voicing suicidal ideations. Three hearings were held
regarding this issue. There was no indication that the
parents visited T.D. during this time.
16, 2016, DCFS filed a petition for termination of parental
rights, alleging that T.D. had been abandoned by his parents.
Also on that date, the juvenile court ordered appointment of
attorneys for W.D. and T. At the July 16, 2016 case review
hearing, it was noted that his parents still had not visited
T.D., and further had not visited him since he had been taken
into DCFS custody.
petition for termination of parental rights, it alleged that
T.D. had been placed in the State's custody on April 14,
2015, and had remained in the State's custody since that
time, for a period of over one year. DCFS further alleged
that both T. and W.D. abandoned T.D. by leaving him under
circumstances demonstrating an intention to permanently avoid
responsibility by failing to provide significant
contributions to T.D.'s care and support and/or by
failing to maintain significant contact with T.D. for a
period of six consecutive months from the time T.D. entered
into the State's custody through the date of filing of
the petition, citing La. Ch.C. art. 1015, Sections 5 and/or
hearing on the petition filed by DCFS was held on August 15,
2016. At the hearing, the Juvenile Court judge took judicial
notice of the underlying FINS record. Jovia Alexis, employee
of the DCFS and the foster care worker for T.D., testified
that the FINS proceeding "turned into" a CINC
proceedings, and T.D. entered foster care in April of 2015,
after T. tested positive on a drug screening. Ms. Alexis
stated that a case plan was formulated for T. which included
parental contributions or child support payments and
visitation. T. did not make any contributions or child
support payments, and did not provide food, clothing or other
necessities for T.D. In addition, T. did not make any visits.
While T. did not initiate contact with DCFS, she did answer
when Ms. Alexis contacted her. Ms. Alexis stated that T.
indicated that she understood her case plan, but she
indicated an unwillingness to participate in that plan.
According to Ms. Alexis, T. stated that "she did not
complete or will not participate in her case plan and she
would not be completing as she felt that [T.D.] being in
state custody was best for [him]." Ms. Alexis also
testified that initially, DCFS provided bus tokens to enable
T. to visit the child, but stopped when it was learned that
T. had an automobile and/or was not visiting T.D. Ms. Alexis
conducted a home visit and determined that T. did not
maintain housing that would be safe and appropriate for T.D.
Ms. Alexis stated that, to the best of her knowledge, T. did
not maintain a legal means to support herself and T.D. and
that she did not have a job or provide proof of income. T.
did participate in a psychiatric evaluation, and the
recommendations were that she complete a substance abuse
program, and then, after she was clean and sober, participate
in parenting classes. T. did not complete a substance abuse
program, and therefore was not referred for parenting
classes. Finally, Ms. Alexis stated that T. had not made any
substantial improvement in addressing the problems that
prevented her unification with T.D., the minor child.
testified that she wanted an opportunity to be reunited with
T.D., but that she could not comply with all requirements of
her reunification plan because she was "dealing"
with her other children, including a bipolar son.
W.D., Ms. Alexis testified that there was also a case plan
formulated for him, which included support and visitation.
W.D. did not make any parental contributions or pay any child
support. Furthermore, W.D. failed to visit T.D. and failed to
maintain contact with DCFS. Ms. Alexis stated that she could
not determine whether W.D. had maintained safe and
appropriate housing for himself and T.D. because she was
unsuccessful in her attempts to schedule an appointment with
W.D. to visit his home. Furthermore, W.D. had not informed
her that he was employed, and had not provided proof of
income to DCFS. Ms. Alexis stated that the conditions that
led to T.D.'s removal from W.D. persisted and that W.D.
had not kept in contact with T.D., nor had he complied with a
program of treatment and rehabilitation services set forth in
his case plan. Ms. Alexis testified that a case plan had been
formulated and she made an appointment with W.D. to review
the plan. W.D. did not show up for the appointment and he did
time of the hearing, W.D. was incarcerated, awaiting trial on
a possession of heroin charge. W.D. stated that he was
incarcerated in April of 2016. W.D. testified that he was
unaware of any case plan made by the DCFS. W.D. further
testified that he had two houses, and family members that
were willing to take care of T.D. while he was incarcerated,
but he also admitted that he did not provide the names of
those persons to DCFS. He also stated that he was willing to
take custody of T.D., but did not attempt to do so because
"That was between him and his mother to come in
here." W.D. also stated that he could have paid bond
money and been released pending trial, but refused to do so
because he was facing contempt charges for non-payment of
Ms. Alexis testified that T.D. was currently in the custody
of DCFS, residing at BoysTown in New Orleans, and that he was
adjusting well with a few minor setbacks. According to Ms.
Alexis, T.D. had related to her that he wished to be adopted.
Furthermore, DCFS was of the opinion that it is in the best
interest of T.D. that ...