from the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court Juvenile Division -
First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo,
Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 153, 417 Honorable David
D. GOODWIN Counsel for Appellant, Mother.
SMITH Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana, Department of
Children and Family Services.
BABERS Counsel for Appellee, Father.
ADVOCACY PROGRAM By: Nancy Googe Cooper Counsel for Appellee,
MOORE, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.
child in need of care ("CINC") case, the mother,
KM, appeals from a juvenile court judgment accepting a case
plan of adoption only, and not reunification, for the child,
For the following reasons, we affirm.
14 years old when she gave birth to EM on June 24, 2015. Due
to KM's young age during pregnancy, the baby suffers from
various health problems, including optic nerve hypoplasia.
Simply put, the optic nerve did not develop and EM is
permanently blind. EM had three possible fathers. Paternity
testing eventually revealed the father to be DG, who was an
18-year-old junior in high school at the time EM was
conceived. DG stated that he thought KM was 16. Although it
is not entirely clear from the record, DG was convicted of
either carnal knowledge of a juvenile or indecent behavior
with a juvenile. He is serving a prison sentence as a
consequence of his actions with KM.
record indicates that KM was raised in an unstable
environment. She has several younger siblings and lived with
her mother, JC, and her father, LM. JC was somewhat disabled
after having West Nile virus. It appears from the record that
JC may have also abused drugs. JC was not able to control KM,
who frequently ran away from home. The Louisiana Department
of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") had
records indicating that KM had been the victim of neglect in
July 2002, July 2007, and August 2010. JC had an open file
with the DCFS from May 2015, largely dealing with her
inability to control KM. The lack of supervision of KM
contributed to her pregnancy and the birth of EM.
September 17, 2015, concerns were reported to the DCFS
regarding EM. KM did not appear to be able to care for the
baby and frequently left the child with others, skipped
school, ran away from home, and sometimes ran away with the
baby. She missed doctor appointments for the baby and
appointments to obtain food assistance. JC stated that she
was not able to care for the baby and could not control KM.
According to JC, there were no other family members who could
care for EM. KM had planned to allow EM to be adopted by a
couple in Texas, but changed her mind.
time the DCFS became involved in this case, an employee with
a maternity home where KM stayed during part of her pregnancy
had EM in her possession and took the child to various doctor
appointments. This individual considered adopting EM, but
decided against it.
October 8, 2015, the juvenile court issued a verbal instanter
order of removal and signed the order the next day. The court
determined that EM was the victim of abuse and/or neglect and
emergency circumstances existed requiring that the child be
taken into the custody of the DCFS.
hearing was held on October 15, 2015, and the court issued a
continued custody and protective order placing the child in
the legal custody of the DCFS due to neglect. The DCFS was
ordered to conduct a home study of the paternal grandparents,
HG and WG. KM's visitation with the child was to be
supervised. EM was placed in foster care with a nonrelative.
November 13, 2015, the state filed a petition to have EM
declared a CINC. A dispositional hearing was held on February
8, 2016. The January 2016 DCFS report to the court, which
contained a case plan with a goal of reunification, was filed
into evidence. Among KM's case plan goals were attending
and completing a parenting program, providing a safe and
stable home for EM, attending routine medical appointments
for the baby, and remaining in school. At the hearing it was
determined that KM was not attending school, but was supposed
to return to school the next week. The court ordered a mental
health evaluation and ordered KM to attend counseling. The
attorney representing EM advised the court that the
baby's paternal grandparents were an excellent resource.
The court adjudicated EM a CINC and ordered that the paternal
grandparents could have overnight visitation with the baby.
The court maintained custody with the DCFS, but placed EM
with KM and her mother, JC, instead of continuing the child
in foster care.
case was reviewed by the court on March 10, 2016. KM was 15
at that point. JC said KM was doing what she should to care
for EM. The paternal grandmother, HG, did not share that
opinion and stated that she thought KM had issues. She noted
that KM often left the baby with her when KM had other things
she wanted to do. The case plan goal remained reunification.
The case review judgment of March 18, 2016, specified that
the child continued to be a CINC and custody was maintained
with the DCFS. EM's placement remained with KM and JC.
case review hearing was held on May 12, 2016. An amended case
plan for reunification, or adoption in the alternative, was
approved. At that point, EM was living with the paternal
grandparents. EM was attending a daycare for children with
special needs. A report from the daycare that was filed into
evidence stated that EM was in much better condition since
she had been staying with the paternal grandparents. The
child was clean and was sent to daycare with ...