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State ex rel. L.S.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 2, 2017

STATE IN THE INTEREST OF L.S.

         APPEAL FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ST. MARTIN, NO. 17-JV-18661 HONORABLE LEWIS H. PITMAN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE

          S. Marie Johnson Public Defender's Office COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: L. B. (father) K. S. (mother)

          Shentell Brown Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Denise Henderson Mental Health Advocates COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: L. S. (child)

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, D. Kent Savoie, and Van H. Kyzar, Judges.

          VAN H. KYZAR JUDGE

         The appellants, K.S. and L.B., [1] appeal from a judgment adjudicating their minor child, L.S., as being a child in need of care and ordering family services. On considering the record before us, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The appellants, K.S. and L.B., are the mother and father, respectively, of the minor child, L.S., born October 6, 2016. Immediately following the birth of the child, the State of Louisiana, Office of Juvenile Justice, Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), was notified the child was born positive for the presence of amphetamines in its system and that the mother had also tested positive for the same drug at the time of the birth. An investigator was assigned the case and immediately went to the hospital to commence an investigation into allegations of abuse or neglect. On January 31, 2017, a child in need of care petition was filed alleging as follows:

[L.S.][2] is a victim of Parental Neglect for being a drug exposed newborn when she was born on October 7, 2016 [sic]. The infant's meconium was positive for amphetamines and the mother's urine was positive for amphetamines, benzos and cocaine. [K.S.] admitted to using drugs throughout her pregnancy and could not provide prescriptions for the amphetamines. This is Ms. [K.S.'] second drug exposed newborn.
All reasonable, available and appropriate attempts and efforts have been made to encourage and assist this family to deal with the allegations set forth herein and to provide all available services but to no avail and said attempts have been exhausted. Ms. [K.S.] admits to being overwhelmed with the issues in her life. However, she does not feel she needs any of the recommended services such as Early Steps and Healthy Start.

         An adjudication hearing was held on April 3, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found the child to be a child in need of care and ordered family services. As part of the judgment, DCFS was ordered to look into the possibility of providing or finding financial assistance for the parents to offset the rehabilitative treatment services for the mother at an inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation facility. A review hearing was further set for October 19, 2017. This appeal was thereafter taken by the parents, K.S. and L.B.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         The appellants assert one assignment of error on appeal, as follows:

Whether the trial court erred in granting judgment in favor of the State of Louisiana adjudicating the minor child, L.S., a child in need of care?

         OPINION

         In State In Interest of S.C, 16-740, p. 2 (La.App. 3 Cir. 4/19/17), 217 So.3d 642, 644, the standard of appellate review applicable in child in need of care cases was recognized as follows:

"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), 816So.2d270.
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.

         Thus, in the instant case, we are tasked with determining whether the trial court committed manifest error in finding the minor L.S. to be a child in need of care based upon the evidence presented at the adjudication hearing on April 3, 2017. The grounds for finding ...


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