IN RE: TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO THE MINOR CHILD BABY A
Appeal from the Juvenile Court In and for the Parish of East
Baton Rouge State of Louisiana Trial Court No. A10743
Honorable Adam J. Haney, Judge Presiding
S. McCormick Baton Rouge, LA Attorney for Appellant DM, II.
Rebecca L. Norton Baton Rouge, LA Attorney for Baby A.
W. Ezim Dean M. Esposito Baton Rouge, LA Mark D. Plaisance
Thibodaux, LA Attorneys for Appellee St. Elizabeth
BEFORE: HIGGINBOTFIAM, HOLDRIDGE, AND PENZATO, JJ.
appeal, DM, the biological father of Baby A, challenges the
trial court's denial of his opposition to Baby A's
adoption, finding that he failed to carry his burden of proof
to establish his parental rights under La. Ch. Code art.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
candidly acknowledged that he has struggled with drug
addiction since he was 18 years old. In 2014, DM attended
Right Steps Treatment Center for his addiction to synthetic
marijuana. After the death of his grandfather in 2015, DM
relapsed and began using methamphetamines. On June 21, 2015,
DM was arrested for possession of methamphetamines in
Calcasieu Parish, and as a consequence, DM reentered drug
treatment at Woodlake Addiction Recovery in Ethel, Louisiana.
After completion of this drug treatment program, DM lived in
a sober living community, where he used heroin for the first
time. He then returned to treatment at Woodlake, completed
the program, and upon release suffered a heroin relapse. In
early 2016, he began treatment at Woodlake in Ethel again and
afterward entered into intensive outpatient rehabilitation at
Woodlake in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While at Woodlake, in
April 2016, DM met LA, the biological mother of Baby A, and
they began a romantic relationship.
a few weeks of their relationship, LA informed DM that she
was pregnant and that he might be the father. DM expressed to
LA that if he was the father, he wanted to raise the baby and
did not want to put the baby up for adoption. Early in
LA's pregnancy, DM provided transportation to LA for her
pre-natal appointments, and purchased anti-nausea medicine
and pre-natal vitamins for her. On several occasions DM
encouraged LA, who continued to struggle with addiction, to
enter a drug rehabilitation program. During that time, DM and
LA lived together for a few weeks, and DM took care of
LA's three-year-old daughter. For a short time, DM was
employed with an asphalt plant, but was eventually fired. LA
acknowledged that DM took care of her pregnancy more then she
took care of her pregnancy.
DM again relapsed and entered Woodlake in Ethel at the end of
July. He was there only a short time, but re-entered Woodlake
at the end of August and was there through most of September.
During his time at Woodlake, DM was unable to communicate
with LA and was unable to continue to provide support for LA.
After leaving Woodlake, DM purchased drugs from a dealer, and
used them with LA. DM admitted that he and LA used drugs
together while she was pregnant, but he said it was less than
November 25, 2016, DM was arrested for highway obstruction,
and while in jail was served with a warrant for felony theft
because he had stolen a ring from his mother in order to pawn
it. As a result of the theft charges, he was ordered to a
pretrial diversion program at Teen Challenge Rehabilitation.
He was there for less than a month, and left because he did
not feel it was working. After leaving Teen Challenge, DM
admitted to using marijuana. In December 2016, DM began
another rehabilitation program at Freedom Ministries, which
is a year-long program.
January 17, 2017, LA filed a notice of intent to surrender
the child for adoption to the St. Elizabeth Foundation. In
her notice, LA listed two alleged fathers, DM and JL. On
January 30, 2017, the minor child Baby A was born. On
February 1, 2017, DM filed an objection to the adoption and
on March 27, 2017, filed a petition for visitation pending
the opposition hearing, and to appoint an attorney to
represent the child.
matter came before the trial court on May 4, 2017. At the
conclusion of the evidence submitted by DM, counsel for St.
Elizabeth moved for an involuntary dismissal pursuant to La.
Code Civ. P. art. 1672(B). The trial court concluded that DM
failed to carry his burden of proof under La. Ch. ...