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State ex rel. B.A.T.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 28, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF B.A.T.

         Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Juvenile Docket No. J14010 Honorable Edward Charles Jacobs, Judge

          LAURIE RICHARDSON WILSON Counsel for Appellant JERRY W. DEASON, JR. Counsel for Plaintiff.

          Appellee WILLIAM MATTHEW ALTIMUS Counsel for Plaintiff.

          Appellee State of Louisiana PAMELA HARPER JACOB Counsel for Plaintiff.

          Appellee State of Louisiana DCFS DAVID O'DELL HARVILLE Counsel for Defendants. Appellees.

          Before BROWN, PITMAN, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         A.J.M. appeals a judgment by the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court, Parish of Bossier, State of Louisiana, terminating her parental rights to the minor child, B.A.T. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Facts

         This termination of parental rights proceeding involves B.A.T., a female child born on December 18, 2015. The parents are A.J.M. and S.T., who were residents of Haughton, Louisiana.[1] According to the affidavit in support of an instanter order, on September 6, 2016, the State of Louisiana, Department of Children and Family Services (the "State") received a report that the City of Haughton Police needed assistance regarding the minor children, B.A.T. and L.M. (the child of A.J.M. and another father not involved in this incident). [2] Police responded to the house in Haughton pursuant to a domestic violence call: A.J.M. and S.T. were fighting and strangling each other in a bedroom. The children were present in the house, but were not injured in the altercation. Also present was A.J.M.'s sister, Elizabeth Hall. The children were allowed to go with A.J.M.'s father, their grandfather, at her request.

         The day after the incident, both A.J.M. and S.T. tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines. S.T. was also positive for marijuana. B.A.T. tested positive for methamphetamines.

         Ultimately, A.J.M. pled guilty to the charge of domestic abuse battery-strangulation-1st Offense in Criminal Docket No. 220, 857 of the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court, Parish of Bossier, Louisiana. During the entire time B.A.T. was in the State's custody, A.J.M. was incarcerated, and she was not released until the week prior to the termination hearing.

         Shortly after the incident, Elizabeth's children disclosed that A.J.M. had thrown B.A.T. on the floor, and a detective for the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office interviewed Elizabeth regarding the accusation. Elizabeth confirmed the accusation, and B.A.T. was taken to University Health Shreveport hospital for a medical examination. According to the State, a skeletal examination showed a healed fracture of the left arm which appeared to be about two months old. B.A.T.'s parents later claimed to have no knowledge of the injury or how it happened.

         On September 14, 2016, on the basis of neglect/lack of adequate supervision, dependency, abuse/physical abuse, and bone fracture, the State requested B.A.T. and L.M. be removed from the parents' custody and the State be granted temporary custody. At the continued custody hearing held September 19, 2016, an instanter removal order was entered, and the State was granted custody of the children.

         The State filed its petition on October 17, 2016, alleging the children to be in need of care in accordance with La. Ch. C. art. 606, and outlined the facts stated herein. A.J.M. denied the petition, which according to court minutes was entered on October 31, 2016. The proceeding was called for adjudication on November 21, 2016, and the State's petition was offered without objection in lieu of live testimony. B.A.T. was found to be a child in need of care and remained in State's custody.

         The State filed its initial report on December 5, 2016, in anticipation of the upcoming disposition hearing. At the disposition hearing on December 12, 2016, the State offered its report without objection. The State's plan called for reunification and case plan goals for A.J.M. included:

• obtain and maintain housing that is physically safe and meets the basic needs of her family-a home that is clean and has electricity, running water, and food;
• have a legal source of income and resources to meet the needs of her child;
• support her child and pay $100.00 per month toward that support;
• keep the State informed of her whereabouts at all times and notify the State within three days if her residence should change;
• participate in a substance abuse assessment and follow all recommendations if deemed necessary;
• participate in random drug screen by the State;
• participate, complete, and demonstrate the skills that she has learned in her parenting classes, which help her understand and ...

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