FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. JC-20151015 HONORABLE THOMAS R. DUPLANTIER,
M. Guidry Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: J. R. F.
Antoinette Beard COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Department of Children
and Family Services
Davenport-McGraw Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR
APPELLEE: State of Louisiana
Franchesca L. Hamilton-Acker Acadiana Legal Service Corp.
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: M. J. F. (Minor Child)
J. Sallinger Allyson M. Prejean Barry J. Sallinger, APLC
COUNSEL FOR INTERVENORS/APPELLEES: J. M. M. M. (Foster/
Potential Adpotive Parents)
composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, Shannon J. Gremillion, and
John E. Conery, Judges.
E. CONERY JUDGE.
the mother of the minor child M.J.F., appeals the June 7,
2018 judgment of the trial court terminating her parental
rights to M.J.F. and certifying him for
adoption. The father of M.J.F. is unknown. The trial
court's judgment also terminated the parental rights of
the alleged unknown father. That ruling has not been appealed
and is therefore a final judgment. For the following reasons,
we affirm the trial court's judgment in its entirety.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was born on October 17, 2015. Prior to receiving a report of
neglect on December 2, 2015, the Department of Children and
Family Services (DCFS) had received allegations in October
2015 that M.J.F. was a substance exposed newborn who had
tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines at birth.
J.R.F. and M.H., the presumed father who had signed
M.J.F.'s birth certificate, moved to the Travelodge Motel
in Lafayette Parish while there was a pending family service
case in St. Landry Parish.
applied for an Instanter Order of Removal of M.J.F. from
J.R.F., the child's mother. The affidavit in support of
the December 3, 2015 Instanter Order provided that DCFS
involvement was required due to the mother's drug use,
inadequate sleeping arrangements for the child (allowing
M.J.F. to sleep in the bed with J.R.F. and her companion,
M.H.), domestic violence incidents (the Lafayette Police
having been called twice due to a domestic disturbance), the
mother's expressed need for mental health assistance, and
the mother's expressed inability to care for her child.
J.R.F. had made threats of wanting to dispose of M.J.F by
placing him in a dumpster. J.R.F. admitted to using Xanax,
ecstasy and marijuana and had been prescribed Depakote as an
anti-depressant for post-partum depression.
Instanter Order was granted on December 3, 2015 and signed on
December 4, 2015, committing M.J.F. to the custody of DCFS. A
hearing on the continued custody of M.J.F. was fixed for
December 8, 2015. Thereafter, the trial court ordered M.J.F.
into the care of his foster parents, J.M. and M.M., at the
age of eight weeks, where he has remained since that time.
J.M. and M.M. are the potential adoptive parents of M.J.F.
and are intervenors in this proceeding.
random drug test dated December 10, 2015, J.R.F. tested
positive for amphetamines, methamphetamines, morphine and
marijuana. Based on the stipulation of J.R.F., M.J.F. was
adjudicated a "Child in Need of Care" on February
24, 2016. DNA tests were administered to two potential
fathers of M.J.F., and both were excluded as the biological
father of M.J.F., who remains unknown.
January 5, 2016 an initial case plan was established by DCFS
for J.R.F., followed by five other case plans. The components
of the case plans remained the same throughout the
proceedings, except that requirements to prevent domestic
violence were added to the January 4, 2017 case plan.
case components included, "stable housing[;]. . .five
dollars ($5) a month for parental contributions, complying
with drug screens, mental health counseling, employment,
positive supports, visits, parent education, and substance
abuse counseling - treatment." Domestic violence classes
were also added to the case plan.
maintained custody of M.J.F. and Permanency and Case Review
hearings were held and orders signed on the following dates:
May 17, 2016, November 22, 2016, May 23, 2017, November 7,
2017, January 23, 2018, and April 9, 2018.
plans were filed into the record at the Permanency and Case
Review hearings on January 5, 2016, June 7, 2016, May 8,
2017, October 19, 2017, and March 19, 2018. Additionally,
court reports were also entered into the record on May 4,
2016, November 7, 2016, May 8, 2017, October 23, 2017,
January 10, 2018, and March 26, 2018.
the original goal of the case plan had been reunification, on
May 8, 2017 the trial court changed the goal for M.J.F. to
adoption. On December 6, 2017 DCFS filed a petition for
termination of parental rights and certification for
adoption. After several continuances, the trial was
eventually held on May 7, 2018. After hearing the evidence
and receiving the exhibits, the trial court took the matter
under advisement and signed its written reasons, erroneously
entitled "Judgment" on May 16, 2018, and filed on
May 18, 2018.
formal judgment was signed on June 7, 2018 terminating the
parental rights of the mother J.R.F. and the unknown father,
thereby freeing M.J.F. for adoption. M.J.F. was two months
old when he entered foster care with J.M. and M.M. At the
time of trial in May 2018, he was two years seven months old,
having been in foster care for almost two and one half years.
does not contest that all of the hearings were timely held,
the facts from the case review hearings are correct, and
there are no procedural deficiencies in this case. J.R.F. has
now timely appealed the trial court's June 7, 2018
judgment of termination of parental rights and certification
asserts the following assignments of error on appeal:
1. In light of the entire record, the juvenile court
committed manifest error in terminating J.R.F.'s parental
rights without clear and convincing evidence to support the
i. No substantial compliance by J.R.F. with the case plan;
ii. No reasonable expectation of significant improvement in
J.R.F.'s condition in the future;
iii. Best interest of the child required termination of
J.R.F.'s parental rights
judgment of a trial court terminating parental rights is
reviewed on appeal under the manifest error standard of
review. State in the Interest of K.V., 14-163
(La.App. 3 Cir. 11/21/14), 161 So.3d 795.
A trial court's factual determinations as to whether
there has been substantial compliance with a case plan,
whether a significant indication of reformation has been
shown, and whether the parent is likely to reform will not be
set aside unless the record reflects that the trial court is
State in the Interest of G.O., 10-571, pp. 5-6
(La.App. 3 Cir. 6/8/11), 68 So.3d 636, writ denied,
11-1512 (La. 7/21/11), 67 So.3d 479.
Children's Code Articles
Children's Code Article 1015(5)(b)-(c), and 1015(6),
provide the grounds for termination of parental ...