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State ex rel. C.R.F.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

July 17, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF C.R.F., JR., T.M.S., J.A.S., AND C.T.J. STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF J.K.M.S.

          Appealed from the Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Tensas, Louisiana Trial Court Nos. 1106 and 1142 Honorable John D. Crigler, Judge

          LEGAL AID OF NORTH LOUISIANA By: Elizabeth C. Brown Counsel for Appellants, C.R.F., JR., T.M.S., J.A.S., C.T.J. and J.K.M.S., Children

          BRADLEY T. STONE Assistant District Attorney Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana

          SUSAN E. SKIDMORE Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana DCFS

          INDIGENT DEFENDER'S OFFICE By: Clinton A. Magoun Counsel for Appellee, J.M.S., Mother

          Before COX, McCALLUM, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          COX, J.

         This consolidated appeal arises out of the 6th Judicial District, Tensas Parish. The children, C.T.J., J.A.S., C.R.F., Jr., T.M.S., and J.K.M.S. appeal the trial court's judgment terminating their mother's parental rights and certifying them for adoption. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         FACTS

         The four oldest children were taken into State custody on September 2, 2016, upon allegations that the mother was using illegal drugs and leaving the children home alone. On January 30, 2018, the youngest child, J.K.M.S., was removed from the mother's care after allegations of neglect and illegal drug use. The two cases were consolidated and a hearing was held for the termination of parental rights. After a full hearing, the trial court terminated the mother's and fathers' parental rights. The children have only appealed the trial court's termination of their mother's parental rights.

         The children all have the same mother, J.S. (hereinafter referred to as "the mother"), whose date of birth is December 31, 1984. Each child's birthday and named father[1] is as follows:

C.T.J. (M) 3/25/2004 Father: C.J., Sr.[2]
J.A.S. (F) 5/17/2005 Father: C.J., Sr.
C.R.F., Jr. (M) 6/22/2007 Father: C.F., Sr.[3]
T.M.S. (M) 3/20/2015 Father: F.M.
J.K.M.S. (F) 1/16/2018 Father: C.H. or P.S.

         On August 25, 2016, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) received a report of alleged neglect and lack of adequate supervision concerning the four oldest children. Tamika White, with DCFS, investigated the allegations and reported the following:

• The mother leaves her children home alone every night to go use drugs. She returns home in the mornings to put the kids on the bus and leaves again with the one-year-old (T.M.S.).
• The mother denied leaving her kids home alone.
• The two oldest children confirmed that their mother leaves them home alone. They both stated that they have smelled and seen their mother smoke weed. They described the weed as a green substance that looks like grass.

         On August 25, 2016, a safety plan was put in place which listed Wanda Bowman as the safety monitor. She was to report to the agency if it was known that the mother left her children home alone. The mother called DCFS on August 31, 2016, and stated that she did not have any food and asked for help. DCFS spoke with Ms. Bowman, who stated she would make sure the children ate that night. DCFS provided groceries to the mother the next day, September 1, 2016.

         On September 1, 2016, the mother tested positive for cocaine and marijuana. She stated that her last cocaine use was about 2 ½ weeks prior to the drug screen, but admitted that she smokes marijuana daily.

         The mother was told on August 31, 2016, that she had to move out of her home due to a lease disagreement and necessary repairs to the home. On September 1, 2016, the safety plan was changed and the mother and her children were to move in with Ms. Bowman. The mother was told by DCFS that she and the children could not stay with her sister. The mother violated the safety plan by not staying at Ms. Bowman's home on September 1st.

         DCFS spoke with the police department and was told that the mother had an arrest warrant and would be picked up once she was located.

         After the children were removed from her care, the mother enrolled in Rayville Recovery, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. She completed the program on October 16, 2016.

         The mother's initial family team meeting was held October 24, 2016, and she participated in developing her case plan goals. The goal for each child was reunification with a concurrent goal of adoption. The three older children were placed together and the baby was placed in a separate foster home. At the time of the case plan, family members were still being assessed for possible placement. The mother was given biweekly meetings with the children for one hour every other Monday at the DCFS office. The father of J.A.S. and C.T.J. was given visitation that included phone calls to his children twice a week.[4] C.R.F., Jr.'s father was given the same visitation schedule as the mother, but he was scheduled to visit in the hour after the mother's visit.

         The mother's action steps included: (1) random drug screens; (2) a substance abuse assessment; (3) a safe, stable, and clean home; (4) a mental health assessment; (5) a legal income; (6) 6 months sobriety; (7) attending her children's medical appointments; and, (8) parenting classes. The trial court approved the mother's case plan.

         Records from DCFS show the following acts occurred after the initial case plan:

• The mother admitted to using drugs on Halloween night (2016) because she was depressed and missing her children.
• February 13, 2017: the mother consented to a drug screen and tested positive for THC, methamphetamines, and cocaine. She also reported that she had taken an Ecstasy pill the previous day.
• March 29, 2017: the mother stated she would fail a drug screen if given one that day.
• DCFS received reports from individuals stating they had seen the mother walking around town "trying to get drugs." It was also reported that she was exchanging sexual favors for money to purchase drugs. Family members expressed concern that she would be hurt or killed.
• It was suspected that the mother was under the influence of drugs during some family visits.
• The mother did not consistently make her visitation times with the children. She had to confirm her attendance on the Fridays before the meeting. This confirmation had to be added because of the distance the children had to travel for the meetings and the mother failed to show at some meetings or was unavailable when transportation arrived to take her to the meetings. During the visits, she was affectionate with all her children. She was observed playing on the floor with the children, changing diapers, and wiping noses. She asked the children about school, their placement, and other interests.
• She was referred to The Family Resource Center for parenting classes, but they recommended she gain control of her substance abuse before entering the program. They did not feel she would be able to successfully complete the program until her substance abuse was treated. They were willing to enroll her in a three-week program, and the longer ...

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