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State ex rel. R.W.H.V.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

September 25, 2019


          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 21, 710 Honorable Sharon I. Marchman, Judge

          FREDERICK D. JONES Counsel for Appellant, J.M.E., Grandmother

          JOHNNY L. SANDERS, II Counsel for Appellee, Assistant District Attorney State of Louisiana

          COURTNEY W. FRANKLIN Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana DCFS

          ACADIANA LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION By: Helen M. Marrs Counsel for Appellee, R.W.H.V., Child

          LAYNE M. ADAMS Counsel for Appellee, C.H., Father

          VARHONDA E. BURRELL Counsel for Appellee, P.V., Mother

          Before WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, C.J.

         In this child in need of care ("CINC") proceeding, the grandmother appeals a trial court judgment that changed the permanent case plan goal for the minor child from reunification to adoption.


         In July 2016, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") received a report of emotional maltreatment of R.W.H.V., then five years old, and his sister, T.V., by their maternal grandmother, J.M.E. The children shared a home with J.M.E., their mother, P.V., and their great-grandmother, B.E. As of that date, R.W.H.V. had been hospitalized at Brentwood Hospital, a psychiatric facility, four times in the past two months. The medical professionals had concerns of emotional abuse and dysfunction in the family. Doctors noted that R.W.H.V. was not being allowed to be a child, and that J.M.E.'s complaints about his behavior were unfounded. It was also noted that J.M.E. used extreme and inappropriate methods to discipline R.W.H.V. and his sister, such as feeding R.W.H.V. horseradish, hot sauce, and vinegar as a form of punishment. During one hospitalization, R.W.H.V. was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder ("ODD") based upon his behavior as reported by grandmother, and he was prescribed strong psychotropic medications typically given only to adults.

         The family was referred to the Family Services Unit of DCFS in September 2016 to work toward resolution of the family's problems, which seemed to center around grandmother. Other in-home service providers also assisted, providing grandmother with therapy and instruction on coping skills and parenting practices (specifically discipline and how to deal with tantrums and de-escalate her own emotions first).[1] These providers included the Family Services Unit, Ekayah Youth Services, Wraparound of Northeast Louisiana, People United, and the Family Resource Center. The providers reported that grandmother struggled to handle the children's behavior, often calling the instructors to request assistance, and she had trouble applying the recommendations of the providers' plans designed to help her manage R.W.H.V.'s behavior. The providers reported that J.M.E. consistently over-corrected R.W.H.V. for age-appropriate behavior.

         In December 2016, J.M.E. called R.W.H.V.'s then-treating psychiatrist, claiming that the child was hitting and kicking other family members and slamming his head into the wall. She related that she was unable to calm R.W.H.V. and was advised to give him anti-psychotic medication. J.M.E. took R.W.H.V. to the emergency room four separate times due to his behavior. On May 10, 2017, after J.M.E. claimed that R.W.H.V. was having emotional/behavioral issues, he was again admitted to Brentwood Hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), and post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD").

         Dr. Calvin Walker, a physician with Brentwood Hospital, informed a Family Services employee that J.M.E. had related to him that R.W.H.V. would be removed from the home if he were to be admitted for another hospital stay. The Family Services employee informed Dr. Walker that this information was not true, and he confronted J.M.E., who denied making the statement to Dr. Walker. The Family Services worker also learned that R.W.H.V.'s medical records showed that J.M.E. had been providing information about the child's behavior to medical providers that was inconsistent with the observations of hospital personnel, physicians, and school officials.

         J.M.E. was reticent and resistant to follow the mental health providers' recommendations for R.W.H.V. Beatrice Tatem, his licensed professional counselor, and the treatment team at Brentwood Hospital, opined that the parenting style of J.M.E. and B.E. could be categorized as emotional maltreatment, and the home with P.V., J.M.E., and B.E. did not provide the most nurturing environment to meet R.W.H.V.'s developmental needs.

         DCFS requested custody of R.W.H.V. on May 16, 2017. An instanter order removing the child was signed by the juvenile court judge on May 17, 2017, and a continued custody hearing was held on May 22, 2017. DCFS was ordered to work a plan of reunification with J.M.E., and the court found that remaining in the custody of DCFS was in the best interest of R.W.H.V. Both J.M.E. and P.V. had case plans, which included goals ...

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