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State ex rel. LM

57 So. 3d 518 (2011)

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State ex rel. LM

Louisiana Court of Appeal

57 So. 3d 518 (2011)

Facts

LM (defendant) was the mother of five sons, ranging from a 15-year-old to four-year-old twins. LM’s income came from child support, Social Security, and food stamps. With budgeting, the income would have been enough to provide basic necessities for the children. However, LM did not budget and often sold the food stamps for cash to play bingo. Government officials became aware that LM’s children might be neglected and began checking on them. Although LM moved frequently to avoid issues with rent payments, the family had shelter and functioning utilities. However, (1) the home frequently had a significantly bad odor, (2) the home was unsanitary and contained dangerous items within reach of the young children, (3) the children did not always have enough food, (4) the children often did not have clean or adequate clothing, and (5) the children repeatedly missed school. Further, the younger children were routinely cared for by their 10-year-old brother whether LM was home or not. For months, government officials attempted to work with LM to budget her resources and to otherwise provide adequate care for her children. However, LM seemed to believe that providing a shelter for the children was good enough and did not make any significant changes to her parenting or the children’s care. After six months, a formal hearing was held in juvenile court, and LM was ordered to cooperate with the government’s plan to improve the children’s care. But LM failed to follow that order, and the officials received a complaint that LM was leaving the children alone at home to go play bingo. At that point, the district attorney (plaintiff) filed a petition to remove the children from the home. The court ruled that the four youngest children should be removed from LM’s care. Relatives agreed to care for the 10-year-old and the six-year-old, and the four-year-old twins were placed in the custody of their biological father. The court’s order was directed only at the children’s living situation and did not take away LM’s right to continue to be the children’s legal parent. LM appealed the removal of her children.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Williams, J.)

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