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In re Z.C.

December 31, 2002

IN RE Z.C., A.C., AND AX.C., F.C., APPELLANT.


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (N1395-99, N1396-99, and N1397-99) (Hon. Stephen G. Milliken, Trial Judge)

Before Schwelb, Ruiz, and Glickman, Associate Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge

Submitted December 10, 2002

This appeal *fn1 arises from a neglect adjudication issued following the criminal conviction of appellant F.C. (the mother), for abusing her then ten-year-old son, Z.C. *fn2 In the neglect case, the trial judge found that the boy had been physically abused by his mother, that his two siblings were in imminent danger of being similarly abused, and that the mother was unable to carry out her parental responsibilities towards any of the children because she was serving a sentence of forty months to ten years pursuant to her criminal conviction of child abuse. See D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A),(C),(E) (2001). *fn3

The mother seeks to appeal only from the finding that she was unable to take care of the children while imprisoned for child abuse. *fn4 D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(C). She does not contest the finding of physical abuse, *fn5 nor does she ask that the adjudication that the children are neglected be set aside. The District contends, and we hold, that even if the mother's appeal were successful, Z.C. and his sisters would remain adjudicated neglected children, and F.C. would not benefit from a favorable adjudication. Accordingly, the appeal is from a finding rather than from the judgment, and the appeal must be dismissed.

I.

On December 14, 1999, Z.C.'s maternal aunt noticed multiple bruises, including fresh marks and old scars, all over the boy's body. At the time of this discovery, the aunt was caring for Z.C. and his sisters, Ax.C., then aged eleven, and A.C., then aged nine, at her home in Charlottesville, Virginia, because the children's mother had been hospitalized in Washington, D.C. After discovering Z.C.'s injuries, the aunt immediately took him to the University of Virginia Hospital, where he was examined. The examining physician found that there were multiple bruises, including recent injuries, on Z.C.'s back, thighs and legs.

According to Z.C., his mother, F.C., and J.C., a male friend who lived with her, had beaten Z.C. regularly. The mother had used a belt buckle to beat him for minor misconduct, and J.C. had also beaten him repeatedly. Z.C.'s sisters confirmed his account. One of the sisters related that Z.C. was beaten so severely that she would turn up the radio to avoid hearing his cries.

On December 15, 1999, the Office of Corporation Counsel filed a neglect petition in the Superior Court, alleging that the boy had been abused by his mother and by J.C. within the meaning of § 16-2301 (9)(A). Corporation Counsel also filed petitions concerning Z.C.'s siblings, alleging that they were in imminent danger of being abused, as their brother had previously been abused, by the mother and by J.C. An initial hearing was held on December 15, 1999, and the trial judge ordered that the children remain in the home of the maternal aunt.

Both the mother and J.C. were arrested and criminally charged with abusing Z.C. The affidavit in support of the arrest warrant for the mother states, inter alia:

The defendant [mother] also participated in repeated beatings of the child committed by her boyfriend. The defendant's boyfriend beat the child in the middle of the night while sleeping. On a regular basis, the boyfriend woke the child out of a sleep, brought him to the basement and repeatedly beat him with a long hard object after applying duct tape on his mouth, around his wrists and legs. The child was often kept in isolation. The child reported that he would get two spoonfuls of food at mealtime. *fn6

On July 10, 2000, the mother was convicted of assaulting Z.C. with a dangerous weapon. *fn7 She was sentenced to serve forty months to ten years in prison. *fn8 After the mother was imprisoned pursuant to her sentence, the trial judge granted Corporation Counsel leave to amend the neglect petition to include an allegation that the mother was unable, in light of her incarceration, to assume responsibility for the children. See D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(C).

On September 22, 2000, the court held a brief factfinding hearing with respect to the neglect allegations. The mother, who was then incarcerated, was represented by counsel, as she had been since the inception of the case. The mother was called to the stand by opposing counsel and testified, and her attorney stipulated with Corporation Counsel that she had been convicted and incarcerated. Certified copies of documents relating to her conviction and sentence were entered into the record. The mother's attorney presented no evidence and waived closing argument.

At the conclusion of the trial, the judge found that Z.C. had been abused and that his sisters were in imminent danger of abuse. Subsequently, on November 30, 2000, the judge issued written findings. Based on the mother's criminal conviction, the judge found that Z.C. was an abused child within the meaning of D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A), and that his siblings were neglected children within the meaning of § 16-2301 (9)(E). Finally, because the mother was incarcerated, the judge found that she was unable to carry out her parental responsibilities, and that ...


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