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In re B.L

February 12, 2003

IN RE B.L.; T.L., APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (N-1178-00) (Hon. John M. Mott, Trial Judge)

Before Steadman and Reid, Associate Judges, and King, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Argued February 5, 2003

Appellant T.L., the mother of B.L., challenges the trial court's ruling that her child is a "neglected child" within the meaning of D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(C) (2001). We affirm.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

Evidence presented at the neglect trial revealed that on October 20, 2000, T.L. went to the Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA") to visit her twenty-month-old child, H.L. *fn2 T.L. was accompanied by her thirteen-year-old son, B.L. *fn3 Ritu Atwal, a CFSA supervisory social worker, testified that "there was a very, very, very strong" smell of alcohol coming from T.L.'s breath. CFSA had a policy against taking pictures, but T.L. had a camera with her and took pictures nonetheless. After Ms. Atwal asked her to refrain from taking pictures, T.L. became "verbally aggressive" and flung toys in the visitation area. Security officers later escorted T.L. out of the building. T.L. attempted to "re-enter on three separate occasions that day."

T.L. appeared under the influence of alcohol on several other occasions. The next day, on October 21, 2000, Magarita Correa, a CFSA social worker, encountered T.L. outside a courtroom after the initial court hearing. *fn4 T.L.'s "speech was slurred[.]" Ms. Correa "smelled alcohol on her." Ms. Correa unsuccessfully attempted to place T.L. with alcohol services, specifically a five-day detox program, and anger management classes. T.L. maintained that she was already participating in an alcohol program, but Ms. Correa was unable to confirm her assertion.

T.L.'s mother, B.L., testified that she often called the police because of T.L.'s public intoxication. She was arrested once in the fall of 1998 and in June of 2000, appeared at a church service drunk and filthy. In April of 2001, while T.L. appeared for a CFSA visitation with her son, H.L., she cursed in front of her mother and B.L. She testified that on their way out B.L. "cried. He was just wiping tears. He didn't say a thing."

T.L. and B.L. resided with T.L.'s former boyfriend, W.Y., for a period of time. W.Y. observed T.L. "drinking alcohol" on several occasions. T.L. was verbally abusive with B.L., calling him names such as "stupid" and "dumb." A couple of times, after B.L. attempted to pour out his mother's beer, W.Y. had to "pull them apart" from "tussling." The trial court determined that "[T.L.] would fight with [B.L.] after he would confront her about her drinking."

The trial court credited the testimony of four witnesses who explained that T.L.'s parental abilities were impeded by extensive alcohol abuse. After a two-day trial the court reasoned in pertinent part:

[The] mother suffers from mental incapacity caused by alcohol abuse. . . . It is telling that [T.L.] testified that she has no such problem - an account that the court does not credit. In re A.B., 486 A.2d 1167 (D.C. 1984) (mother's non-recognition of mental illness was a relevant factor for the court's consideration).

The government has also established by a preponderance of the evidence that the mother's mental incapacity, caused by her alcohol, rendered her "unable to discharge [] her responsibilities to and for the child." This required nexus is illustrated through the wide range of testimony regarding the effect of the mother's alcohol abuse on [B.L.].

[T.L.'s] parenting was undercut and compromised by her drinking problem. The 13-year-old [child] suffered emotionally as a ...


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