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In Re P.B.

August 23, 2012

IN RE P.B., D.B., & T.B.; L.B., APPELLANT.

Appeals from the Superior Court for the District of Columbia (NEG-288-10, NEG-290-10, & NEG-291-10) (Hon. Noel T. Johnson, Magistrate Judge) (Hon. Carol Ann Dalton, Trial Judge)

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

(Submitted January 24, 2012

Before GLICKMAN and OBERLY, Associate Judges, and FERREN, Senior Judge.

The decision in this case was originally issued as an unpublished Memorandum Opinion and Judgment. It is now being published upon the court's grant of the guardian ad litem's motion to publish.

L.B., the mother of P.B., D.B., and T.B., appeals the trial court's judgment affirming the magistrate judge's ruling that her three children are neglected within the meaning of D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A)(ii) and

(iii) (Supp. 2003).*fn1 The trial court affirmed three findings of neglect: (1) that

L.B.'s oldest child, P.B., was neglected because he was "without . . . education as required by law," D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A)(ii); (2) that all three of L.B.'s children were neglected because they were "without proper parental care or control . . . necessary for [their] physical, mental, or emotional health" and that the deprivation was not due to lack of financial means, id.; and (3) that L.B.'s children were neglected because L.B. suffered from a mental incapacity that prevented her from "discharg[ing] . . . her responsibilities to and for the child[ren]." Id. § 16-2301 (9)(A)(iii). On appeal, L.B. challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the findings of neglect. As to the finding of neglect under § 16-2301 (9)(A)(ii), L.B. argues that: (1) the trial court should have concluded based on past school enrollment that L.B. would have eventually enrolled P.B. in school; and (2) the finding that the children were without the care necessary for their physical, mental or emotional health was based on events that were too dated to be probative and that were focused primarily on P.B. and that the decision to remove the children was made after a single visit to the home, during which there was no evidence that the children were unclean or uncared for. L.B. also challenges the finding that she has a mental incapacity within the meaning of § 16-2301 (9)(A)(iii), arguing that neither expert could diagnose L.B. with a specific mental illness and that the evidence of L.B.'s mental incapacity was based on isolated facts "extracted over a span of years" and "grouped together without regard for time, frequency, or context." L.B.'s arguments are without merit. We affirm, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support all three findings of neglect.


A. Removal of the Children From L.B.'s Care

P.B., D.B., and T.B. were six years old, two years old, and about one month old, respectively, at the time they were removed from their mother's care in May 2010. The children had come to the attention of the Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA") in April 2010 when CFSA received a hotline report from the Department of Social Services ("DSS") in Charles County, Maryland, soon after L.B. moved back to the District of Columbia after having lived in Charles County for slightly over a year. While living in Charles County, L.B. had come in contact with DSS after a Maryland circuit court issued a protective order giving L.B. custody of D.B. on the condition that she cooperate with DSS and abide by a safety plan. L.B. refused to cooperate. Her DSS case manager, Ronald Lenzy, made ten to fifteen attempts to visit her between December 2009 and April 2010 (when L.B. moved back to the District), but Lenzy was able to complete only one visit. L.B. was hostile and defensive toward Lenzy and threatened to have him arrested for stalking her. L.B. often refused to talk to Lenzy when he called, frequently changing her phone number and accusing him of being a spy. Lenzy was concerned because L.B. was not receiving prenatal care while pregnant with T.B., lied to him about not having medical insurance, and failed to attend a court-ordered mental health evaluation.

Binu Abraham, the CFSA social worker assigned to investigate the case when L.B. moved back to the District of Columbia, made several attempts to visit L.B. and the children at the address provided in the DSS hotline report. He also called L.B. on several occasions, but she refused to speak with him. Abraham made his first home visit on April 30, 2010, and L.B.'s mother answered the door. She told him that neither L.B. nor the children lived there. When Abraham returned four days later on May 4, he found L.B.'s mother and the three children in the home. L.B.'s mother told Abraham that L.B. had been arrested and was not in the home. Abraham and L.B.'s mother created a safety plan in which L.B.'s mother agreed to be present whenever L.B. was with the children.

On Abraham's third visit to the home on May 10, no one answered the door. Abraham called L.B.'s mother, who told him that neither L.B. nor the children were living in the home but that P.B. was enrolled in school. Still suspicious that someone was in the home, Abraham called the police, and when they came, L.B. opened the door with T.B. in her arms. She immediately started yelling and accused the police officers of being Muslim attackers. When Abraham tried to calm her, L.B. started cursing and laughing. She refused to answer any questions or discuss the safety plan. Abraham removed the children from her care that day. Soon thereafter, the District filed petitions alleging that P.B., D.B., and T.B. were neglected children.

At the fact-finding hearing before the Magistrate Judge in August 2010, evidence of neglect spanned the time period from P.B.'s birth in 2003 to the months following the May 2010 removal of L.B.'s three children from her care. In addition to hearing from Lenzy and Abraham, the Magistrate Judge heard testimony from: (1) L.B. herself; (2) Katherine King, Board of Child Care ("BCC") social worker; (3) Danielle Franks, BCC social worker; (4) Dr. Susan Theut, an expert in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry; (5) L.B.'s stepmother, V.B.; (6) L.B.'s stepsister, T.F.; (7) ...

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