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In re Ang.P.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

July 25, 2013

In re Ang.P. & And.P.; C.P., Appellant

Argued April 10, 2013

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia N-512-10 & N-513-10, Hon. William W. Nooter, Magistrate Judge, Hon. Neal E. Kravitz, Reviewing Judge

Leslie J. Susskind argued the case for appellant. Carl Engstrand, Julie Case, Sadredin Mahmoudi, and Meredith Mathis, Student Attorneys, and Tanya Asim Cooper, Supervising Attorney, were on the brief, for appellant.

Stacy L. Anderson, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.

Deobrah Cason Daniel filed a statement in lieu of brief for the father of And.P.

Before Washington, Chief Judge, McLeese, Associate Judge, and Belson, Senior Judge.

Washington, Chief Judge

Appellant, C.P., appeals the trial court's determination that her daughters, Ang.P., age fourteen at the time of removal, and And.P., age five at the time of removal, were neglected under D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A)(ii) and (iii) (2001).[2] On appeal, appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to find that the children were without proper parental care or control or that she was unable to discharge her responsibilities due to her physical incapacity.[3] For the following reasons, we conclude there is insufficient evidence to support a finding of neglect and vacate the trial court's holding.

I. FACTS

Appellant is the mother of minor children Ang.P. and And.P., as well as Ant.P., her adult son who lives with her, and Ani.P., her adult daughter who frequently stays at her home. Appellant suffers from severe back pain due to a herniated disc in her back as a result of a car accident in 1997. The back injury was further aggravated by three subsequent car accidents that have left appellant permanently disabled since 2006. Appellant takes several strong pain medications to manage her back pain and receives assistance from a home health aide from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Appellant was also diagnosed as suffering from "organic mood syndrome, " which is depression due to her medical condition, and was prescribed an antidepressant. However, her psychiatrist testified that appellant did not have any psychiatric impairments that would interfere with her parenting.

On August 10, 2010, Ant.P., appellant's adult son, called an ambulance for appellant because she complained of pain and numbness on the left side of her body. Appellant was taken to Georgetown Hospital and was accompanied by Ang.P. Dr. Van Wirt, who evaluated appellant, testified that appellant had taken a lot of pills to the point of being "oversedated" and was falling asleep with food in her mouth. While appellant was at the hospital, the Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA") received a hotline report that And.P. had been left home alone.A police officer was dispatched to appellant's home, but found And.P. in the care of her adult brother, Ant.P.

The following day, CFSA social worker Judith Leitch was assigned to investigate the report from the previous night and visited appellant at the hospital. Leitch testified that appellant appeared very tired and angry, and was uncooperative, refusing to sign authorization forms for CFSA to access her medical records or to create a Safety Plan for the children. Leitch visited appellant two more times in August to assess appellant and her home. The first time, appellant answered the door after half an hour of knocking and appeared angry and exhausted. Leitch testified that appellant's home was somewhat messy and cluttered, but with adequate food and without major safety concerns. Leitch noted, however, that there was an unmarked bottle of pills on a windowsill and appellant seemed unconcerned that the children might ingest them. Leitch also noted that appellant occasionally nodded off during conversations, most notably slumping in her chair and slowly beginning to lose consciousness during the conversation she had on the phone with her sister and in person with Leitch about whether to sign the Safety Plan Leitch had prepared. Finally, Leitch was told by Ang.P. that appellant choked her on two occasions in the past year, leaving red marks that lasted for one or two days. Based on all of this information, Leitch decided that the children should be removed from appellant's care and that a neglect case be petitioned with the court.

At trial, Ang.P. testified that there had been times when appellant was either asleep or otherwise unable to care for the children, and there were no other adults in the home to watch her and her younger sister, And.P. Ang.P. testified that this occurred less than once a month. Ani.P., appellant's adult daughter, testified that appellant slept three to four hours during the day and a regular amount at night and that appellant's medications made her drowsy. However, she also testified that And.P. was never left home alone with her mother, but that Ang.P. or another adult was always there.

Darlene Richardson, a CFSA social worker who had worked with appellant earlier in 2010, also testified at trial. Richardson testified that the children were not up to date on their immunizations or regularly seeing their physician, that appellant had difficulty keeping current with her utility bills, and that appellant previously had difficulty bringing And.P. to school on time. Finally, during the trial, Magistrate Judge ...


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