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In re M.V.H.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

July 21, 2016

In re M.V.H.; M.V.H., Appellant, In re M.V.H.; L.H., Appellant, In re L.F.G.; L.H., Appellant.

          Argued May 17, 2016

         Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (ADA-81-12 & ADA-20-13) (Hon. Errol R. Arthur, Magistrate Judge) (Hon. Anthony C. Epstein, Reviewing Judge)

          Leslie J. Susskind for appellant M. V.H.

          Carla S. Rappaport for appellant L.H.

          Lucy Vera Osakwe for appellee L.F.G.

          Rhondalyn Primes Okoroma, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for the District of Columbia.

          Jessie Forsythe, with whom Melissa Colangelo, and Abraham Sisson, were on the brief, for guardian ad litem Children's Law Center.

          Before Glickman and Thompson, Associate Judges, and Reid, Senior Judge.

         JUDGMENT

         This case came to be heard on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and was argued by counsel. On consideration whereof, and for the reasons set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

          OPINION

          Phyllis D. Thompson. Associate Judge

         L.H. (the biological mother of the child A.H.) and M.V.H. (A.H.'s maternal grandmother) appeal the Superior Court order granting the adoption petition of L.F.G. (A.H.'s foster mother) and denying M.V.H.'s competing petition, to which L.H consented. We affirm.

         I.

         A.H. was born on February 19, 2010. For the first year of her life, she lived with L.H. in M.V.H.'s home, along with L.H.'s minor son (A.H.'s brother), L.H.'s sister M.H., and M.H.'s two minor children. On October 28, 2010, A.H. was taken to the hospital with a left femur fracture and a tibia fracture, injuries that L.H. could not explain and that the hospital physician suspected were the result of abuse. After A.H. was treated and released, the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA") entered into a safety contract with L.H. requiring, inter alia, that L.H. take A.H. to the hospital immediately if she appeared to be in pain. Approximately four months later, on March 1, 2011, A.H. was again brought to the hospital, this time with a right femur fracture, a left tibia fracture, a left humerus fracture, a right radial fracture, and facial bruising.[1] Dr. Tanya Hinds, the treating pediatrician, concluded that the injuries had occurred at different times over the previous approximately four weeks and that the femur fracture would have caused "a lot of distress" to a child of A.H.'s age. Dr. Hinds also concluded, "with a reasonable degree of medical certainty[, ]" that A.H. had suffered child abuse on more than one occasion.

         A.H. was removed from L.H.'s care on March 1, 2011, and was placed with L.F.G. on April 5, 2011. On November 9, 2011, after a multi-day hearing, Magistrate Judge Errol R. Arthur sustained the government's allegation that A.H. had been physically abused and adjudged A.H. to be a neglected child pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A)(i), (ii). He initially set a permanency goal of reunification of A.H. with L.H. but, on April 30, 2012, changed the permanency goal to adoption. On May 12, 2012, L.F.G. filed a petition to adopt A.H. M.V.H. filed a competing adoption petition on February 8, 2013, to which L.H. formally consented on March 27, 2014. Over twenty-six days, from February through December 2014, Magistrate Judge Arthur held a trial on the competing ...


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