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In re H.R.

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

April 25, 2019

In re H.R.; C.R.B., Appellant.

          Submitted January 8, 2019

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Family Division (NEG-127-17) (Hon. Tara J. Fentress, Magistrate Judge) (Hon. Julie H. Becker, Reviewing Judge).

          Patricia M. Spicer was on the brief for appellant C.R.B.

          Karl A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Loren L. AliKhan, Solicitor General, Stacy L. Anderson, Acting Deputy Solicitor General, and Pamela Soncini, Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief for appellee District of Columbia.

          Abimbola Imoisili, guardian ad litem for appellee H.R., filed a statement in lieu of brief in support of appellee District of Columbia.

          Before Glickman and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Steadman, Senior Judge.

          McLeese, Associate Judge.

         Appellant C.R.B. challenges the trial court's determination that C.R.B.'s daughter H.R. was a neglected child. We affirm.

         I.

         Except where noted, the following facts appear to be undisputed. One day in February 2017, C.R.B. became concerned when she saw her daughter H.R., who was seven years old at the time, talking to a stranger in a restaurant. C.R.B. told H.R. not to talk to strangers, but H.R. continued to speak with the stranger. C.R.B. then threatened to spank H.R. when they returned home.

         When C.R.B. and H.R. returned home, C.R.B. told H.R. to remove her clothes in preparation for a spanking. H.R. did not comply. C.R.B. then proceeded to hit H.R. C.R.B. testified that she hit H.R. on the bottom with the palm of her right hand. The magistrate judge, however, perceived inconsistencies in C.R.B.'s account of the incident. For example, C.R.B. first testified that there was "no struggle" but then acknowledged that H.R. was "wriggling around." Additionally, C.R.B. initially testified that H.R. "fell to the floor" during the spanking but later stated that H.R. was "wriggling around while standing up" and "never went to the floor."

         According to C.R.B., at some point during the spanking, a ring on C.R.B.'s hand struck H.R. in the face. C.R.B. could not recall whether the ring was on her left or right hand. As a result of the incident, H.R. suffered a "purplish-red, curved scratch and bruising along [H.R.'s] upper cheek bone, under her right eye." No medical attention was required for the injury, which took approximately three days to heal.

         The following day, school personnel contacted the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), concerned about possible physical abuse of H.R. CFSA social worker Amy Vokes interviewed H.R. at school. After the conversation, and in light of the proximity of the injury to H.R.'s eye, Ms. Vokes became concerned about physical abuse. Ms. Vokes took a photo of H.R.'s injury.

         Ms. Vokes also interviewed C.R.B. C.R.B. told Ms. Vokes that C.R.B. "had the kinds of kids you have to beat," which the magistrate judge took to indicate that beatings were routine. C.R.B. testified, however, that she uses spanking as a last resort and that she uses the words "beat" and "spank" interchangeably. Ms. Vokes attempted to develop a safety plan with C.R.B., including using non-physical forms of discipline, but C.R.B. told Ms. Vokes ...


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