Session June 29, 2015
Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Johnson County Nos. 14JV38, 14JV39 William B. Hawkins, Judge
Perry L. Stout, Mountain City, Tennessee, for the appellants, D.A.F. and J.D.F.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and, Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
Kristi J. Murray, Guardian ad Litem.
D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.
D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE
In October 2012, a DCS case manager visited the home of Mother and Father. The children in the household were found suffering from numerous ailments, including severe flea bites, lice, and decayed, black, broken and abscessed teeth. Mother and Father tested positive for methamphetamines and other drugs. The Children were taken into custody, and Mother and Father stipulated to the Children's dependency and neglect. A permanency plan was entered for Mother and Father. Meanwhile, the Children came to live with a foster family.
In February 2013, the foster mother reported that C.R.F. was acting out in a sexual manner. In November 2013, Julie Price ("Price"), Clinical Director of Children's Advocacy of Sullivan County, began play therapy with C.R.F. C.R.F. disclosed that Mother and Father had touched her private parts and made her touch others. In particular, C.R.F. stated that she was made to rub lotion on the private parts of a man named "Jap." C.R.F. stated that she knew all about sex because Mother and Father had taught her. In March 2014, Price conducted extended assessments with C.A.F. and J.A.F. In the course of these sessions, the brothers described sexual abuse at the hands of Mother, Father, and "Jap." C.A.F., then age seven, identified where his parents touched him on an anatomical diagram, marking X's on the penis and anus areas. C.A.F. also stated that he and his brother J.A.F. would put their mouths on each other's private parts because their parents had done this to them. In May 2014, both DCS and the Guardian ad Litem filed petitions seeking termination of Mother's and Father's parental rights on the ground of severe child abuse. In July 2014, C.A.F., J.A.F., and C.R.F. participated in forensic interviews where they again disclosed abuse at the hands of Mother and Father.
This case was tried in September 2014. At trial, Mother and Father strongly denied ever having abused the Children. The Children's disclosures were entered into evidence. Price testified as an expert concerning the disclosures. Regarding the Children's current status, they are all living together in a foster home. The testimony was that the foster home has no criminal activity, no sexual abuse, truancy or domestic disputes, and that the Children are having their medical needs addressed.
In October 2014, the Juvenile Court entered its order terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights to the Children. The Juvenile Court found that the ground of severe child abuse had been proven by clear and convincing evidence against Mother and Father and that the evidence was clear and convincing that termination of Mother's and Father's parental rights was in the Children's best interest. We quote from the Juvenile Court's detailed order regarding the ground for termination:
The Court finds by clear and convincing evidence pursuant to the severe abuse provisions of T.C.A. 36-1-113(g)(4), and T.C.A. 37-1-102(21) that these children have made multiple disclosures of sexual abuse perpetrated on them by the Respondent parents. These disclosures were made to several individuals, including Julie Price, Clinical Director of the Children's Advocacy Center. These disclosures were made by the three older children, [C.A.F.], [J.A.F.] and [C.R.F.] during the course of their extended assessment with Ms. Price. The court finds that the children made disclosures to Ms. Price including, but not limited to, the following:
That the child [C.A.F.] revealed to Ms. Price that he was touched by his parents on his private parts, and that his clothes were off. When asked how many times this had happened he disclosed that it happened "a lot of times, a whole double lot of times. That he drew an "X" on an anatomical drawing on the parts of his body where he had been touched by his parents and he drew an "X" over the genital area and the posterior or buttocks. That this child disclosed that the behavior had happened a lot and that it happened in Mom and Dad's room. That he and his brother [J.A.F.] would get under a blanket and put their mouths on each other's private parts and that Mom and Dad did it to them so they thought it was okay.
That the child [J.A.F.] disclosed to Ms. Price that his younger sister [C.R.F.] had put something in the nature of a cream on the private areas of a person identified as a man named Jap. That Mom and Dad were there and he got mad at [C.R.F.] for rubbing on Jap. He disclosed that Mom and Dad touched his private parts. That Jap would touch their private parts. That he drew an "X" on an anatomical drawing over the parts of his body where he had been touched by the Respondents and he drew an "X" over the genital area and the buttocks area. He also disclosed that "Big Sissy", allegedly an older sister, also touched his private parts as well.
That the child [C.R.F.] disclosed to Ms. Price that her Dad had touched her private parts. That he had touched her private parts while her Mom watched. That Jap made her rub cream on his private parts. That her parents had no clothes on when she did this. She disclosed that her Dad had touched her privates and described her Dad poking her vagina with a finger. That when given a piece of paper and a pencil she stabbed the paper to demonstrate how she had been poked and that being poked by her Dad made her bleed. That her Mom and Dad laughed at her when they touched her or when they made her touch others. That her Mom and Dad had been naked and jumped up and down on her like a trampoline. That she knew all about sex because her Mom and Dad taught her.
The Court finds that Ms. Julie Price, Clinical Director of the Children's Advocacy Center is an expert witness in her field. That she has a masters degree and has interviewed and or counseled with approximately seven hundred children alleged to be victims of abuse and neglect. Further, that she is not an employee of the Department of Children's Services. The Court finds that she does not use leading questions when interviewing children who are alleged to be victims of abuse or neglect. That she looked for signs of coaching during the extended assessment process and it was her opinion that the children had not been coached to say they were abused. That it was her opinion that the children had been sexually abused by the parents. The Court finds that Ms. Price interviewed these children separately. That the children were acting out sexually and with each other and had knowledge of sexual matters far beyond what is appropriate for children of this age. That the child [C.R.F.] had been humping a couch was an example of sexually acting out. That [C.R.F.] had gotten in trouble for inappropriately touching her younger sister. That the children had demonstrated behaviors during their interviews which corroborated and or lent credibility to their disclosures and which further demonstrated they were being truthful as to their disclosures.
The Court has carefully considered the testimony of the witnesses and the parties, the exhibits introduced into the record and the record as a whole and does find by clear and convincing evidence that these children are victims of severe abuse under T.C.A. 36-1-113(g)(4) and 37-1-102(21). The Court finds that these children have been sexually abused and molested by the Respondent parents. The Court finds that the Respondent Parents have perpetrated aggravated rape against the children per T.C.A. 39-13-502 through 504; and specifically 39-13-502 aggravated rape, subsections 2 and 3; T.C.A. 39-13-503, rape; T.C.A. 39-13-504 aggravated sexual battery and 522 rape of a child; T.C.A. 39-15-301, incest; T.C.A. 39-15-402 Haleys Law; and T.C.A. 39-17-1005, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. The Court finds that the State of Tennessee Department of Children's Services and the Guardian ad Litem have proven their petitions by clear and convincing evidence and the Court does further find these ...