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In re Martese P.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 24, 2017

IN RE MARTESE P.

          Assigned on Briefs May 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Madison County No. 55-50096 Christy R. Little, Judge

         This appeal arises from the termination of Mother's parental rights. The child was removed from Mother's custody in November 2013, when the child was twelve months old, after Mother and the child tested positive for drugs. On the petition of the Department of Children's Services, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected based on the finding that Mother committed severe child abuse as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102. In September 2014, DCS placed the child in the custody of Petitioners. One year later, Petitioners filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights. The juvenile court terminated Mother's parental rights on the ground of severe child abuse and the finding that termination of her rights was in the child's best interest. Mother appealed. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Affirmed

          Lee R. Sparks, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kelsey K. [1]

          Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, James C. and Sarah C.

          Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson, II, and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S.

         At issue in this case are the parental rights of Kelsey K. ("Mother") to her minor child, Martese P., born November 2012.

         In September 2013, Mother was arrested on felony drug charges. In November 2013, on Martese's first birthday, Mother and Martese submitted to a hair-follicle drug screen. The results of this screen were positive for cocaine for both Mother and the child. On November 18, 2013, the Department of Children's Services ("DCS") filed a petition alleging that Martese was a dependent and neglected child and seeking emergency removal of Martese from Mother's custody. Thereafter, the juvenile court granted DCS temporary custody of Martese pending an adjudicatory hearing.

         A dependency and neglect hearing was held on October 20, 2014. Based on the evidence presented, the juvenile court declared Martese dependent and neglected based on the finding that Martese was a victim of severe child abuse, as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102, and placed Martese in DCS custody. Mother appealed the juvenile court's finding that she subjected Martese to severe child abuse. Following a de novo hearing, the circuit court upheld the findings of the juvenile court.

         In August 2014, DCS placed Martese in the custody of James C. and Sarah C. ("Petitioners"), where he has since remained. On November 10, 2015, Petitioners filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother.[2]

         The case was tried on August 9, 2016, during which the court heard testimony from several witnesses, including Petitioners, two DCS staff members, and Mother. Petitioners also introduced numerous exhibits into evidence, including the juvenile court's order finding Martese was a victim of severe child abuse by Mother.

         Petitioner James C. testified that DCS placed Martese with him and his wife Sarah C. in September of 2014. James stated that he is gainfully employed and he and his wife are capable of providing for Martese. He also testified that they had developed a loving relationship with Martese and had taken steps to advance his emotional and educational development, such as taking Martese to see a therapist to treat his learning deficiencies. He also explained that his mother, a retired school teacher, was teaching Martese using the Montessori method. James also stated that, although Mother had sent some clothes and toys to Martese on a few occasions, she had not provided any financial support to Martese while he had been in Petitioners' custody.

         Sarah C. reiterated much of her husband's testimony and also stated that she had grown to love Martese as her own. Additionally, she testified that Petitioners intended to adopt Martese ...


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