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Lipscomb v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

March 17, 2010

JEANNIE LIPSCOMB APPELLANT
v.
ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND B.S., A MINOR APPELLEES



APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, [No. JN 2009-1185] HONORABLE JOYCE WILLIAMS WARREN, JUDGE. AFFIRMED.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: M. Michael Kinard, Judge

Jeannie Lipscomb appeals the order of the Pulaksi County Circuit Court that adjudicated her daughter, B.S. (born 9/14/98), dependent-neglected. We affirm. The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) placed an emergency seventy-two- hour hold on B.S. on June 4, 2009. On that date, DHS received a report of child maltreatment involving B.S. after appellant took her to Arkansas Children's Hospital for treatment. According to the affidavit attached to the petition for ex parte emergency custody, the on-call assessor for DHS spoke with B.S., who stated that her stepfather, Fredrick Kidd, had sexually abused her. She stated that she had told her mother about the abuse but her mother said she did not believe her. The on-call assessor also spoke with appellant and the social worker and learned that appellant had suspected that her husband was sexually abusing her daughter and, in order to obtain "proof," left B.S. alone with her husband; she came back earlier than expected to find them sitting close together on the couch. They immediately moved to opposite ends of the couch when she walked in the door, with Kidd adjusting his pants. Based on this information, DHS took protective custody of B.S.

The court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody of B.S. on June 8, 2009, placing custody of B.S. with DHS. The court entered a probable cause order on June 10, 2009, finding that appellant failed to protect B.S. and that, even if B.S. did not tell appellant about the abuse, appellant still "strongly suspected something was going on and left her daughter in Mr. Fredrick Kidd's care." The court continued custody with DHS and set an adjudication hearing for July 16, 2009.

At the adjudication hearing, the court heard testimony from the Arkansas Children's Hospital social worker who spoke to appellant when she brought her daughter to the hospital; the investigator with the Arkansas State Police, Crimes Against Children Division, who observed an interview with B.S. regarding the abuse; the DHS assessor who interviewed both appellant and B.S.; and B.S.

In an order filed August 3, 2009, the court found by a preponderance of the evidence that B.S. was dependent-neglected under Arkansas law because she was "at substantial risk of serious harm as a result of the following acts or omissions to the juvenile, a sibling, or another juvenile: sexual abuse by the stepfather Fred Kidd, as a result of the mother's failure to protect the juvenile." The court specifically found that appellant suspected, for some unknown period of time, that her husband was sexually abusing B.S., but appellant did not ask B.S. or confront Kidd about her suspicions. Instead, she left her daughter with Kidd and unexpectedly returned after a short time; she found Kidd and B.S. sitting close together on the couch, with Kidd zipping or adjusting his pants. During the time appellant was gone, Kidd sexually abused B.S. The court found credible B.S.'s testimony regarding the incident in which her mother came home and caught Kidd close to her on the couch. It also found credible B.S.'s testimony that she did not tell her mother about the abuse because Kidd told her not to tell and she was obeying him; and that the abuse happened more than five but less than ten times, but noted that it is difficult for a child who has gone through such trauma to have exact information regarding when and how it occurred. The court further found that while B.S. never told appellant about the abuse, appellant suspected the abuse and put her daughter in harm's way; the court found this to be "unfit." According to the court, appellant should have asked her daughter if anyone had ever touched her inappropriately, confronted her husband about her suspicions, and at the very least not allowed him to be alone with her daughter. Finally, the court agreed with DHS and the attorney ad litem's characterization of the incident as appellant using her child as "bait."

The court approved DHS's case plan. The court set the goal of the case as reunification with the mother, but set a concurrent goal of obtaining a permanent custodian, including permanent custody with a fit and willing relative. Appellant was granted supervised ...


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