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Madore v. Arkansas Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division III

May 10, 2017



          Leah Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.

          Andrew Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.

          Chrestman Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for minor children.

          PHILLIP T. WHITEAKER, Judge

         Breanna Madore appeals a Garland County Circuit Court order adjudicating her two sons, A.M. and P.M., dependent-neglected. On appeal, Breanna challenges the trial court's finding of parental neglect. Because there are no facts in the record to support the trial court's finding that the children were left alone, we reverse.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         On April 4, 2016, Breanna and her two children were transported by ambulance to National Park Hospital. Breanna was exhibiting signs of extreme paranoia and delusional thinking. She reported that she had been hypnotized and that her children had been poisoned by a cab driver. The children were examined at the hospital and did not exhibit any unusual behavior or medical symptoms. Breanna, however, received a psychiatric consult, and it was determined that she needed inpatient psychiatric treatment. Based on this, the Department of Human Services (DHS) was contacted.

         DHS investigated the situation with Breanna and the home. The hospital staff reported that Breanna was distressed, panicked, anxious, and hallucinating. They further reported that her mental state deteriorated during hospitalization and that she tested positive for THC. DHS contacted the home and learned that Paul Madore III, the children's father, [1] was at home. He indicated that he was not aware that Breanna had left with the children because he was asleep because he worked the night shift and slept during the day. He informed the caseworker that he was aware that Breanna was delusional and had exhibited signs of paranoia but, in his opinion, she was functioning appropriately, and he did not believe his children to be in danger. DHS determined that the home was clean and appropriate. However, Paul also tested positive for THC.

         Based on its investigation, DHS placed a 72-hour hold on the children. DHS filed a petition for emergency custody and dependency-neglect alleging that the children were dependent-neglected as defined by Arkansas Code Annotated section 9-27-303 as a result of neglect and parental unfitness. The court entered an ex parte order for emergency custody and later found that probable cause existed.

         The adjudication hearing was held on June 2, 2016. DHS presented testimony from the hospital staff concerning Breanna's admittance to the hospital and her medical condition at the time. The court heard testimony that the children were with Breanna during her hospitalization. In fact, she presented at the emergency room because she was concerned about the children. She was very affectionate with the children and took good care of them while they were at the hospital. She made sure both children were fed, and she even breastfed the youngest. The children appeared healthy, happy, and relatively clean. DHS investigator Lennie Robinson also testified that there was no evidence that Breanna had not appropriately supervised or cared for her children. Robinson reported that the basis for the removal was the fact that Breanna had to be hospitalized for a mental issue.

         Breanna testified on her own behalf. She admitted that, on April 4, 2016, she had smoked an illegal substance she believed to be laced with something that caused her to hallucinate. She denied having a prior history of mental disturbance or hallucinations and denied prior drug use. She testified that, despite whatever issues she was having that day, she was still able to care for her children, including bathing and feeding them.

         The court found the children to be dependent-neglected as defined by the juvenile code because Breanna and Paul failed to appropriately supervise the children, resulting in the children being left alone at an inappropriate age, creating a dangerous situation or a situation that puts the children at risk of harm or in inappropriate circumstances creating a dangerous situation that puts the children at risk of harm. See Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-303(36)(A)(vii) (a), (b) (Repl. 2015). Breanna appeals the trial court's finding of neglect, arguing that there was no evidence in the record that the children had been "left alone."

          II. Stan ...

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