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IN THE INTEREST OF M.R.L.

MAY 14, 1986

IN THE INTEREST OF M.R.L., M.L.L. AND
V.
L.



BEFORE PATTERSON, C.J.; ROBERTSON AND SULLIVAN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

We are today presented with the tale of three young children, approaching adolescence, who have somehow missed the maturation process. In response to a series of real or imaginary spooks, these children have not seriously encountered the school house. Because of disabilities, illness and modest financial resources, their parents have provided little in the way of nurture and guidance and preparation for life in the complex, pluralistic society of the near future. Because it had to do something, the Youth Court has placed these children in a church-operated children's home.

 It is with great temerity that we approach the authority vested in the youth courts of this state to effect removal of children from the home of their parents. That authority must be exercised always in accordance with principles recognized forty years ago in Reyonlds v. Davidow, 200 Miss. 480, 27 So. 2d 691 (1946):

 In the kaleidoscope of human relationships, the rude and realistic hand of fate jostles the facts and their actors into ever changing patterns, and through its lens the courts view constant rearrangements in designs which never repeat. There is one constant. This is the dominant and natural right of the parent to the custody and care of the child. So long as this right is not forfeited by conduct or conditions which adversely affect the welfare of the child, mere considerations of comparative well being are no concern of the state whose continuing guardianship of its infant wards may supervise but never supercede its natural guardian.

 200 Miss. at 484, 27 So. 2d at 691-92; see also Adams v. Powe 469 So. 2d 76, 78 (Miss.1985).

 We maintain our vigilence that children may not be stripped from their parents and placed in the custody of the state for deviation from middle class American norms. To the

 point, we are sensitive to the fact that, under the authority legalistically granted the Youth Court in our Youth Court Act, Tom Sawyer could have be held a child in need of supervision, in which event Muff Potter may have been hanged. Still, we must do what we can.

 II.

 The three children whose lives we affect this day are (1) M.R.L., a boy, now 14 years of age, his birth date being August 18, 1971; (2) M.L.L., a boy, now 13 years of age, his birth date being July 25, 1972; and (3) V.L., a girl, now 11 years of age, her birth date being August 14, 1974. The middle child, M.L.L., appears the most petulant of the three.

 The father of the children is a totally disabled World War II veteran whose sole sources of income are VA and Social Security benefits. Their mother is apparently somewhat younger and has a recent history of mental illness. Except for times when the mother has been hospitalized, the parents of these children have resided together in the Hattiesburg area.

 Each child has been the object of a petition filed on December 14, 1984, in the Youth Court of Forrest County seeking to have such child adjudged in need of supervision. Miss. Code Ann. 43-21-105 (k) (Supp. 1985). On May 2, 1986, the Youth Court so adjudged each of these children. Following a dispositional hearing, custody of each child was vested with Baptist Children's Village of Clinton, Mississippi. The parents of the three children now appeal both the adjudication and disposition made on each petition.

 III.

 The principal question raised and argued on this appeal is whether each of these children is a" child in need of supervision "within the meaning and contemplation of our Youth Court Act. Miss. Code Ann. 43-21-105 (k) (Supp.1985). The statute defines this status as follows:

 (k)" Child in need of supervision "means a child who has reached his seventh birthday and is in need of treatment or ...


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