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In re Joey

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 21, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF JOEY, A MINOR: SHARON SMITH, APPELLANT
v.
COAHOMA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND JOEY, APPELLEES

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/19/2013.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: COAHOMA COUNTY YOUTH COURT, TRIAL JUDGE: HON. THOMAS W. ALLEN. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DURABLE LEGAL CUSTODY GRANTED TO RELATIVE.

FOR APPELLANT: PATRICIA ANN BOOKER.

FOR APPELLEES: C. KENT HANEY, WILBERT LEVON JOHNSON.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 561

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CUSTODY

FAIR, J.

¶1. This case began with allegations of a boy sexually abusing his younger brother. The mother, Sharon Smith,[1] appeals the Coahoma County Youth Court's judgment granting legal and physical custody of her son to his great aunt. Sharon claims the judge erred in adjudicating Joey a neglected child and ignored medical evidence and testimony in support of reunification. She further claims Joey's guardian ad litem (GAL) acted adversely to Joey's best interest. We find the evidence was sufficient to support the youth court's determination and therefore affirm.

FACTS

¶2. In March 2012, the Department of Human Services (DHS) received a call from one of Joey's family members stating that Joey, four years old, was being sexually abused by his eleven-year-old brother. DHS created an initial safety plan (ISP) on March 22, 2012. As part of the ISP, Joey and his brother were not allowed to be

Page 562

alone unsupervised. Joey was not allowed to stay at home overnight. In addition, the family agreed to go to counseling. The ISP was set to remain in effect until it was confirmed that there were no risk factors regarding Joey's safety in the home.

¶3. On April 23, 2012, DHS received a phone call from Joey's doctor at the local children's clinic. The doctor stated that Joey's family called her claiming Joey was being sexually abused. DHS spoke with Joey's grandmother, who stated that the incident occurred on April 19, 2012. She also stated that Sharon had violated the ISP by keeping Joey overnight. DHS filed an emergency custody order with the Coahoma County Youth Court. The court granted the order, awarding DHS physical and legal custody of Joey. On April 27, 2012, the court held a shelter hearing and ordered Joey to remain in DHS custody. Joey was placed with his great-aunt, Mary Jo. DHS maintained custody, and Mary Jo's home served as the resource home.

¶4. On May 9, 2012, DHS filed a petition to adjudicate Joey as a sexually abused child. The court held an adjudication/disposition hearing eight days later. The court appointed Joey a GAL and an attorney, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated sections 43-21-121(1) and 43-21-201(1) (Rev. 2009). The only medical report prior to the adjudication hearing was made on May 10, 2012. Several family members testified at the hearing. Two of Joey's aunts testified that Joey had stated that his brother " sucked his wee-wee." Joey's grandmother testified that Joey previously made similar comments to her about sexual activity with his brother. The hearing was continued pending testimony from Joey's sister and a forensic report.

¶5. Several weeks later, the court heard testimony from Joey's older sister. She testified that she saw her brother performing oral sex on Joey. She also stated that Joey's mother was aware of the sexual abuse.[2] DHS Family Protection Specialist Shimeka Jackson testified regarding the medical report from May 10, 2012, and a forensic-interview report from May 21, 2012. In the report from May 10, the forensic nurse stated she found no evidence of injuries to Joey. The nurse also stated that another report had been generated one year ago, but that the safety plan included in that report was not followed. The May 21 report was a forensic interview conducted in Oxford, Mississippi; the findings neither confirmed nor rejected the possibility of sexual abuse. DHS ...


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