Dependency and Neglect Challenged in Greeneville, Tennessee: In re Isaiah W.

May 18, 2023 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Mother has two children, Isaiah and Noah. Isaiah told a preacher that Mother was going to “do something bad” to him. The preacher told law enforcement, who found Mother and the children at a local motel.

Mother told the police that she and the children were running from her ex-husband and Isaiah’s father. She believed he was plotting to kill her over insurance money and that Isaiah was taking part in the murder plot. She provided the police with a letter Isaiah wrote confessing to giving Mother excess prescription sleep medicine and raping her while she slept. The police contacted the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”).

Mother told DCS she did not want Isaiah in her care.

DCS petitioned for temporary legal custody of Isaiah, but the juvenile court granted temporary legal custody of both children to DCS.

In later proceedings, the juvenile court found both children dependent and neglected because of the alleged murder plot, a history of familial sexual abuse that went unaddressed, not receiving proper medical or mental health treatment, and concerns about Mother’s mental health and stability.

Mother appealed to the circuit court. After a de novo adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found both children dependent and neglected for the same reasons. Specifically, the trial court found a cycle of sexual abuse and violence in the family, and Mother did not adequately address these issues.

Mother appealed, arguing that she was not the perpetrator of any abuse.

On Appeal: The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

In Tennessee, a child is dependent and neglected for several reasons, including that the child is

  • without a parent or legal custodian,
  • in “such condition of want or suffering … as to injure or endanger the morals or health” of the child, and
  • “suffering from abuse or neglect.”

The Court found no error in the circuit court’s decision:

The record supports the trial court’s conclusion that Isaiah is dependent and neglected…. Mother is not ready for Isaiah to return to her custody, and Isaiah’s legal father filed a waiver of interest stating that he did not wish to provide care for Isaiah. Accordingly, the record is clear that Isaiah is without a parent or legal custodian.

The core issues for this family are a cycle of sexual abuse and sexual violence, domestic violence, and Mother’s failure to recognize and/or appropriately address these issues. Mother has a history of sexual abuse, she has been a victim of domestic violence, both of the children have been sexually abused by family members, and both of the children have been exposed to domestic violence perpetrated against Mother. The record shows that Mother has failed to appropriately address these issues, and she refuses to accept responsibility for her part in the abuse cycle.

Mother seems not to recognize how her choices and history of abuse have affected both herself and the children.

*     *     *

It is clear from the record that Mother has suffered significant trauma of her own that she has yet to address. The record shows that Mother has been reluctant to accept mental health services and treatment because, according to her, she “[hasn’t] done anything wrong.” Although Mother never perpetrated sexual or domestic violence against the children, she has continually exposed them to it and has allowed it to persist in her household…. Until Mother is able to recognize how her actions affect the children, the children will remain dependent and neglected if left in Mother’s care.

The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

K.O.’s Comment: This case illustrates how a child can be dependent and neglected because a parent did not protect the child from abuse by others or appropriately respond to and address the abuse.

Source: In re Isaiah W. (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section, May 3, 2023).

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Dependency and Neglect Challenged in Greeneville, Tennessee: In re Isaiah W. was last modified: May 17th, 2023 by K.O. Herston

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