IN THE MATTER OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS AS TO A.D.L. AND C.L.B., JR., MINORS.
CLARK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Respondent. 133 Nev.Adv.Op. 72 KEAUNDRA D.; A.D.L.; AND C.L.B., JR., Appellants,
from a district court order terminating a mother's
parental rights as to her minor children. Eighth Judicial
District Court, Family Court Division, Clark County; Robert
Teuton, Judge. Reversed.
Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Inc., and Christal L. Dixon,
Las Vegas, for Appellants A.D.L. and C.L.B., Jr.
M. Schieck, Special Public Defender, and Deanna M. Molinar
and Melinda E. Simpkins, Deputy Special Public Defenders,
Clark County, for Appellant Keaundra D.
B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Ronald L. Cordes, Chief
Deputy District Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent.
HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and STIGLICH, JJ.
opinion, we consider whether a parent's Fifth Amendment
rights are violated when he or she is required to admit to a
criminal act in order to maintain his or her parental rights.
We conclude that a parent cannot be compelled to admit to a
crime under the threat of termination of parental rights.
Keaundra D. was required to admit to a criminal act for her
to be considered in compliance with her case plan, which we
conclude was a violation of her Fifth Amendment rights.
Additionally, we conclude that Keaundra overcame the
presumptions in NRS 128.109(1)-(2) that terminating parental
rights was in the best interests of the children. In the
absence of such presumptions, there was not substantial
evidence supporting the district court's termination of
Keaundra's parental rights. Accordingly, we reverse.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
April 2010, respondent Clark County Department of Family
Services (DFS) received an anonymous call through its child
abuse hotline alleging that Keaundra's children were
being abused and neglected. The caller alleged that the face
of Keaundra's infant child had been burned. During an
interview with a DFS investigator, Keaundra stated that she
was the only adult at home when C.L.B., Jr. was burned. Her
two children, A.D.L. and C.L.B., Jr., were in the master
bedroom while she was preparing for work in the attached
bathroom. She had recently ironed her clothes and had placed
the iron on her dresser. Keaundra heard the iron fall and
when she came out to investigate, A.D.L. told her that
C.L.B., Jr. had "tried to kiss the iron." Keaundra
then called her mother, a nurse, who told her to put ointment
on the injury and to take C.L.B., Jr. to the emergency room
if the burn blistered.
the initial contact with DFS, Keaundra moved her family to
Louisiana, where her father was stationed with the U.S. Air
Force. Upon learning that Keaundra moved to Louisiana, DFS
sought help from U.S. Air Force authorities to gain
protective custody of the children. The children were removed
from Keaundra's care, and C.L.B., Jr. was taken to see
Dr. Thomas A. Neuman, a physician in Louisiana. Dr. Neuman
reported that the injury was well healed and that there was
no evidence of abuse.
2010, DFS filed a petition for protective custody of A.L.D.
and C.L.B., Jr. under NRS Chapter 432B, alleging that
Keaundra had either physically abused or negligently
supervised C.L.B., Jr. A plea hearing was held wherein
Keaundra entered a denial, and DFS requested placement of the
children with their maternal grandmother.
subsequent adjudicatory hearing, the hearing master took
testimony from Dr. Neha Mehta, a medical examiner who had
reviewed photographs of C.L.B., Jr.'s injuries. Dr. Mehta
opined that the shape of the injury was not consistent with
an accident and that the iron had been deliberately held to
C.L.B., Jr.'s face. Keaundra offered Dr. Neuman's
report to rebut Dr. Mehta's testimony. The hearing master
excluded the report on the ground that the report was not a
certified copy. The hearing master found that Keaundra had
physically abused C.L.B., Jr., had medically neglected him,
and had absconded. Based on those findings, the hearing
master recommended sustaining the abuse and neglect petition
and that A.D.L, and C.L.B., Jr. remain in DFS custody. The
juvenile court affirmed the hearing master's
recommendation and concluded that C.L.B., Jr.'s injury
light of these findings, Keaundra received a case plan which
required that she maintain stable housing and income, keep in
contact with DFS, and complete parenting classes. She was
also required to complete a physical abuse assessment and
"be able to articulate in dialogue with the Specialist
and therapist(s) the sequence of events which result[ed] in
physical abuse, as sustained by the Court, and how he/she
will be able to ensure that no future physical abuse to
[C.L.B., ] Jr. occurs." One month after giving Keaundra
the case plan, DFS recommended termination of parental rights
as the goal for the children. DFS then filed a petition to
terminate Keaundra's parental rights as to A.D.L. and
six-month review, DFS reported that Keaundra had completed
her parenting classes, maintained housing, held regular jobs,
and completed both her assessment and therapy. At that point,
the children had been placed with their maternal grandmother
in Louisiana, where Keaundra was also living. DFS stated that
it was satisfied with Keaundra's progress. DFS further
stated that Keaundra had "successfully completed her
case plan and has the knowledge and tools to effectively
parent her children." Despite DFS's satisfaction
with Keaundra's progress, it nonetheless maintained its
recommendation that her parental rights be terminated because
she had not admitted that she abused C.L.B., Jr. by holding
an iron to his face. DFS later stated at trial that, with
such an admission, it would not have sought termination of
next six-month review, DFS again noted that Keaundra had
completed her case plan in all other regards and that she
acknowledged that negligence and improper supervision caused
C.L.B., Jr.'s injury. Again, DFS maintained its
recommendation to terminate parental rights due to