final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeals from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial
Circuit, Broward County; Yael Gamm, Judge; L.T. Case Nos.
2018-2717-CJ-DP and 2018-2718-CJ-DP.
E. Kistner of the Law Offices of Denise E. Kistner, P.A.,
Fort Lauderdale, for appellant J.H.
Kathleen K. Peña, Fort Lauderdale, for appellant
Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Carolyn Schwarz,
Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General,
Children's Legal Services, Fort Lauderdale, for appellee
Department of Children and Families.
Thomasina Moore, Statewide Director of Appeals, and Laura J.
Lee, Senior Attorney of Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem
Office, Tallahassee, for appellee Guardian ad Litem.
mother, J.H., appeals the termination of her parental rights
to her children O.H. and J.W.H. In a consolidated case, the
children's grandmother appeals the denial of her request
for the minor children to be placed in her care. We address
both appeals in this opinion. We affirm because competent
substantial evidence supports the trial court's
conclusion that one of the children suffered egregious abuse,
and that J.H. failed to protect her child from that abuse. We
also affirm the trial court's conclusion that termination
is the least restrictive means of assuring the protection of
the children. As to the grandmother's appeal, she lacks
standing to challenge the termination of J.H.'s rights.
Further, even if there were standing to contest the
termination of J.H.'s rights, the trial court did not
abuse its discretion in denying placement of the children
with the grandmother.
was the biological parent of J.W.H, born in January of 2018,
and the legal parent of O.H., born in December of 2017. Her
partner, B.D. was the biological parent of O.H. and the legal
parent of J.W.H. The two mothers' names appear on each
child's birth certificate. Subsequently their
relationship ended but they continued living together and
21, 2018, J.W.H. was taken to the hospital and was observed
to have catastrophic injuries, including an acute brain
bleed, two older brain bleeds, retinal hemorrhages and
several bone fractures of varying ages. He was diagnosed with
"Shaken Baby Syndrome." The other child, O.H., was
examined but no injuries were found. A shelter petition was
filed as to both children, and the court found probable cause
to shelter due to the parents' inability to provide a
safe home for the children. The children were placed with
their grandmother, Y.H.B., J.H.'s mother.
days after placement with Y.H.B., at the very first
supervised visitation, during which both mothers were with
the children and present with the grandmother, J.W.H. again
suffered a skull fracture and brain bleed. The children were
removed from the grandmother, and DCF moved for a no contact
order for both mothers and both children in October 2018.
Subsequently, DCF sought an expedited termination of parental
rights of J.H. and B.D. as to both children on two grounds:
egregious abuse (violation of section 39.806(1)(f), Florida
Statutes (2018)) and aggravated child abuse (violation of
section 39.806(g), Florida Statutes (2018)). The grandmother
also filed a private petition to terminate B.D.'s
parental rights to the children and requested that the
children be placed in either J.H.'s care or the
grandmother, Y.H.B.'s, care.
failed to appear at the advisory hearing, and the court
entered a consent on her behalf to termination of her rights.
The final hearing proceeded as to both DCF's petition to
terminate J.H.'s rights as well as Y.H.B.'s petition.
hearing, a doctor from the Child Protection Team testified as
an expert, relying on the medical records of J.W.H.'s
admissions to the hospital. He concluded that J.W.H.'s
injuries resulted from intentional physical abuse. Scans
revealed three different brain bleeds of varying ages, a
partial herniation of the brain, and multiple broken bones,
all of which were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. They
were not consistent with physical playing by or with a child.
On the second hospitalization, the mothers reported that
J.W.H. had fallen on a toy, but the doctor's review
showed a new fracture and a brain bleed which would not have
been consistent with falling. These injuries were also
sustained as a result of physical abuse and were inconsistent
with "falling on a toy."
doctor from the Child Protection Team also opined that the
July injuries were severe and would have been fatal but for
intervening surgery on the baby's brain. The August
injuries were serious but not fatal. Nevertheless, he
recommended that neither mother nor anyone else caring for
the child in August have contact with the child, as ...