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R.B. v. Department of Children and Families

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

October 23, 2019

R.B., the Mother, Appellant,
v.
Department of Children and Families, et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Lower Tribunal No. 18-15614 Vivianne del Rio, Judge.

          Thomas Butler, P.A. and Thomas J. Butler, for appellant.

          Karla Perkins, for appellee Department of Children and Families; Thomasina Moore and Laura J. Lee (Tallahassee), for appellee Guardian ad Litem Program.

          Before LOGUE, MILLER, and LOBREE, JJ.

          MILLER, J.

         The mother, R.B., challenges an adjudication of dependency rendered below, as to her four-year-old son, D.B., following the untimely and tragic death of his half-sibling. On appeal, R.B. contends the evidence adduced by the Department of Children and Families ("the Department") was insufficient to sustain a finding of dependency. For the reasons elucidated below, we conclude the lower tribunal's decision was well-supported and affirm.

         FACTS AND BACKGROUND

         On Thanksgiving Day 2018, after soiling her diaper, eight-month-old A.H. sustained second and third-degree immersion burns on over thirty percent of her body, having been submerged in scalding water while under the supervision of her father, T.H. The mother's older child, four-year-old D.B., was home during the incident and heard A.H. screaming in agony. A.H.'s injuries proved fatal and an investigation followed.

         The probe by both law enforcement and child protection investigators revealed that A.H. suffered from exposure in utero to controlled substances, due to the mother's prenatal drug abuse. The Department initiated action by enrolling the mother in therapeutic treatment. Thereafter, the Department received two separate referrals involving the family.

         Approximately one month prior to A.H.'s death, the mother and father became involved in a heated dispute over child care. The parties were both scheduled to appear at their places of employment and failed to make child-care arrangements. Consequently, the mother left A.H. and D.B. unsupervised in the home for an extended period of time.

         That day, the mother appeared at the father's place of employment and became aggressive. A domestic altercation ensued, and the father contacted law enforcement. The responding officer subsequently learned the children had been deserted, and the mother was arrested for child neglect.

         On the day A.H. sustained her life-ending burns, the father materialized at the home of the mother. The mother departed from the residence, leaving the children under his charge. After the infant was burned, the mother returned to the home. Upon discovering the severity and extent of the burns, the mother telephoned the police.

         Assigned investigators detected the odor of marijuana in the residence. It was deemed particularly pungent in the bathroom in which A.H. was abused. ...


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