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In re DRT

October 21, 2010

IN THE INTEREST OF DRT, A MINOR,
JET, APPELLANT (RESPONDENT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, APPELLEE (PETITIONER).



Appeal from the District Court of Carbon County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] This is an appeal from the juvenile court‟s denial of the appellant‟s motion to withdraw her admission of neglect of her child, and from the disposition order placing the child in the custody of the Department of Family Services. Finding no error, we affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] The appellant presents a somewhat convoluted statement of the issues that is not consonant with her Notice of Appeal. The first stated issue in her appellate brief is whether the juvenile court erred in accepting her admission of neglect, yet she did not appeal from the order accepting that admission and adjudicating the issue of neglect. She then commingles that issue with the question of whether the juvenile court erred in entering an order denying her motion to withdraw the admission of neglect, from which order she did appeal. Finally, her Notice of Appeal indicates that she is appealing from the disposition order entered in the case, yet she raises no factual or legal issues concerning any part of that order.

[¶3] We believe that the issues actually presented to this Court can best be formulated as follows: Did the juvenile court abuse its discretion in denying the appellant‟s motion to withdraw her admission of neglect because (1) the juvenile court failed to advise the appellant at the initial hearing that a termination of her parental rights may be initiated upon an adjudication of neglect; (2) the juvenile court accepted the admission of neglect notwithstanding the evidence that the appellant suffered from a mental illness; and (3) the juvenile court‟s acceptance of the appellant‟s admission of neglect sets a dangerous precedent that will deter persons in her position from seeking assistance from governmental agencies?

FACTS

[¶4] The appellant is a twenty-year-old single mother of one child. Prior to the child‟s birth, the appellant moved from a homeless shelter in Texas to Rawlins, Wyoming, where she moved in with her former fiancé‟s parents and two other adults. When that living arrangement was not successful, the appellant moved into a low-income housing apartment. During her pregnancy, the appellant worked with both a public health nurse and social worker, and with a counseling center therapist.

[¶5] The child was born on November 20, 2009. At about 2:00 a.m., on November 26, 2009, the appellant telephoned the public health social worker and told her something to the effect that she needed some help with the child because she knew she had a temper, or that she was afraid she was going to hurt the child. The social worker called the police department, and a police officer in turn called a Department of Family Services caseworker. Both the police officer and the caseworker went to the appellant‟s home, where the officer took the child into protective custody. In an affidavit attached to the neglect petition filed a few days later, the caseworker stated that when she arrived at the appellant‟s house, the appellant was visibly upset and crying, and said that "she is afraid that she might hurt [the child] because at night when [the child] starts crying she finds herself screaming at [the child]."

[¶6] The juvenile court held a combined shelter care hearing and initial appearance on December 1, 2009.*fn1 Because this appeal revolves around what occurred at that hearing, we will quote at length from the transcript:

THE COURT: Okay. [The appellant], are you under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or medication?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: No, sir.

THE COURT: Are you suffering from any mental problems that make it difficult for you to understand these proceedings?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: Yes, sir, bipolar and ADHD as well as panic attacks and anxiety attacks.

THE COURT: And when were you diagnosed with bipolar?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: When I was a child. I‟m not sure of the age, but I know that I have been medicated from elementary school up.

THE COURT: On psychotropic medication?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Do you happen to know what medication?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: Too many to name. I have been on almost every single one they could put me on.

THE COURT: Are you medicated right now?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: No, sir.

THE COURT: Are you clearheaded? Do you understand why you‟re here?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Have you been served with a copy of this petition?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: Yes, sir.

....

THE COURT: You understand that the State is alleging that you have neglected [the child] by failing to provide adequate care. Have you read the affidavit of [the caseworker] that was attached to the petition?

THE MINOR‟S MOTHER: Yes, sir. And I note some things that weren‟t entirely as it was supposed to be.

THE COURT: Okay. Let‟s -- we will talk about that in a minute if we need to, but for now I want to make sure that you ...


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