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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mother Loses Parental Rights to Abused Kids

(CN) - A Tennessee mother charged with the murder of her grandchild must lose parental rights to two of her children due to severe abuse, the state appeals court ruled.

At the time of the trial, Valerie S. had been imprisoned with bond set at $1 million. She was charged with the first-degree murder of her two-year-old granddaughter. The autopsy showed chronic sexual abuse and that the girl's death was not an accident.

Valerie also subjected her two children to "continuous physical punishment and intentional deprivation of food," according to the juvenile court.

On the witness stand, Valerie began speaking in tongues and was removed from the courtroom for her failure to answer questions in an identifiable language.

One of the children, 17-year-old Shameel, said he would be "okay" with his mother's rights being terminated, while his sister, 16-year-old LaRiea, asked the court to terminate them.

Shameel testified that his mother punished him by making him stand in a corner all night. Both children said they felt safe in their foster homes.

The trial court terminated the rights of both parents, finding that the father had abandoned the children and that the mother had "no home and no plan to obtain a stable residence."

The mother appealed, arguing that the Department of Child Services failed to make a reasonable effort to reunify her with the children.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals disagreed in its Sept. 19 ruling, upholding the termination in an opinion written by Judge D. Michael Swiney. He noted that DCS came up with four plans to reunify the family.

"Mother, however, did not complete grief counseling," Swiney wrote, "participated sporadically in the in-home parenting classes, and refused DCS referrals for outside parenting education."

The judge also cited the juvenile court's determination that the mother had severely abused the children and said her courtroom outbursts did not help her case.

"In our view, DCS made reasonable efforts in this tragic case," Swiney stated. "When Mother had the opportunity to do so, she simply made no adequate effort on her own."

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