CULLMAN COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeals from Cullman Juvenile Court (JU-17-151.02 and
JU-17-151.03). Wells R. turner III, Judge
Richter, Cullman, for appellant.
Marshall, atty. gen., and Sharon E. Ficquette, gen. counsel,
and Elizabeth L. Hendrix, asst. atty. gen., Department of
Human Resources, for appellee.
the paternal grandmother of J.C.L. ("the child"),
appeals from a judgment of the Cullman Juvenile Court
("the juvenile court"), entered in two separate
actions, that denied her petition seeking custody of the
child and terminated the parental rights of L.L. and J.L. to
the child. Because W.N. did not timely appeal from the
judgment entered in case no. JU-17-151.03, we dismiss appeal
no. 2171167. See Rule 2(a)(1), Ala. R. App. P. We affirm the
judgment entered in case no. JU-17-151.02, appeal no.
2171166, for the reasons expressed below.
Facts and Procedural History
child was born on March 30, 2017, to L.L. ("the
mother") and J.L. (hereinafter sometimes referred to as
"the father"). Hospital staff contacted the
Cullman County Department of Human Resources
("DHR") with concerns regarding the parents
inabilities to properly care for the child. The child was
initially placed with W.N. ("the grandmother") on a
safety plan. Shortly thereafter, DHR discovered that several
allegations of physical abuse and neglect involving J.L., the
grandmothers son, had been made against the grandmother and
that she had pleaded guilty to child endangerment when J.L.
was a baby. On April 3, 2017, after a shelter-care hearing,
the child was placed in a foster-care home, where he remained
at the time of the trial.
April 6, 2017, the grandmother filed a petition seeking
custody of the child; that petition initiated case no.
JU-17-151.02 ("the .02 action"). On April 13,
2018, DHR filed a petition seeking to terminate the mothers
and the fathers parental rights; that petition was assigned
case no. JU-17-151.03 ("the .03 action"). In its
petition, DHR alleged, among other things, that the parents
suffered from intellectual disabilities and that, as a
result, neither parent could care for the child.
August 22, 2018, the juvenile court held a trial on the
grandmothers custody petition and DHRs petition seeking to
terminate the mothers and the fathers parental rights. At
the beginning of the trial, the parties stipulated to the
mental incapacity of the mother and the father.
Barry Wood, a clinical psychologist, testified that he had
performed psychological evaluations on the mother, the
father, the grandmother, and T.N. ("the grandmothers
husband"). Dr. Wood testified that he had completed
various assessments on the parties. Dr. Wood testified that
one assessment in particular had scales within it to help
determine whether a person is being truthful. Dr. Wood
explained that the grandmothers scale was "overly
elevated," which indicated that she had not been honest.
Dr. Wood also testified that the grandmother had an
intelligence quotient ("IQ") within the range of
borderline intellectual functioning and had had special
education throughout school. Dr. Wood diagnosed the
grandmother with specified personality disorder, borderline
intellectual functioning, and recurrent depression. Dr. Wood
opined that the grandmother should be undergoing
mental-health treatment because of the "significantly
increased probability [she] will have recurrence of
depression and said self-injurious behavior[/]suicidal
behavior." Dr. Wood testified that he questioned the
grandmothers capability to protect a child, explaining that
J.L. had been molested as a child and that the grandmother
had been charged with endangering the welfare of J.L. when he
was a child. Dr. Woods psychological report concluded that
the grandmother "is unable to parent adequately."
Wood testified that he diagnosed the grandmothers husband
with mild neurocognitive disorder, which, he explained, could
have many different causes. Dr. Wood testified that he was
not surprised to learn that the grandmothers husband had
been diagnosed as having dementia. He also testified, and the
parties stipulated, that the parents were not competent to
parent the child.
Patricia Bicknell, a foster-care supervisor with DHR,
testified that, in September 2017, after attempts to reunite
the child with the parents had failed, DHR began working with
the grandmother to attempt to place the child with her. In
February 2018, however, the permanency plan changed to
adoption because "there wasnt enough progress within
the family" and the child and the family had still not
bonded at that point.
Miller, a foster-care and resource social worker with DHR,
testified that she became involved with the family in April
2018 after the previous worker left her employment with DHR.
During her involvement, the grandmother and her husband, and
the parents, had supervised visitation with the child twice
testified that she had received approximately four reports
that DHR had to investigate regarding the grandmother during
the time in which she had had the case. One such report
involved allegations that the grandmother had been leaving
children unattended with the mother and the father, despite
their incapacities, while she was supposed to be caring for
also recounted a history of DHR investigations involving the
grandmother. In 1995, the grandmother was
"indicated" for leaving the father, who was an
infant at that time, in his car seat in the sun. The
grandmother had had investigations that were resolved as
"not indicated" in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
Miller testified that the grandmother also had a history of
involvement with the DHR equivalent in Indiana involving
allegations that her daughter had been hospitalized twice for
taking medication and that the father had brought
"pills" to his school on three separate occasions.
It appears, however, that the children were in the care of
babysitters or relatives when those incidents occurred.
further testified that the grandmother had exposed her own
children to her father, a registered sex offender, and her
brother, S.B., who had been indicated by DHR for sexual
abuse. In addition, according to Miller, there had been
allegations in 2011 that the father had molested a
three-year-old girl and, later, his younger sister. Miller
explained that the cases were resolved as "not
indicated" because neither victim made a disclosure
"but there was reason to suspect the abuse
testified that she made an unannounced visit to the
grandmothers home on August 14, 2018, and that, when she
first arrived, the father ran inside and told her that he had
to put up a dog that was aggressive and bites. Miller
testified: "[A]s soon as I walked into the home, it was
just like -- I almost passed out from the smell. It was like
feces and urine smell with bleach, like -- you know, I could
tell they had been cleaning, but they had just cleaned with
bleach and it was very strong."
was shown pictures that the grandmother had allegedly taken
on the date of Millers visit that showed a freezer and
cabinets full of food. Miller testified that the pictures did
not accurately depict the amount of food she observed in the
grandmothers home on that date. Miller testified that she
was concerned that, based on the grandmothers and her
familys income and expenses, they should have excess monthly
income, but, she asserted, ...