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Dept. of Human Services v. M.E.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 02-21-2013
Case #: A150359
Armstrong, P.J. for the Court; Duncan, J.; and Brewer, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A150359.pdf

Juvenile Law: Under ORS 419B.100(1)(c), the juvenile court has jurisdiction when conditions and circumstances are such that the welfare of the children is endangered. The trial court's decision is reviewed de novo, and is measured by the totality of the circumstances.

Mother appealed the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, under ORS 419B.100(1)(c), as granted by the trial court. The trial court had determined that the twin sisters, MI and MA, were living in conditions and circumstances such as to endanger their welfare. First, their stepfather inappropriately touched MI approximately four years ago. Second, the Mother often made “negative comments” about MA, who as a result, began cutting herself. The Court of Appeals held the trial court erred in granting jurisdiction, under ORS 419B.100(1)(c). The Court of Appeals reviewed the record de novo and analyzed the decision under the totality of circumstances. The trial court erred in its use of the psychologist's psychosexual risk assessment. The trial court’s finding that the stepfather was a risk to his stepchildren was incorrect, because the psychologist found that the stepfather was not a risk to any person, including his stepchildren. Even if the psychologist made a slightly different finding, the incident was isolated and occurred four years ago. Therefore, the State failed to produce, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the stepfather presented a current risk of harm. As for the second issue, the Mother did not know about MA’s self-inflicted cutting and stress until this investigation arose. Medical personnel had no concerns about the Mother’s care for MA after conducting a psychological evaluation. Reversed.