Issue and Holding:
Whether the Cabinet for Health and Family Services failed to offer sufficient evidence to support a finding of medical and educational neglect. The Court found that the Cabinet failed to present sufficient evidence.
The Cabinet filed a petition to involuntarily terminate V.S.’s parental rights to three children. V.S. did not contest the allegations in the trial court and did not appear for court proceedings. In May 2005 the family court conducted a hearing on the termination petition. At the hearing, one witness, a social worker, was called. The social worker testified that the Cabinet took custody of the children due to medical and educational neglect. The medical neglect allegations centered on the claims that 1) one child was allowed to place a catheter in another child, who had spina bifida, and 2) that the special needs child had missed doctor’s appointments. The educational neglect allegations centered on 1) V.S. stating that she could not get up early enough to take the children to school, 2) one child was reading far below the expected ability for his age, and 3) the social worker’s statement that V.S. could not provide a suitable home.
The family court found that the children were abused and neglected and terminated the mother’s rights. V.S. appealed.
On appeal, the Court interpreted V.S.’s brief as arguing that the Cabinet did not provide sufficient evidence to support the family court’s decision to terminate her rights. The Court applied the clearly erroneous standard on review.
The Court found that there was no concrete evidentiary support for the Cabinet’s allegations. The Court found that the social worker’s testimony at the hearing was nothing more than conclusory responses to leading questions. No evidence was presented as to specific harm that resulted from the allegations of neglect. As such, the Court vacated the termination orders of the family court and remanded the case for further proceedings.