Riffe, Matter of

Decision Date21 March 1986
Docket NumberDocket No. 83171
Citation382 N.W.2d 842,147 Mich.App. 658
PartiesIn the Matter of David Allan RIFFE and Charles Leon Riffe, Jr., Minors, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Shirley RIFFE, Respondent-Appellant, and Charles L. Riffe, Respondent.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Christopher S. Boyd, Pros. Atty., and Christopher A. Picard, Asst. Pros. Atty., Saginaw, for petitioner-appellee.

O'Farrell, Basner, Smith & Popielarz (by Donald T. Popielarz), Saginaw, for respondent-appellant Shirley Riffe.

John L. Denton, Saginaw, for minor children.

Before J.H. GILLIS, P.J., and CYNAR and EVANS, * JJ.

CYNAR, Judge.

Respondent Shirley Riffe appeals as of right from the probate court's order terminating her parental rights in her two minor sons pursuant to M.C.L. Sec. 712A.19a(e); M.S.A. Sec. 27.3178 (598.19a)(e). Respondent Charles L. Riffe has not appealed the order terminating his parental rights. We affirm.

Respondents are the parents of two boys, David Allan Riffe, born in 1983, and Charles L. Riffe, Jr., born in 1982. On August 20, 1984, the Saginaw Valley Department of Social Services (DSS) filed a petition alleging that the probate court had jurisdiction over the minor child David pursuant to M.C.L. Sec. 712A.2(b); M.S.A. Sec. 27.3178(598.2)(b). On August 24, 1984, a petition was filed alleging that the probate court should execise jurisdiction over both of the minor children of the parties, Charles, Jr., and David, for the following reasons:

"A. On 05-18-84 David Allan Riffe was diagnosed a 'failure to thrive' child.

"B. Said parents failed to bring David in for his scheduled doctor's appointment on 06-04-84 thereby jeopardizing his health and well-being and also failed to reschedule another appointment with the doctor.

"C. David's present height and weight measurements are below the chart for normal development.

"D. David's weight has severely dropped.

"E. On 08-24-84 Charles had a severe urine burn in which both the penis and testicles were red.

"F. On 05-25-80, a petition was filed in Saginaw County Probate Court by Kathryn Morley, alleging that Rosalie Marie McKinnon, said child of Shirley Riffe, was the victim of neglect and, on 07-16-80 Rosalie Marie McKinnon was adjudicated a temporary ward of the Court under neglect jurisdiction and not returned to the care of the mother."

A temporary order of care was entered for David on September 5, 1984, and he was placed in foster care.

On October 8, 1984, a further petition was filed with respect to Charles, Jr., alleging:

"Said parents neglect to provide proper support and necessary care and said child is deprived of his emotional well-being.

"A. On 10-06-84 a physical confrontation occurred within the home over how said child should be disciplined, thereby placing the child in danger.

"B. On 10-06-84 said child was found wearing extremely dirty clothing and had very poor personal hygiene.

"Said home by reason of cruelty is an unfit place for said child to live in.

"C. On 10-06-84 Charles, Jr. was found to have old bruises and fresh welts on the buttocks, lower back, and upper thighs."

An order of temporary care was entered on October 8, 1984, placing Charles, Jr., in the care and custody of the Saginaw Child Receiving Home and he too was eventually placed in foster care.

A hearing was held in probate court on November 28, 1984, on the various petitions. A tentative agreement had been worked out between DSS and the respondents whereby the department would recommend that the probate court take temporary wardship of both children if respondent Shirley Riffe would enter into a parenting agreement with the department with the understanding that she would eventually be allowed to regain custody of the children if her situation improved. Respondent father pleaded no contest to the charges and indicated he would give up any rights he had in the children. Respondent mother indicated, however, that some of the allegations in the petition were false and that she desired to go to trial. At that point, counsel for respondent Charles Riffe pointed out to the court that he had originally represented both parties. Separate counsel had been subsequently appointed for respondent Shirley Riffe because she and respondent Charles Riffe had separated. Counsel for respondent Charles Riffe was allowed to withdraw because of the potential conflict of interest. Therefore, because respondent Charles Riffe was without counsel, the hearing was adjourned to a later date.

The hearing resumed January 22, 1985, with new counsel representing Charles Riffe. As a preliminary matter, counsel for respondent Shirley Riffe moved to strike allegation (F) of the first petition which alleged that a daughter of Shirley Riffe, Rosalie Marie McKinnon, had been made a temporary ward of the court on July 16, 1980, under neglect jurisdiction and had not been returned to the care of her mother. The trial court ruled that allegations of prior neglect of other children of a parent are properly considered by a trial court in neglect cases. The court then proceeded with the adjudicative phase of the juvenile hearing.

Respondent Charles Riffe admitted allegations (A) through (F) of the August 24, 1984, petition and allegations (A) and (B) of the petition filed on November 8, 1984. However, as respondent Shirley Riffe continued to contest the truth of the allegations, several witnesses were called.

Dr. David Booth testified that David, diagnosed as a failure-to-thrive child, had been scheduled for an office visit with him on June 4, 1984, but the appointment had not been kept. When he finally saw 10-month-old David on August 13, 1984, his height and weight were below the 5th percentile and he had received none of the appropriate immunizations normally administered to children. From August 13 to September 19, 1984, David was resident of the child receiving home. Dr. Booth saw David again on September 19, 1984. During the intervening period, David had gained two pounds, 10 ounces, and his weight was at or slightly above the 5th percentile and his height slightly below that percentile. When last seen by Dr. Booth on January 17, 1985, David's weight had increased to the 10th percentile and his height to the 25th percentile. The increases indicated to Dr. Booth that originally David's growth was not within the normal growth range for David, and that since his placement in a more nurturing environment of a foster home he had done extraordinarily well. Dr. Booth concluded that David's failure to thrive was the result of a poor home situation and that a combination of emotional and physical neglect had been responsible for David's failure to thrive.

Officer Cheryl Courtney, a member of the Saginaw Township Police Department, testified that on October 6, 1984, she and two other officers were dispatched to the Riffe home to handle a family dispute. Respondent Charles Riffe and his half-brother David Ozark had been in a fight, apparently because Ozark objected to the way respondent Charles had disciplined Charles, Jr., age 15 months. Both respondents were living in the home along with Joanne Edwards, respondent Charles Riffe's girlfriend, David Ozark, respondent Shirley Riffe's boyfriend, and Lea McKinnon, respondent Shirley Riffe's mother. Officer Courtney testified that Charles Jr., was bruised and dirty, especially his feet, and all parties, including respondents, agreed that Charles, Jr., would be better off if he were removed from the home. Officer Courtney took the child to Saginaw General Hospital for treatment and made arrangements with probate court officials to take Charles, Jr., to Saginaw County Child Receiving Home.

Dr. Clare Johnson testified that he treated Charles, Jr., at Saginaw General Hospital after he was brought to the hospital by police officers. He reported that Charles, Jr., had several fresh bruises across the buttocks area as well as some older bruises in the same area and on the top portion of the buttocks. The child was not "awfully dirty" when treated, but rather "medium dirty".

Rita Brown, a registered nurse at Saginaw County Child Receiving Home, examined Charles, Jr., on August 21, 1984, the day after he had been removed from the Riffe home. She reported that he had a diaper rash, a rash under his neck and chin, was below weight and length for his age, and had low hemoglobin. She also reported that Charles, Jr., gained three-quarters of a pound in two days and that when he left on August 29, the rash had cleared up.

Marilyn Schreiner, an employee at Mid-Michigan Child Care Center at the First Congregational Church, testified that David came to the center on July 23, 1984. At that time he was 14 months of age. He attended the center for less than a month, only once or twice each week. However, he was so dirty when he first arrived that she bathed him. On July 23, she sent a new bottle home for him since the one he had brought was "black" and the nipple was wrapped with hair, and "there was green slime all over the nipple". She occasionally saw Charles, Jr., who was kept cleaner than David. On August 24, 1984, she observed that David's genital area was covered with a urine burn "like he had been in a Pamper maybe all weekend because he was so raw".

Respondent Shirley Riffe testified that she regularly fed David three meals a day and that she never beat him. However, she objected to the way respondent Charles Riffe disciplined Charles, Jr., although she was afraid to do anything about it for fear he would hit her and place her in the hospital, as he had done in the past. Neither of the parties worked, and their daily routine was to split up the care of the children, respondent Charles Riffe being primarily responsible for the care of Charles, Jr., and respondent Shirley Riffe being primarily responsible for the care of David. Respondent Shirley Riffe...

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  • Jacobs, In re, Docket Nos. 83035
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • August 1, 1989
    ...and (C)(1), a court's exercise of jurisdiction must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. See, e.g., In re Riffe, supra, 147 Mich.App. at p. 669, 382 N.W.2d 842. In the instant case, however, because the children are members of the Chippewa Tribe, the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25......
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    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • May 31, 1988
    ...(citing Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335, 96 S.Ct. 893, 903, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 [1976] ). [167 MICHAPP 725] In In re Riffe, 147 Mich.App. 658, 669-670, 382 N.W.2d 842 (1985), lv. den. 424 Mich. 904 (1986), this Court recognized that the "preponderance of the evidence" standard applies to a......
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    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • August 15, 1986
    ...refusal to give a required jury instruction would constitute an "erroneous exercise of jurisdiction".3 But see In the Matter of Riffe, 147 Mich.App. 658, 382 N.W.2d 842 (1985), wherein testimony of the history of the parents' own neglect and abuse as children was given. 147 Mich.App. 667-66......
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    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • August 29, 1988
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