People in the Interest of D.M.F.D.
2021 COA 95. No. 20CA2005. Dependency and Neglect—Adjudicatory Hearing—Hearsay—Preponderance of the Evidence.
July 8, 2021
The Human Services Department of the City and County of Denver (Department) filed a petition in dependency and neglect when the child was 6 days old. The juvenile court held an adjudicatory hearing at which Department employees testified regarding observations, statements, and conclusions of the hospital personnel. The Department also attempted to prove its case through father’s criminal history. It did not call any hospital personnel to testify. At the end of the hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected.
Father contended on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to support the juvenile court’s findings and determination that the child was dependent and neglected. At an adjudicatory hearing, a department of social services must show by a preponderance of the evidence that a child is dependent or neglected. A juvenile court cannot base its determination that a child is dependent or neglected on hearsay or other evidence that, in response to a parent’s objections, the court admitted for a limited purpose other than for the truth of the matter asserted. Further, nothing in the Children’s Code provides that a child may be found dependent or neglected solely because the child’s parent has criminal convictions or faces criminal charges.
Here, the juvenile court recognized that the testimony of the Department’s employees was inadmissible hearsay and it admitted that testimony, over father’s objection, solely for its effect on the listener, expressly stating it was not admitting such evidence for the truth of the matter asserted. The court also limited the admission of other evidence solely to establish that the Department’s experts relied on it in forming their opinions. It thus based its determination on hearsay or other evidence not admitted for the truth of the matter asserted. Further, its findings did not show a link between the statutory factors addressing whether a child is dependent or neglected and father’s convictions and pending charges. Accordingly, the juvenile court’s findings were insufficient to support its conclusion that the child was dependent and neglected.
The adjudicatory judgment was reversed.