Assigned on Briefs August 5, 2014
Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Maury County No. 90576, 90577 George L. Lovell, Judge
Mark A. Free, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vanessa G.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Mary Byrd Ferrara, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services
W. NEAL MCBRAYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which FRANK G. CLEMENT, JR., P.J., M.S., and ANDY D. BENNETT, J., joined
W. NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
I. Factual and Procedural Background
This case concerns the termination of the parental rights of Vanessa G. ("Mother") to her child, Carrington H. By the time this matter came on for trial, Carrington's family had been receiving services from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services ("DCS") for over ten years. Shortly before Carrington's birth in 2004, the juvenile court found his five siblings to be dependent and neglected. Despite a finding that, at the time of removal, the home "was in such a condition as to make it unsafe and unsanitary for the children to reside there, " the children were allowed to remain in the home with Mother and their father, Christopher H. ("Father").
Soon after his birth, DCS placed Carrington and his siblings in protective custody. On January 6, 2006, the juvenile court found probable cause to determine that the children were dependent and neglected. The juvenile court granted physical custody to the children's maternal aunt and maternal grandmother. Mother was granted supervised visitation with the four oldest children every weekend and with Carrington and another sibling every other weekend. The court later returned the children to Father's custody and suspended Mother's visitation for a period of time.
On July 13, 2007, DCS filed a petition to adjudicate dependency and neglect based on allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by Mother. The juvenile court suspended all visitation between Mother and children on August 8, 2007. Mother waived the adjudicatory hearing, and the court ordered that the children would remain in the custody of Father, who by this time was divorced from Mother.
At some later date, not specified in the record, Mother regained her visitation privileges. However, following a review that took place in November 2009, the juvenile court ordered that Mother have no contact or visitation with her children until such time as they "on their own volition, request such visitation."
Carrington and the other children were removed from Father's custody on December 18, 2009, following allegations of child abuse by Father. Three days later, DCS filed yet another petition to adjudicate the children dependent and neglected. On September 8, 2011, Father pleaded guilty to child abuse. Ultimately, the children were found to be dependent and neglected and ordered to remain in DCS custody. The court ratified the last permanency plan for Carrington's family on December 1, 2011.
On October 24, 2013, DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother's and Father's parental rights. The Maury County Juvenile Court conducted a one-day trial on December 20, 2013. In support of its petition, DCS presented four witnesses: (1) a counselor service worker for the Department of Human Services; (2) Ms. Elysse Beasley, Mother's psychotherapist; (3) Mother's therapist at Centerstone; and (4) Mr. Richard Walker, Carrington's clinical social worker. Mother did not put on any proof.
On February 27, 2014, the juvenile court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights to Carrington. As grounds for termination, the juvenile court found that Mother: (1) failed to substantially comply with the reasonable requirements in the permanency plan; (2) failed to remedy the conditions that led to the child's removal or other conditions that, in all reasonable probability, would subject the child to further abuse and neglect; and (3) was incompetent to adequately provide for the further care and supervision of the child ...