Assigned on Briefs December 10, 2014
Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Knox County No. 51735 Tim Irwin, Judge
Anne Greer, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lori D.F.P.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; and Ryan L. McGehee, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John W. McClarty, and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.
D. Michael Swiney, Judge
The Child was born drug exposed in February of 2013. He was removed from Mother's custody and placed in foster care in March of 2013. DCS filed the petition seeking to terminate Mother's parental rights to the Child on February 25, 2014, and the case proceeded to trial in October of 2014. The parental rights of the Child's legal father were terminated prior to trial, and the Child's biological father was deceased. The Child's biological father died of a drug overdose. The Child was approximately nineteen months old at the time of trial and had been in the same foster home since he entered State custody.
Brianna Monroe testified that she had been the Child's DCS case manager since the Child entered foster care in March of 2013. Ms. Monroe testified that Mother had five children, four of whom were living at the time of trial. The three oldest of Mother's children were living with their great-grandparents. The fourth child had been born drug exposed, discharged from the hospital to Mother's care, and died in October of 2010. After the death of their sibling, Mother's three oldest children were removed from Mother's care and placed with their great-grandparents. The Child is the youngest of Mother's children.
Ms. Monroe testified that in November of 2011, Mother appeared to be doing well and further testified that Mother "had completed the requirements that are asked of her with her mental health assessment and she was doing fine. She reported that she wasn't on Methadone." Mother testified in court at that time that she was not using methadone.
The Child was born drug exposed in February of 2013 and tested positive for methadone and benzos. Ms. Monroe testified that even though Mother had testified she was not using methadone, Mother had been using methadone continuously. Ms. Monroe was asked how the Child has done with regard to being born drug exposed, and she stated:
[The Child] has done okay. He is thriving in his current foster home. But there are concerns - - there have been concerns with possible seizures in terms of being - - they are currently concerned with his growth. He is having to see a neurologist, a GI doctor, a nutritionist. They were able to rule out seizures. I think he still has an appointment for a follow-up there. He is seeing a GI regularly.
A permanency plan was developed for the Child in April of 2013 ("the Plan"). Pursuant to the Plan, Mother was to obtain and maintain stable housing, remain law abiding, obtain an A&D assessment and follow all recommendations, submit to random drug screens, follow all previous orders regarding her participation in methadone clinics, and pay child support, among other things. Mother reported to Ms. Monroe that she was working. Mother made a child support payment in October of 2013 and an IRS intercept was made in February of 2014 for child support.
Mother completed an alcohol and drug assessment with Solution Source in July of 2013. The assessment recommended that Mother continue compliance with her methadone treatment, medication management, case management and therapy, and individual therapy. DCS paid for Mother to have therapy at Solution Source. Ms. Monroe testified that Mother "complied [with the therapy] minimally and was discharged noncompliant September 26th, 2013."
Mother was to continue with her methadone program and develop a weaning plan. Ms. Monroe testified that Mother did so initially, but that Mother quit the methadone clinic at the end of November of 2013. Mother was working on stepping down her drug use when she was in the methadone program. Mother reported that she was attending NA meetings. Ms. Monroe asked Mother for documentation of this attendance, but did not receive anything until a few days before trial.
In March or April of 2014, after the Juvenile Court released DCS from making reasonable efforts, Ms. Monroe received a call from Solution Source asking if DCS would again pay for Mother's treatment. Solution Source reported that Mother was noncompliant with therapy in September of 2013 and noncompliant with case management in January of 2014.
Ms. Monroe testified that she drug screened Mother during the four months prior to trial. Ms. Monroe testified that Mother cooperated with three of the drug tests, and failed to cooperate with three other drug tests. Mother tested positive for methadone at a court hearing on December 10, 2013. Mother had a clean drug screen a few days later on December 13, 2013, and then tested positive for methadone again at her next drug screen on December 18, 2013.
Since December 10, 2013, Ms. Monroe has attempted to drug screen Mother four times. One of those times Ms. Monroe went to Mother's home to drug test Mother and Mother told her that she was about to call a cab to go to the ER because she was ill. Ms. Monroe gave Mother a ride to the ER and did not drug screen her on that day. On April 7, 2014, Ms. Monroe called and texted Mother requesting that Mother come in for a drug test. Mother responded to the text with a text message stating "hey, " but did not appear for testing. Mother failed to show up for a drug screen on April 29, 2014. Ms. Monroe testified that she had spoken to Mother, but Mother failed to show up. Ms. Monroe was able to drug screen Mother three times during this time period. On one of those drug screens, Mother tested positive for benzos, and did produce a prescription pill bottle.
The Child entered foster care in March of 2013. During the time the Child has been in foster care, Mother was drug tested with the following results:
On May 10, 2013, Mother tested positive for cocaine, benzos, opiates, and methadone.
On July 25, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone, for which she had a prescription.
On August 15, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone.
On September 23, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone.
On October 9, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone.
On October 30, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone.
On December 10, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone.
On December 13, 2013, Mother had a clean drug screen.
On December 18, 2013, Mother tested positive for methadone.
On January 15, 2014, Mother had a clean drug screen.
On February 4, 2014, Ms. Monroe took Mother to the ER and was unable to drug test Mother.
On April 7, 2014, Ms. Monroe received the "hey" text in response to her request for Mother to submit to a drug test, and Mother did not appear for testing.
On April 11, 2014, Mother had a clean drug screen.
On April 29, 2014, Mother failed to respond to the request for a drug test.
On May 13, 2014, Mother tested positive for benzos and produced a prescription.
On June 23, 2014, Mother had a clean drug screen.
Ms. Monroe testified that Mother received new criminal charges in Anderson County in September of 2013 and was arrested in Knox County in March of 2014. Neither of these arrests involved child support.
Liz Priode testified that she is an in-home counselor with Camelot Care Center, a therapeutic foster care agency. Ms. Priode sees the Child in the foster home or at medical appointments at least once a week and does visitation with Mother. Ms. Priode testified that:
[The Child] had many issues, which the foster parents could even elaborate on that. Of course he was born addicted, which he was on medications to help him get through that. He has weekly [Tennessee Early Intervention Services], which Ms. Monroe mentioned. He has had a lot of nutritional problems.
When asked about the Child's nutritional problems, Ms. Priode stated: "He was on the low scale and had - - I mean, he had many nutritional issues because of the developmental delays with the drug abuse." Ms. Priode testified that the Child has some special dietary needs and is allergic to milk.
The Child's foster mother ("Foster Mom") testified at trial. She explained that her household consists of her, her husband, her two sons who are 15 and 9 years old, and five foster children who are 8 years old, 5 years old, 2 years old, 17 months old, and 9 months old. Foster Mom testified that she and her husband are prepared to adopt the Child if he becomes available for adoption.
Foster Mom was asked how they handle all the children in her household, and she stated:
Everybody has a buddy. The two newest ones [the 2 year old and the 9 month old] just came in Friday night, so we are adjusting a little bit. But every big kid has a little kid buddy. [The Child's] buddy is actually my 15-year-old. That seems to be who he would rather be a buddy with than anybody else. So he gets him out of the car, walks him in to wherever we are ...