Session Date April 15, 2015.
Direct Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Hamilton County Nos. 259929, 259930, 259931, 259932, 259933, 259934, 259935 Robert D. Philyaw, Judge.
David Christopher Veazey, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Chad S.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Paul Jordan Scott, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
John Allen Brooks, Guardian Ad Litem.
Brandon O. Gibson, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.
BRANDON O. GIBSON, JUDGE.
Chad S. ("Father") and Ellen B. ("Mother") are the biological parents of the seven minor children at issue in this case, Kalob S. (born in 2001), Elijah S. (born in 2003), Gabriel S. (born in 2005), Noah S. (born in 2006), Ariel S. (born in 2007), Amaila S. (born in 2009), and Abigail S. (born in 2011). Although the trial court terminated the parental rights of Mother, in addition to those of Father, only Father appeals to this Court.
Since early 2012, all seven children have been in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services ("DCS"). On February 22, 2012, the children were removed from Mother's home and taken into protective custody. At the time of removal, Mother was incarcerated, facing probation violation charges for domestic violence, and Father was facing charges for cocaine possession for resale, aggravated domestic assault, and domestic vandalism. The juvenile court awarded temporary custody of the children to DCS on February 23, 2012, and the children have remained in foster care since that date.
The juvenile court later adjudicated the children dependent and neglected, finding that both parents had significant drug and domestic violence issues. In fact, drug abuse and violence seemed to plague the family's home. Not only did Father admit to using marijuana, cocaine, and prescription drugs, but he also allowed Kalob, his oldest son, to accompany him when he sold drugs. Before he was eleven years old, Kalob was also using marijuana. Mother and Father regularly committed acts of violence against each other, and violence was also directed towards the children. The children described instances of receiving beatings from both parents. Gabriel also described Father throwing him down the stairs on one occasion.
In addition to the drug and violence issues, the children described being scared, cold, and hungry while living with Mother and Father. When taken into protective custody, Amaila had developed a nervous habit of pulling her hair out; Ariel, at four years old, would swear and use inappropriate language; and Abigail, at just seven months old, was very underweight. Additionally, Noah described being locked in a laundry room with only a bag of potato chips after asking for food, and the boys said they had to sleep on the floor, with piles of clothes to keep them warm. Moreover, the children missed months of school, forcing Noah to repeat a grade.
The children also indicated that they were afraid to return home and that they were nervous about where they are going to be placed. Noah had nightmares for months when he thought he would have to return home. Even Abigail, the youngest child, had night terrors after the last visits with her parents. The boys stated that they did not want to return to Mother or Father because they did not want to be hungry anymore.
Following the removal of the children, DCS developed a series of three permanency plans dated March 9, 2012, April 30, 2013, and March 12, 2014. Among other things, the permanency plans required Father to be alcohol and drug free, abide by the terms of his probation sentence, refrain from incurring any new legal charges, maintain contact with DCS, obtain legal and verifiable income, provide a safe and stable home, and participate in counseling for grief and domestic violence. DCS provided Father with referrals for counseling and parenting classes, facilitated visits for the parents and children, and attempted to obtain Father a furniture voucher. Additionally, a DCS-contracted counselor provided Father counseling on domestic violence, anger management, and grief and helped to develop and strengthen his parenting skills. Father initially cooperated with DCS by completing an outpatient drug program and following the recommendations of his treatment providers. ...