from the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County No. 15-JV-1825
Tim Barnes, Judge
appeal concerns termination of a mother's parental
rights. The Tennessee
of Children's Services ("DCS") filed a petition
in the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County ("the
Juvenile Court") seeking to terminate the parental
rights of Autumn N. ("Mother") to her minor child,
Dillon E. ("the Child"). The central issue of this
parental rights case is Mother's alleged prescription
drug abuse. After a trial, the Juvenile Court found that four
grounds were proven against Mother sufficient to terminate
her parental rights to the Child, and that termination of her
parental rights was in the Child's best
interest. Mother appeals the termination of her
parental rights to this Court. DCS argues that the Juvenile
Court erred in declining to find one additional ground for
termination. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Elizabeth D. Rankin, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Autumn N.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and,
M. Cameron Himes, Assistant Attorney General, for the
appellee, the Tennessee Department of Children's
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which W. Neal McBrayer and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.
MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE
Child was born to Mother in July 2004. In March 2013, the
Child was taken into DCS custody following an incident where
Mother, after having taken prescription drugs, was found
passed out in a vehicle at a Taco Bell parking lot with the
Child as a passenger in the car. Mother was charged with DUI,
a charge that later was dismissed. DCS filed a petition for
dependency and neglect. The Child subsequently was found to
be dependent and neglected. Mother requested that an Aunt
care for the Child, but DCS apparently contacted the wrong
person, a mistake Mother cites in her argument on appeal. The
Child remained with the state. In June 2015, DCS filed a
petition seeking to terminate Mother's parental rights to
the Child. The case was tried over the course of several days
in December 2015, and January and March of 2016.
testified that she visited the Child whenever she was
permitted. Mother stated that DCS was difficult to
communicate with and, at times, ignored her calls.
Mother's visitations with the Child often were marked by
problems such as Mother dozed off or her speech was slurred.
Mother testified that during the applicable four-month
period, she worked at the Sportman's Bar and earned $150
per week. Mother had attempted to obtain disability income
but had been unsuccessful. Mother testified that she gave the
Child various gifts including a Lego set worth $100,
clothing, and toys. Mother also made a single child support
payment of $85.64 in November 2014, even though she was
required by order to pay $339 per month. The evidence
reflects that earlier Mother paid $1, 075 per month for her
prescription medication in Clarksville. Mother later had her
prescriptions filled for $275 per month in Paris, Tennessee.
In the relevant four month period, Mother purchased
approximately $2, 000 worth of prescription drugs.
second caseworker, Cotrena Jones, never visited Mother's
home unannounced because she did not feel safe around Mother.
Nevertheless, certain of DCS's permanency plans reflected
that Mother had provided a good home. Mother gave up her
housing to go to a rehab center called Renewal House.
According to Mother, a DCS caseworker then told her they no
longer wanted her to attend that program, and Mother was left
without a home. The DCS caseworker contradicted that account,
stating instead that Mother was evicted from her home.
suffered from back problems which led to her taking
prescription drugs. Mother testified that she completed all
of the requirements of her first permanency plan, including
having a suitable home, a job, and visiting the Child. Mother
attended rehab at Genesis Rehabilitation in Kentucky. Mother,
however, stopped providing pill counts to DCS after a DCS
worker allegedly dropped Mother's pills on a bathroom
floor. Mother testified:
Q. Were you making your pills available for pill counts?
A. Yes, until they dropped them all over the floor.
Q. Excuse me?
A. Yes, I did, until they dropped them all over the floor and
they went everywhere.
Q. Who dropped them all over the floor? Could you explain
A. She was counting my pills and dropped --
Q. Who is "she"?
A. I'm trying to think of who it was. I've had so
many caseworkers. Whoever the caseworker was at this time.
Q. At which time?
A. At the time of this permanency plan.
Q. Of this second permanency plan?
A. I believe so.
Q. Okay. So what did the caseworker at this time allegedly do
with your pills?
A. Dropped them.
A. They went everywhere.
Q. Okay. Did you recover them? Did you pick them up?
A. As best as I could.
Q. Okay. And from that point --
A. Hopefully nobody else found them, a child or anything. I
Q. So from that point forward, you never again provided your
pills for DCS to - -
A. Not really, no. That's the only thing I didn't do.
Q. And why not?
A. Because I was probably missing some. I don't remember
at the time if I was missing pills when she dropped them or
worker at trial corroborated that the pill dropping incident
ever took place. Mother denied she had a problem with
prescription drugs. However, Mother testified that when she
does not take her medication, she gets the shakes, hot and
cold sweats, and cannot move. DCS workers testified to
various excuses Mother made for refusing drug tests: she did
not have a ride; she could not walk because of a bad knee;
even that a spider bit her.
Brown, a family service worker for DCS, testified:
Q. From the time that this permanency plan - the new
permanency plan from August 2014 was created until you
transferred the case in January of 2015, what efforts did you
make to assist [Mother] to comply with those tasks?
A. For her outpatient to meet the terms of following the
recommendations of her release from Genesis. I requested
funding for intensive outpatient with Health Connect, and it
Q. Did [Mother] attend?
Q. Was she made aware that you had obtained funding for that?
Q. Do you have any idea why she didn't attend that?
A. Initially, she was happy to do it, but when we left court
one day and I was talking to her about it, she had
reservations about why she did not want to do it. To her --
she explained to me that she felt that, you know, she had
completed inpatient and she should not be required to do
Q. And during this time period, did you continue to conduct
the random drug screens?
A. Yes, I did try to.
Q. Okay. And I'm sorry if I've already asked this.
Was she compliant with drug screens on a regular basis?
Q. And what efforts did you make to conduct those drugs --
those drug screens?
A. I called her by phone; I went to the house; I, you know,
explained that I could transport her to the office, ...