Assigned on Briefs November 1, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Jackson County No. 2016-JV-70
Tiffany Gentry Gipson, Judge.
appeal concerns termination of a father's parental
rights. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services
("DCS") filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for
Jackson County ("the Juvenile Court") seeking to
terminate the parental rights of Craig M.
("Father") to his three minor children
Da'Vante, Brandon, and Leaddra ("the
Children"). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered
an order terminating Father's parental rights on the
grounds of failure to provide a suitable home, substantial
noncompliance with the permanency plans, and persistent
conditions. The Juvenile Court also found that
termination of Father's parental rights is in the
Children's best interest. Father appeals to this Court.
We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
M. Judkins, Smithville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Craig
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and
Jordan K. Crews, Assistant Attorney General, for the
appellee, the Tennessee Department of Children's
L. O'Regan, Guardian Ad Litem. 
Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Andy D. Bennett and Kenny W. Armstrong, JJ., joined.
MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE.
2013, allegations arose concerning sexual abuse of Leaddra by
her maternal grandfather, Charles C.
("Grandfather"). At a court hearing in Warren
County, Father agreed to protect the Children from
Grandfather. Despite Father's agreement, DCS received a
referral in July 2015 alleging that Grandfather was living
with Father and the Children. DCS explained to Father that he
must keep Grandfather away from the Children. Not long
thereafter, a Tennessee State Trooper stopped to help a
vehicle with a flat tire. The vehicle contained Father, the
Children, Grandfather, and a convicted sex offender. The
Children were removed from Father's home and entered
state custody on July 17, 2015.
December 2015, the Juvenile Court adjudicated the Children
dependent and neglected. Permanency plans were developed for
Father. Among other things, the permanency plans required
Father to obtain suitable housing and follow mental health
recommendations. DCS planned specialized training for Father.
These efforts stopped when Father failed to sign a release.
In December 2015 and March 2016, Father completed
psychological and parenting assessments. The first assessment
stated, in part: "[Father] lacks understanding of his
current treatment regimen and the test results indicate he
has poor insight into his own thought processes and
behaviors." The second assessment stated that Father
would require specialized training in order to successfully
be reunited with the Children. Father never completed the
recommendations of the assessments. Father worked at Hardees
and Sonic, earning $7.75 per hour at both jobs. As of trial,
Father had not visited the Children since June 2016. Father
had lived in a trailer in Jackson County until March 2016.
Father then moved in with friends in McMinnville.
Children initially were placed in the same foster home.
However, Leaddra subsequently was placed in a different home
because she needed special treatment. In September 2016, DCS
filed a petition seeking to terminate Father's parental
rights to the Children. This case was tried in February 2017.
Snedaker ("Snedaker"), a family service worker who
worked on the Children's case, testified as follows:
Q. Did [Father], you provided reasonable efforts, you just
testified to, did [Father] provide reasonable efforts to
establish a suitable home during the time period of July
18th, 2015, to November 18th, 2015?
A. During that time, the physical home environment that he
was in was suitable; however, at that point, at the point of
the children's removal, it was not suitable in the sense
that [Grandfather] was residing with him at the time of the
removal. And then, there were psychological evaluations and
things that needed to be completed during that time to ensure
that the safety of the children would be maintained if they
were returned to his care.
Q. Now, who is [Grandfather]?
A. [Grandfather] is the children's maternal grandfather,
Q. And why was he an issue to return the children with him
being in the home?
A. The initial referral came into the Child Safety Office,
stating that [Grandfather] was residing in the home with
[Father] and the children. And back in 2013, there had been
substantiated report in Warren County of sexual abuse by
[Grandfather] against Leaddra [M.].
Q. And that would not be a safe environment --
Q. -- to return those four children? Excuse me, those three
Q. And why was it necessary for [Father] to complete a
psychology assessment and recommendations?
A. It was necessary in that CPSI Ramsey, as well as other
staff at DCS, had indicated to [Father] that [Grandfather]
could not be around the children. That there would be an
additional restraining order filed and that he was not
permitted to be near the children. That was reiterated
several times. Late, the evening of a child and family team
meeting, where that was reiterated, they were, [Father] was
in White County, there was a tire blow out in the vehicle
that they were in, and when a Tennessee State Trooper pulled
over or pulled over to assist them, it was found that
[Father], [Grandfather] and the three children, as well as
another convicted sex offender were in the vehicle.
Q. So, was there reason to believe that he wasn't
understanding the need to protect the children or --
A. That's correct.
Q. What were the conditions that led to the removal of the
children from the home? And if you aren't familiar, I can
ask Pam Ramsey, since she was the worker. But if you are
familiar and have personal knowledge of it --
A. The children were removed from the home, because they were
exposed to a known, to a, an individual who had previously
substantiated charges of sex abuse of the, against one of the
Q. And what are the conditions today that prevent the
children from being returned to [Father's] home?
A. [Father], at this point, does not have suitable housing
for the children and has not completed the steps of the
cross-examination, Snedaker testified:
Q. Okay. On subsection C, you swore under oath, that you, he
reviewed the criteria and procedure for termination of
parental rights. You've reviewed that with him; is that
A. That was done at the initial permanency plan meeting, and
his former attorney, Mr. Hoeppner, was actually there for
that as well.
Q. Okay. Were you, were you there?
Q. My question is, how does that help him get a home,
reviewing the criteria for termination of parental rights?
A. How does the criteria help him --
A. -- get a home?
Q. Yeah, basically y'all are stating that he failed to
establish a suitable home in the first four months. I'm
wanting to know how review criteria for TPR relates to that.
A. Well, I would say that it makes him aware of the need to
have a suitable home. That criteria is something that gets
reviewed with all of the parents who have children in DCS
custody. And it goes over the reasons that rights could
potentially be terminated. And not having a suitable home
falls under, something that was listed in the permanency
plan. And noncompliance with the permanency plan is in the
Q. Okay. But you testified earlier that he's a man who
has trouble, basically remembering things or keeping, keeping
track of tasks; is that correct?
A. In my experience, yes.
Q. Okay. Okay. You've got, you've got offering and
providing the parent transportation, confirming that he has
reliable transportation. You've got that listed twice,
but -- all right. How many times did you contact him to
reschedule mental health appointments?
A. Mental health appointments or appointments through Scott
Q. Well, through Scott Herman and through any offender
A. The initial appointment, he attended his intake on October
27th. That appointment he did make. I had to reschedule the
November appointment for the psychological assessment. I
spoke with him about that. And that was rescheduled for the
three December dates. Then, he was informed by myself as well
as Centerstone, at that time, there was a worker through
Centerstone who was working with [Father] and the family, who
spoke with him about that January 7th parenting assessment. I
was in the home on January the 5th, prior to, two days prior
to that appointment and we had discussed that appointment.
And then, I had to reschedule that appointment for the March
17th date, because he, the time frame, I guess [Father] got
the timing wrong of that appointment on the 7th. He indicated
that he thought it was scheduled for eleven o'clock and
it had been scheduled for eight o'clock. So, but he did
make that appointment on March 17th.
Q. All right. So, he was able to do that for himself? To
make, to schedule the appointment for himself?
A. Well, he was able to attend the appointment that was, was
A. I actually did the scheduling of the appointment with the
Mr. Herman's office.
Q. Okay. There were a couple of things that Mr. Herman
suggested that I haven't heard much on, and I'll ask
them to you. Mr. Herman suggested that he receive specialized
training and offender training. Tell me how you went about
setting that up.
A. Well, those dates that were scheduled in December that
ended up needing to be utilized for assessment times were
appointment times that had been scheduled for that
non-offender training. When I spoke with Mr. Herman
subsequent to the completion of all of [Father's]
evaluations, those being the psychologicals in December, as
well as the parenting assessment in March, when I came back
and resumed working with the family and on the case in April,
I had contacted Mr. Herman and at, he indicated to me when I
contacted him that due to scheduling, he wouldn't be able
to do the non-offender training for [Father] and that I
should look for another provider to do that. I did reach out
to other providers in Cookeville. I wasn't able to obtain
another provider in Cookeville, and at that point [Father]
had relocated to McMinnville, which is when I reached out to
the provider at Cheer to try to find out if they could
provide that service to him.
key witness at trial was Father himself. Father testified
regarding his efforts in the case as follows, in part:
Q. All right. All right. Let's talk about, once DCS got
involved in your life, what did, you know, they have asked
you to do a lot of things, have they not?
A. (Nodded head affirmatively.)
Q. Okay. Could you, tell us why you haven't been able to
do those things.
A. Well, because of some of the financial situations that
I've had in the past.
Q. Okay. Let, let's fast forward to the, before the,
before they filed their petition. Did you stay in contact
with Ms. Snedaker?
A. I tried to as much as possible, yes, sir. I tried to as
much as possible. But due to some complications, my minutes
on my phones were limited. I did still have unlimited
texting. I tried when I could.
A. Everything, like I said, you know, I was working a lot and
I had more on me than I could handle, because I was trying to
work and trying to do what they was trying to do at the same
time. And I just feel like I was, had a build up on me, you
know. But I was still trying to do what I was trying to do.
Trying to work and trying to do what they tried to tell me to
do all at the same time, you know.
Q. Could, could you do it? I mean, did they help you -- do
you feel like they helped you?
A. I feel like the help was limited, because DCS in
McMinnville, Carolyn made me understand a lot more things,
and help with more provider services than they did down here.
The services down here was limited, but they didn't do
exactly what they was supposed to, is the way that I feel
about the situation. Now, they said --
Q. You state you felt like you got good services in
A. I feel, yes, I did, because when it comes to a point that
I was down, and I explained to the DCS services about the
financial situation that we were in, they recommend other
services like places that could have helped me out.
Q. You love, do you love your ...