Assigned on Briefs November 1, 2017
from the Juvenile Court for Overton County No. 16-JV-122
Diana F. Monroe, Judge
appeals the termination of her parental rights. Because the
trial court failed to provide a rationale for its decision
and the final order entered by the trial court is nearly a
verbatim recitation of the termination petition, we vacate
the order of the trial court and remand for the entry of an
order that reflects that it is the product of the trial
court's individualized decision-making and independent
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile
Court Vacated and Remanded
William A. Camerson, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Miranda B.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; W.
Derek Green, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee,
Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C, J., and Andy D.
Bennett, J., joined.
STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE
2015, the child was born to Respondent/Appellant Miranda B.
H. ("Mother"). The child's birth was premature and
he was in severe distress following the birth. Drug tests
performed on the child tested positive for morphine,
buprenorphine,  meperidine,  opioids, and
benzodiazepines. As a result, the Petitioner/Appellee
Tennessee Department of Children's Services
("DCS") received a referral that the child was drug
exposed. During the initial investigation, Mother admitted
that prior to her pregnancy she was a habitual drug user,
that she had not sought prenatal care during her pregnancy,
and that she "shot up morphine" the day before the
child remained in the hospital for a period of thirty days,
receiving treatment for respiratory distress, meconium
aspiration, and possible HIV status. The child also
experienced symptoms consistent with drug withdrawal. As
such, the child was administered morphine to ease his
the child remained in the hospital, Mother was arrested for
violating probation. Based upon these facts, DCS determined
that it was in the child's best interest to be removed
from Mother's care. When the child left the hospital, he
was immediately placed in the care of a foster home, where he
remained at the time of trial.
the child was in the hospital, DCS filed a petition to
declare the child dependent and neglected in juvenile court.
Eventually, on April 5, 2016, the juvenile court entered a
single order following the adjudicatory and dispositional
hearings. In this order, the juvenile court found the child
to be dependent and neglected and the victim of severe abuse.
On December 15, 2016, DCS filed a petition to terminate
Mother's parental rights on grounds of (1) substantial
non-compliance with permanency plans; (2) persistence of
conditions; (3) failure to manifest an ability and
willingness to assume custody; and (4) severe
abuse. The petition further alleged that it was
in the child's best interest for Mother's parental
rights to be terminated. Mother filed an answer to the
petition on February 22, 2017, denying that grounds existed
to terminate her parental rights or that termination was in
the child's best interest.
was held on April 18, 2017. Five witnesses testified,
including Mother, Foster Mother, and two DCS workers. DCS
also entered several exhibits, including the deposition
testimony of the detective who investigated Mother's
alleged child abuse and the child's treating physician
while hospitalized. At the conclusion of the hearing, the
trial court orally found clear and convincing evidence to
support all of the grounds alleged and that termination was
in the child's best interest. The trial court entered an
order on April 19, 2017, likewise finding that all of the
grounds alleged in the petition had been shown by clear and
convincing evidence and that termination of Mother's
parental rights was in the child's best interest. From
this order, Mother now appeals.
explained by the Tennessee Supreme Court:
A parent's right to the care and custody of her child is
among the oldest of the judicially recognized fundamental
liberty interests protected by the Due Process Clauses of the
federal and state constitutions. Troxel v.
Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000); Stanley v.
Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651 (1972); In re Angela
E., 303 S.W.3d 240, 250 (Tenn. 2010); In re Adoption
of Female child, 896 S.W.2d 546, 547-48 (Tenn. 1995);
Hawk v. Hawk, 855 S.W.2d 573, 578-79 (Tenn. 1993).
But parental rights, although fundamental and
constitutionally protected, are not absolute. In re
Angela E., 303 S.W.3d at 250. "'[T]he [S]tate
as parens patriae has a special duty to protect minors . . .
.' Tennessee law, thus, upholds the [S]tate's
authority as parens patriae when interference with parenting
is necessary to prevent serious harm ...