Session November 8, 2017
from the Chancery Court for White County No. 2015-CV-41
Ronald Thurman, Chancellor
mother appeals from the termination of her parental rights to
her child. The chancery court found clear and convincing
evidence of two statutory grounds for termination:
abandonment by willful failure to support and persistence of
conditions. The court also found that termination of the
mother's parental rights was in the child's best
interest. Because we conclude that the evidence was less than
clear and convincing as to each ground for termination, we
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Morgan, Sparta, Tennessee, for the appellant, Juanita Y.
E. Tribble, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellees,
Jermaine F. and Shannon F.
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S., and Thomas R.
Frierson II, J., joined.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE.
marriage of Juanita Y. ("Mother") and Jermaine F.
("Father") produced one child, Alivia F., born in
July 2008. The parents separated in 2010 and eventually
divorced, with Mother being awarded primary custody of the
July 2013, Mother left a "slurred" voicemail
message in response to a call from a case manager with the
Tennessee Department of Children's Services
("DCS"). As a result, a DCS team leader visited
Mother's home, where she observed Mother to be
"impaired." Mother's drug screen was positive
for methamphetamine, amphetamine, buprenorphine,
benzodiazepines, and opiates. And she admitted to a history
of drug abuse. As a result, DCS placed Alivia in Father's
subsequent adjudicatory hearing, Mother stipulated to the
facts in DCS's petition related to her use and abuse of
illegal drugs. On October 10, 2013, the Juvenile Court for
White County, Tennessee, entered an order adjudicating Alivia
to be dependent and neglected and placing her in Father's
sole temporary custody.
successfully completing the recommendations of her first
permanency plan, DCS returned custody of Alivia to Mother in
January 2014. But Mother's reunion with Alivia turned out
to be short-lived. A few months later, after receiving a
report that Mother was involved in a fight at a known drug
user's home, DCS began another investigation. At that
time, Mother's hair follicle screen was positive for
methamphetamine and oxycodone.
sought emergency temporary custody of Alivia and removed her
from Mother's care and placed her with Father. On or
around August 29, 2014, the juvenile court again entered an
order adjudicating Alivia to be dependent and neglected.
Mother participated in the creation of another permanencyplan
with DCS. Mother was allowed supervised visitation with
Alivia two hours a week. Although
completed intensive outpatient rehabilitation as recommended,
she was only partially compliant with DCS's requirements.
13, 2015, Father and Shannon F. ("Stepmother")
filed a petition for termination of Mother's parental
rights and for adoption in the Chancery Court for White
County, Tennessee. The petition alleged two grounds for
termination: abandonment by willful failure to support and
persistence of conditions. The petition also alleged ...