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In re Charlie-Lynn P.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee

June 27, 2019

IN RE CHARLIE-LYNN P., ET AL.

          Assigned on Briefs June 3, 2019

          Appeal from the Juvenile Court for Montgomery County No. 17-JV-515, 17-JV-516 Tim Barnes, Judge

         This appeal concerns the termination of a mother's parental rights to her children. The Tennessee Department 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 Matia P. ("Mother") to her minor children Charlie-Lynn P. and Pharaoh P. ("the Children"). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights on the grounds of failure to establish a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and persistent conditions.[1] The Juvenile Court also found that termination of Mother's parental rights is in the Children's best interest. Mother appeals, arguing only that termination of her parental rights is not in the Children's best interest because she has taken certain steps to address her mental health and domestic violence issues. We find and hold that the Juvenile Court did not err in finding that clear and convincing evidence was shown as to all three grounds. We find and hold further that, notwithstanding Mother's purported improvements, the Juvenile Court did not err in finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother's parental rights is in the Children's best interest. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Juvenile Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Gregory D. Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Matia P.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, and Jordan K. Crews, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

          D. Michael Swiney, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S. and Kenny W. Armstrong, J., joined.

          OPINION

          D. MICHAEL SWINEY, CHIEF JUDGE

         Background

         Mother gave birth to Charlie-Lynn in November 2010 and Pharaoh in May 2014. In April 2015, the Children entered state custody after Mother was involuntarily hospitalized because of a mental health issue. DCS thereafter filed a petition in the Juvenile Court seeking temporary legal custody of the Children, and a protective custody order was entered. Two permanency plans were developed later for Mother, with an emphasis on rectifying her mental health and domestic violence issues. In September 2015, the Juvenile Court adjudicated the Children dependent and neglected. In March 2017, DCS filed a petition seeking to terminate Mother's parental rights to the Children. Trial was held in October 2018.

         Maleka Holmes ("Holmes"), a DCS foster care team leader on the Children's case, testified regarding DCS's involvement in the matter:

Q. Do you recall when [the Children] entered state's custody?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And what is that date?
A. April 4, 2015.
Q. And was there an adjudication in this matter?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And were the children found to be dependent and neglect[ed] during that adjudication?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And what were the reasons why the children were found to be dependent and neglect[ed]?
A. [Mother] had a hospital stay. During her hospital for mental health issues, there were no one to supervise the children at that time and the children were brought into custody.
Q. So from April 4, 2015, what would be the four-month mark after those children were brought into state's custody?
A. July 28, 2015.
Q. I think it would be August.
A. August. I'm sorry. August.
Q. So the time period after the children came into custody on April 4, four months following that would be August the 4th, correct?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. So during that time period, the first ground that you have alleged -- or the first ground that we are going to address is the mother's failure to provide a suitable home; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And that is the time period statutorily that the mother had to find a suitable home; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. Was the mother -- during the duration of this case, are you aware of any times that the mother signed or was provided with a copy of the notice and criteria for termination for parental rights?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And are you aware of the dates that she signed the notice and criteria for termination of parental rights?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And what reasonable efforts did the Department make in that four-month time frame to provide [Mother] with a suitable home?
A. Well, during that time, I believe that the Department informed [Mother] of different housing options. During that time, I believe [Mother] had a family member that was living in, maybe, Nashville. I know that [Mother] informed the Department, during that time, that she could not find a home that she could afford, so the Department provided her with a list of affordable housing.
Q. Was it also in the permanency plan -- did it say that she needed to have safe and stable housing?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And in that permanency plan that the Department developed during that time frame, did we have specific tasks that would remedy why the children came into custody?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And did we lay out those tasks for [Mother]?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And did we offer any kind of transportation to and from her assessments in order to get those tasks completed?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. (By Ms. Parker) So as far as during that time frame, where did [Mother] live?
A. [Mother] has not provided the Department with a physical address.
Q. So to the Department's knowledge, [Mother] did not have a home during that time frame?
A. Yes, ma'am, correct.
Q. And during that time frame, was the Department ever able to go out and view a home, do a home visit? Were we aware of where [Mother] was even residing during that time period?
A. No, ma'am, we were not.
Q. And during that time period, did [Mother] complete any of her services?
A. [Mother] started services, but she did not fully complete and follow through with the recommendations of the services.
Q. So what did [Mother] complete during that time period?
A. If I can refer to my notes?
Q. Yes.
A. [Mother] had a clinical assessment at Centerstone on April 14, 2015. The recommendations from that assessment was weekly individual counseling, case management, as well as medication management. The Department was not able -- we were able to receive documentation that she started so -- it would be, like, two weeks she would go, and then she wouldn't go for another two weeks. So it was not continuous. [Mother] also completed an A&D assessment. The first one was at Bradford on February 15, 2017. The recommendation for that one was partial hospitalization for --
Q. But none of those were completed during this time period?
A. Correct.
Q. Okay. I just want to know, was anything completed during that time period?
A. [Mother] completed the assessment. She did not complete the recommendations of the assessment.
Q. Okay. So during that time period, the only thing that would have been completed was the initial assessment, correct?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And so at no time during that four-month time period, were we able to actually reunify the children with her?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. And she didn't even have a physical dwelling place during that four-month time period?
A. Yes, ma'am, that's correct.
Q. And how many months have passed since the children were placed in state's custody? And by me asking that, how many months have passed from the time the children were in state's custody to the time that the Department filed the termination of parental rights petition?
A. I would say around 22 months -- 22, 23 months.
Q. And 22 months had passed then. Had she successfully completed any of her recommendations on that permanency plan when we filed this petition?
A. Not when we filed the petition.
Q. And so as we sit here today, how many months have passed?
A. Forty-two months.
Q. And as we sit here today, has she successfully completed everything on her permanency plan?
A. Everything on her permanency plan?
Q. That's correct. Would we be able to return the children to her care today?
A. Not at this time.
Q. Okay. And [the Children] are in an adoptive home; is that correct?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. If so if the parental rights of the mother were continued, what effect would that have on [the Children]?
A. If the parental rights were continued with [Mother], I think that it would send a different message. They have been in custody for over 42 months.
So at this point, they know that they visit [Mother] and they enjoy visiting with [Mother]. But as far as a parent-child relationship, [Mother] has not had that role for quite some time.
Q. So, to your knowledge, how long did that plan -- how long -- what's the time period that we were talking about that initial permanency plan? How long did she have to complete the tasks on that permanency plan?
A. She actually had until October the 20th, 2015. So about six months.
Q. Okay. And is that standard for all of our permanency plans to last on or around six months?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And so she initially completed the clinical assessment; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Did she follow all the recommendations during that time period?
A. The Department, at this time, we do not have that she continuously followed the recommendations. She did start individual counseling, medication management, as well as case management, and then she would stop, and then she would start back again.
Q. Okay. And the A&D assessment, did she complete the A&D assessment during that time frame?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And what were the recommendations from the A&D assessment?
A. [Mother] had an A&D assessment on February the 6th, 2017. So --
Q. So that wouldn't have been --
A. -- that wasn't the time frame.
Q. So she did not complete the A&D assessment --
A. No, ma'am.
Q. -- during that time frame?
A. (Shakes head side to side.)
Q. Okay. Did she pay child support of $30 per month per child?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. Did she resolve her legal issues during that time?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. And, in fact, did she also get arrested again during that time frame?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. Did she have safe and stable housing prior to -- I believe you stated
October --
A. 20th.
Q. -- 20, 2015?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. Okay. So the only thing she completed during that time period was she did a clinical assessment?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. Okay. And we had actually filed this perm -- or we had actually filed the termination of parental rights on March 20 -- no, I'm sorry. Okay. So from October of 2015 to June 9, 2016, is the time frame of the second permanency plan; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And so during that time frame, had she resolved all of her legal issues?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. Did she have an A&D assessment during that time frame?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. Did she have legal income during that time frame?
A. Not that the Department is aware of.
Q. Has she paid any kind of child support as far as $30 a month per child?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. She did her clinical assessment. But during that time frame, did we have any -- did we have any documentation that she was taking her medications as prescribed?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. Did she provide the Department with any documentation that she was following through with her individual therapy?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. And did she provide the Department with any documentation that she was following through with her medication management?
A. No, ma'am
Q. And during that time frame, are we aware that she had any kind of stable housing?
A. No, ma'am.
Q. And this TPR petition was filed March 28, 2017, correct?
A. Yes, ma'am.
Q. And how many months from the time that the children came into custody to that date were the -- had the children been in custody?
A. Twenty-two months.
Q. And at that 22-month mark were the conditions which placed the children into state's ...

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