Juvenile Law

Shawn R. McCarver, Esquire

Termination of Father’s parental rights for failure to rectify affirmed where child was under the jurisdiction of the court for greater than one year, where Father failed to complete service plans, and where Father had a mental condition which was permanent and which prevented Father from providing necessary care for child. In addition, assistance Father received from a niece was not enough to overcome Father’s problems. Father was unable, even when with a trained parent aide, to provide proper care for child. TPR was in the best interests of child even where court found some statutory factors in Father’s favor. In Interest of D.J.G., No. 32887 (Mo. App. S.D., March 31, 2014), Burrell, J.

In 2008, Children’s Division investigated a hotline when child was nine months old. Child was in the hospital after being given adult cough medicine. Child had bruises on his back, one ear, one leg and his cheek. The bruise on his back covered a big portion of his back. Neither parent knew how child received the bruises. Several others lived in the home, and the Division could not determine who was responsible for Child’s bruises. Child was placed with a relative after being released from the hospital.

During his psychological evaluation, Father reported having “non-bizarre auditory hallucinations.” After the evaluation, it was recommended that Father consider co-parenting with a family member or other trusted, capable person. The psychologist recommended that someone be there with Father “twenty-four/seven.” The psychologist elaborated that it would be that “the other person would be responsible for child, and Father would assist in co-parenting.” Father said he had taken an anger management class, but that he did not complete the course, because he no longer needed anger management.

In 2009, child was moved into state custody. At a meeting with a case worker, Father became very angry, and he seemed to lose his temper as evidenced by his yelling, cursing and lack of cooperation. He left the meeting early and refused to sign any paperwork. Ten service agreements were prepared for Father over the course of the case. Father refused to sign three of those agreements. Father failed to complete anger management, Father did not interact very much with child during supervised visits, and the worker observed a bond develop over time between the child and the foster parents. Fifty dollars per month was withheld from Father’s Social Security check. Other than his visits, Father made no effort to maintain any alternative contact with child by telephone, cards or letters.

The parent aide assigned to Father noted that constant cigarette smoke in Father’s home was a concern. Other concerns noted were Father’s failure to learn proper nutrition for child as he was giving child large amounts of Mountain Dew soda and candy when the child was 16 months old. Child was observed getting extremely “hyper” after consuming the Mountain Dew and candy. Father was never able to implement appropriate parental discipline. Father’s interaction with child resembled more of a playmate instead of a parent, and on some occasions, Father played too rough with child.

Father had a lack of awareness concerning safety. He left scissors and knives lying around and had to be repeatedly reminded to put medicine out of child’s reach. On one occasion, the child got a syringe out of Father’s pocket and took the cap off. On one occasion, Father offered to allow child to inhale some of Father’s breathing treatment. Once, when child ran toward a busy street, Father had trouble getting up to run after child, and the parent aide had to run after child. On another occasion, child ran from a library and Father said he was “too tired from the visit” to chase child. Instead, the parent aide gave chase. Father did not listen when the parent aide pointed out specific items around the home that were dangerous to child. On one occasion, Father dropped child to the floor when Father stumbled while trying to carry child by one arm, using his other arm to hold up his own pants.

Father was unable to reach a point where he was allowed to have unsupervised visits. Father was unable to consistently implement the lessons taught to him by the parent aide. For a four month period of time, Father’s niece was permitted to observe the last hour of each visit. After this modification to the visit occurred, child began demonstrating odd behaviors, including stuttering, having diarrhea, clinging to the foster parents, and begging to go home with them.

Father refused to complete an updated psychological evaluation. Father’s bonding assessment had to be terminated early because the psychologist observed that child was showing “distress.”

Father had low intellectual functioning and it would be difficult for Father to help child with any schoolwork as child got older. Father would also be unable to teach child social skills, reasoning skills and knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships. Father suffered from numerous health issues and spent a lot of time in his recliner. Often, he did not feel like interacting with child. Father’s parental rights were terminated for failure to rectify. Father appeals.

Child had been under the jurisdiction of the court greater than one year. Father failed to complete any of the service agreements, and Father suffered from bipolar affective disorder with a strong possibility of schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type, mild mental retardation and narcissistic personality features. Expert testimony showed that placement of child with Father would place child at risk for potential child abuse. Father’s prognosis for change was poor, and Father suffered from anger issues. Father’s mental conditions are permanent, and those conditions render him unable to parent child.

Termination is in the best interests of child despite the fact that the trial court found that Father visited, paid regular support and did not have any felony convictions.

Held: Termination affirmed.