Juvenile Law

Shawn R. McCarver, Esquire

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) for abuse/neglect and failure to rectify is affirmed where Mother engages in a pattern of repeated and continuous neglect, fails to support, fails to comply with four treatment plans and fails to correct conditions requiring assumption of jurisdiction. Mother’s compliance after the filing of the TPR petition does not compel a different result. In Interest of S.M.F., No. 75548 (Mo. App. W.D., March 19, 2013), Martin, P.J.

Child was born to Mother in August 2010. Mother’s abnormal behavior resulted in a Family Centered Service case, which was closed due to lack of cooperation. In December 2010, Mother was hospitalized for depression and refusing to take her medication. Her psychiatrist recommended that the child not be placed with Mother due to Mother’s psychotic and delusional symptoms. The child was placed in protective custody in foster care and the juvenile officer filed an amended petition in January 2011. In April 2012, a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights was filed. Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights, which was granted on the grounds of abuse/neglect and failure to rectify.

At the time of the TPR trial, Mother remained unable to care for the child. Mother had entered into four treatment plans. Mother only minimally complied with the plans. The Division made repeated referrals to Mother for social security disability, various psychiatric evaluations and treatment, medical assistance, job assistance, counseling services, housing programs, transitional living programs, and parenting services. Mother pursued only the referrals for parenting assessment and psychological evaluation. Mother disagreed with the diagnosis of schizophrenia and preferred not to take medication. Mother was, at most, minimally cooperative, and there were no additional services that could be offered. Mother did not provide support and only visited two times during the case. Mother offered no sufficient excuse for failing to support and she did not claim she was disabled. She also failed to apply for government benefits such as food stamps, which would have provided some support for the child. The visits were unsuccessful in that Mother seemed “out of it” and did not pay attention to the child. She was also unable to change the child’s diaper.

During Mother’s testimony she mostly conceded or admitted the allegations against her, but she had become more cooperative after the TPR petition was filed. The trial court found that Mother had repeatedly and continuously neglected the child. With respect to failure to rectify, the child had been under the jurisdiction for greater than one year, and the original conditions which led to the assumption of jurisdiction still persisted and there was little likelihood of remedy allowing reunification at an early date. “Late in the game” (after the TPR had been filed) Mother showed a “new found willingness” to comply with treatment despite her repeated failure during the case. The trial court’s refusal to give sufficient weight to Mother’s change in compliance was not an abuse of discretion.

Termination was in the best interests of the child. Termination affirmed. Appointed counsel’s motion for fees on appeal is remanded back to the trial court for consideration and ruling.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) can be appealed by father even where mother, also named in the petition, had not yet had an adjudication as to her parental rights. Denial of father’s motion for continuance was not an abuse of discretion where father did not file a written motion as required by Rule 65.03 and father was not free of dereliction. TPR for failure to rectify is affirmed where father partially completed service plan. TPR was in best interests of children where there were no emotional ties, no support or visitation and where there were no additional services that could be offered to father. In Interest of G.G.B., C.T.B. and T.J.B., No. 98879 (Mo. App. E.D., March 5, 2013), Crane, P.J..

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. The TPR judgment did not address mother’s parental rights and the portion of the case pertaining to her was still pending at the time of the appeal. Rule 74.04 does not govern TPR judgments. Requiring a parent to wait to appeal until the other parent’s rights have been adjudicated compromises the right to appellate review. Section 211.261, therefore, allows a parent to appeal the TPR even though the rights of the other parent named in the petition have not been adjudicated.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father’s request for continuance made without written motion on the day of trial. Father was aware of the trial date and had told the case manager he would attend. Father had an arrest warrant outstanding. Father did not file a written motion as required by Rule 65.03. Absent compliance, there is no abuse of discretion in denying the continuance. Even if father had filed a motion, this was not a case in which father was free of dereliction.

Father alleged insufficient evidence to terminate parental rights for failure to rectify. Father challenged the court’s findings on factors (a) and (b) of § 211.447.5(3). Father agreed to the terms of the social service plan, which was approved by the court. Father understood its terms. The court considered father’s partial compliance, but he did not make any progress in the significant areas in which he needed to show progress. Father was unable to stay sober or provide housing, financial support, stability or a safe environment for the children. The court’s findings on agency efforts were challenged only as to the efforts to assist father in finding housing. The worker called to make sure father would qualify and then provided father contact information, but father did not follow through with an application for a housing referral program.

TPR was in the best interests of the children where father had no emotional ties with them, did not have regular visitation with them, did not show he was incapable of holding employment so as to justify his failure to provide support, and where there were no other services that could be offered to father. Father had the duty to support the children even in absence of a court order.