834 A.2d 63 (Del. 2003), 059,2003, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) v. Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, Div. of Family Services

Docket Nº:059,2003
Citation:834 A.2d 63
Party Name:CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) v. Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, Div. of Family Services
Case Date:October 07, 2003
Court:Supreme Court of Delaware
 
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834 A.2d 63 (Del. 2003)

CASA (COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE), Respondent Below, Appellant,

v.

DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES, DIVISION OF FAMILY SERVICES, Petitioner Below, Appellee,

Jeanette V. Johnson and Alonzo Morris, Respondents Below, Appellees,

Betty Treherne and Amos Treherne, and Yvette Goslee, Petitioners Below, Appellees.

No. 059, 2003.

Supreme Court of Delaware

October 7, 2003.

Submitted: Aug. 26, 2003.

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Court Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware in and for Sussex County, File Nos. CS01-03948, CS01-03949, CS01-03744, CS02-03428, CS02-03742, CS02-03746.

Upon appeal from the Family Court. AFFIRMED.

Kristin S. Gibbons, Georgetown, DE, for appellant, CASA.

Kathryn L. Welch, Department of the Attorney General, Georgetown, DE, for appellee, Division of Family Services.

Bruce A. Rogers, Georgetown, DE, for appellee, Jeanette Johnson.

Margaret R. Cooper of Hudson, Jones, Jaywork & Fisher, Georgetown, DE, for respondent, Alonzo Morris.

Yvette Goslee, Landover, MD, pro se.

Amos and Betty Treherene, Laurel, DE, pro se.

Before VEASEY, Chief Justice, STEELE and JACOBS, Justices.

STEELE, Justice:

This is an appeal from two Orders of the Family Court of the State of Delaware in and for Sussex County granting legal guardianship of two minor children, Jane and Kay, 1 to non-relative foster parents. The Respondent-Appellant, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, raises two arguments on behalf of the children. First, the CASA argues that a guardianship as defined in 13 Del. C. §§ 2330 through 2340 (standard guardianship) does not constitute a legal guardianship contemplated by the Adoption and Safe Families Act. 2 The

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CASA argues that a standard guardianship is not an appropriate permanency option in the absence of compelling reasons showing why a termination of parental rights and adoption is not in the children's best interests. Second, the CASA contends that the Family Court judge erred by not explicitly addressing the best interest factors enumerated in 13 Del. C. § 722 and that had he done so, he could fairly conclude only that a standard guardianship is not in the children's best interest. Because we find that the record supports the Family Court Judge's conclusion that a standard guardianship is in the children's best interest and that the legal status conferred by a standard guardianship satisfies the permanency requirements of ASFA, we AFFIRM.

I

Alonzo W. Morris is the natural father of Jane, a female child born February 1, 1993. The natural father of Kay, a female child born August 23, 1996, is unknown. Jeanette V. Johnson is the natural mother of both children. On April 15, 2001, the Division of Family Services seized the children after Family Court granted DFS' emergency dependency/neglect petition. Both mother and father were incarcerated at the time DFS seized the children. DFS placed the children in the home of the mother's family friends, Betty and Amos Treherne. Soon after the placement, the Trehernes became licensed foster parents.

Shortly after her release from prison, the mother found appropriate housing and DFS returned the children to her on a trial basis. However, DFS removed the children after five weeks for various documented reasons including the mother's continued unemployment and the children's poor school attendance. DFS returned the children from the mother to the Trehernes and the Trehernes filed a petition for a standard guardianship of both children. 3 Before the Family Court-ordered permanency hearing set for June 21, 2002 took place, DFS proposed a standard guardianship with the Trehernes as the most appropriate permanency plan. All parties 4 agreed with the DFS proposal, except the CASA. Following additional briefing by the parties, the Family Court issued a Permanency Order granting guardianship to the Trehernes in two orders dated January 8, 2003 and January 14, 2003. The CASA appealed.

II

This Court's review of appeals from the Family Court extends to a review of the facts and law as well as to a review of the inferences and deductions made by the trial judge. 5 This Court will not disturb findings of fact unless they are clearly wrong and justice...

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