Emily B v. Department of Child Safety, 060220 AZAPP1, 1 CA-JV 19-0150
|Docket Nº:||1 CA-JV 19-0150|
|Opinion Judge:||CAMPBELL, JUDGE.|
|Party Name:||EMILY B, ANDREW D., Appellants, v. DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SAFETY, A.B., N.D., Appellees.|
|Attorney:||The Brewer Law Office, Show Low By Benjamin M. Brewer Counsel for Appellant, Mother The Lara Group PLC, Mesa By Matthew Lara Counsel for Appellant, Father Arizona Attorney General's Office, Mesa By Thomas Jose Counsel for Appellee, Department of Child Safety|
|Judge Panel:||Presiding Judge Jennifer B. Campbell delivered the decision of the Court, in which Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Paul J. McMurdie joined.|
|Case Date:||June 02, 2020|
|Court:||Court of Appeals of Arizona|
Not for Publication - Rule 111(c), Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court
Appeal from the Superior Court in Navajo County No. S0900JD201800026 The Honorable Michala M. Ruechel, Judge.
The Brewer Law Office, Show Low By Benjamin M. Brewer Counsel for Appellant, Mother
The Lara Group PLC, Mesa By Matthew Lara Counsel for Appellant, Father
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Mesa By Thomas Jose Counsel for Appellee, Department of Child Safety
Presiding Judge Jennifer B. Campbell delivered the decision of the Court, in which Judge Lawrence F. Winthrop and Paul J. McMurdie joined.
¶l Emily B. ("Mother") and Andrew D. ("Father") (collectively "Parents") appeal the juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their children, Abbigail and Nicklous (the "Children"), on the grounds of neglect and prolonged substance abuse. Because reasonable evidence supports the court's order, we affirm.
¶2 Parents have a long history with the Department of Child Safety ("DCS"). This is their fourth out-of-home dependency proceeding arising out of parental substance abuse. The services DCS provided Parents in prior dependencies included substance abuse counseling and drug testing, parenting skills classes, and supervised visitation. In each previous case, the court ultimately returned the Children to Parents.
¶3 Parents have a history of criminal behavior and domestic violence directly linked to alcohol abuse. As relevant here, during 2018, police reports documented six "alcohol and violence-related" events.
¶4 DCS became involved again with the Parents in August 2018 after receiving a report from the child abuse hotline concerning Abbigail.1 The girl had returned from school to find her Parents intoxicated. Feeling "overwhelmed," she went out to the patio, began screaming, and eventually called her aunt to come and help. Trying to avoid a scene outside, Parents grabbed Abbigail by her arms and dragged her into the house. Once inside, she tried to leave her bedroom, but Father pulled her arm again to keep her from leaving. The daughter sustained a "crush" injury, bruising, and a strained muscle in her arm. Show Low Police Department responded, but neither Parent was arrested.
¶5 DCS scheduled a Team Decision Making meeting for ten days after the incident. The morning the meeting was to be held, Father called to reschedule and was told DCS would seek temporary custody of the Children.
¶6 At the time the meeting was to be held, the case manager and a police officer arrived at Parents' home to serve a court authorized removal and a temporary custody notice. According to a DCS report and testimony, the case manager found Father "passed out on the floor" with "his leg hanging out of the patio door," and Mother "passed out on the couch." DCS took the Children into custody. Later that day, Mother was arrested for disorderly conduct and "threatening-intimidating," and Father was voluntarily committed to in-patient psychiatric care for suicidal ideation. The Children were eventually placed with their aunt and uncle.
¶7 DCS filed a dependency petition August 2018, and the court found the Children dependent in January 2019 as to both Parents.
¶8 Throughout the dependency, Parents continued to drink alcohol excessively. For example, on a day Parents cancelled a scheduled visit with the Children, the police conducted a welfare check and found Mother in the car with empty and full shooter bottles of alcohol. Mother drank another shooter in front of the deputy, and both Parents later admitted to drinking that day. According to a report by the guardian ad litem, on this occasion, Parents had "chosen to spend the day drinking rather than having their [C]hildren for a visit." Both Parents then entered rehabilitation facilities.
¶9 In September 2018, DCS moved to terminate both Parents' parental rights on the statutory grounds of neglect, willful child abuse, and chronic substance abuse pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-533(B)(2), (3). At the outset of the two-day severance hearing, Mother objected to DCS's proffered exhibits, but the court overruled the objection because Mother had not filed a written objection to the exhibits before trial. DCS also filed a motion to waive a social study, which the court denied. Following the hearing, the court terminated Parents' rights to both Children pursuant to A.R.S. § 8-533(B)(2), (3).
¶10 In a detailed ruling, the court took judicial notice of the Parents' previous dependency cases and sua sponte waived the social study. The court found that Parents neglected the Children and were unable to discharge their parental responsibilities due to prolonged substance abuse that was likely to continue. The court also found that termination was in the best interests of the Children because they were thriving in their aunt and uncle's care, could maintain relationships with other family members through this familial placement, and would benefit from stability because their aunt and uncle intended to adopt them. Parents timely appealed.
Termination Ground of Neglect Regarding Father
¶11 Father only challenges the juvenile court's termination based on neglect, arguing the court gave undue weight to the "biased testimony" of Mother's relatives and that the findings were "confusing" because the court used Abbigail's "injury as evidence that the Parents' neglect caused unreasonable risk of harm to child's health or welfare" while also finding that the "state did not meet its burden of proof that the child was abused...
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