In re A.C., 22-AP-040

Case DateJuly 14, 2022
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

In re A.C., Juvenile J.C., Father*

No. 22-AP-040

Supreme Court of Vermont

July 14, 2022

In the case title, an asterisk (*) indicates an appellant and a double asterisk (**) indicates a cross-appellant. Decisions of a three-justice panel are not to be considered as precedent before any tribunal.

APPEALED FROM: Superior Court, Grand Isle Unit, Family Division CASE NO. 21-JV-00814 Trial Judge: David A. Barra


In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

Father appeals a disposition order in this juvenile matter involving his daughter, A.C. On appeal, father argues that the court abused its discretion in adopting a case plan with a goal of reunification within six months. We affirm. Juvenile A.C., born in September 2019, was placed in the custody of the Department for Children and Families (DCF) in June 2021 at eighteen months old due to concerns about the condition of the home and parents' substance abuse. This was A.C.'s first time in DCF custody; mother's other children had previously been in custody, and two were in the custody of the maternal grandparents under a permanent guardianship. The State filed a petition alleging that A.C. was a child in need of care or supervision (CHINS). Parents stipulated to the merits of the CHINS petition in October 2021. DCF submitted a case plan in December 2021 with a goal of reunification with parents. The case plan goal had an estimated date for achievement of the case plan goal of June 2022. The case plan explained that A.C. was two years old, had been in DCF custody for six months, and required a stable, clean, and safe home and structure and routine to meet her needs. At the time, father was homeless and unemployed. The case plan set forth goals for father, including that he would refrain from using illicit substances, obtain substance-abuse treatment, engage in mental-health counseling, engage in a parenting group, maintain safe housing, and meet with a domestic-violence specialist. Father filed objections to the case plan. Among other things, he asserted that an estimated completion date of June 2022 was unrealistic and that he needed more time to address the issues identified in the case plan. At the disposition hearing, father argued that more time was necessary to achieve the case plan goal of reunification because the pandemic had slowed things down and it would take more time for father to find housing and complete other goals like Family Time Coaching. In response to father's request for more time, the court questioned what


the harm was in having a deadline of June and assessing at that time whether the date needed to be extended. Father argued that if the goals were not accomplished by the goal date, then it was likely that a petition to terminate parental rights would be filed. The State opposed extending the goal date. Ultimately, the trial court accepted the case plan with the June estimated completion date, explaining that the court's focus was on A.C.'s needs, and, given her young age and lengthy of time in custody, it was in her best interests to leave the goal date as June 2022. The court subsequently issued a disposition order.[*] Father appeals the disposition order.

On appeal, father asserts that the family...

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