In re A.H., 22-0148

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
PartiesIn re A.H.
Docket Number22-0148
Decision Date31 August 2022

In re A.H.

No. 22-0148

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

August 31, 2022


Kanawha County 21-JA-48

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner Mother K.C., by counsel Sandra K. Bullman, appeals the Circuit Court of Kanawha County's January 25, 2022, order terminating her parental rights to A.H.[1] The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources ("DHHR"), by counsel Patrick Morrisey and Mindy Parsley, filed a response in support of the circuit court's order. The guardian ad litem, Jennifer Anderson, filed a response on behalf of the child also in support of the circuit court's order.

This Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the governing law, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds that the circuit court failed to enter an order adjudicating petitioner, thereby rendering the termination of petitioner's parental rights erroneous. This case satisfies the "limited circumstances" requirement of Rule 21(d) of the West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure, and a memorandum decision is appropriate to vacate and remand for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

In February of 2021, the DHHR filed a child abuse and neglect petition against petitioner based upon allegations of her substance abuse and that she failed to protect A.H. from the father's sexual abuse. The court held the preliminary hearing in February of 2021, during which the court ordered that petitioner participate in services such as random drug screening, supervised visitation with the child, and parenting and adult life skills sessions. Petitioner waived the preliminary hearing.

According to the parties, in April of 2021, the circuit court held an adjudicatory hearing. According to petitioner, she stipulated to the allegations in the petition, the court adjudicated her

1

as an abusing parent, and granted her a post-adjudicatory improvement period. Petitioner asserts the circuit court did not enter an adjudicatory hearing order, and the DHHR concedes that this order was not entered. Notably, respondents did not supplement the record with an adjudicatory order nor a transcript from any adjudicatory hearing.

At a review hearing held in September of 2021, the circuit court terminated petitioner's improvement period upon the DHHR's evidence that she tested positive for various illicit drugs. The circuit court held the final dispositional hearings in December of 2021 and January of 2022, during which the DHHR and guardian recommended termination of petitioner's parental rights based upon her continued drug use.[2] By order entered on January 25, 2022, the circuit court terminated petitioner's parental rights. The order, a form filled in by hand, contained no findings of fact in support of disposition. However, the form indicated, via checked boxes, that the circuit court found that there was no reasonable likelihood that petitioner could correct the conditions of abuse and neglect in the near future and that termination was necessary for the child's welfare. Petitioner now appeals the dispositional order terminating her parental rights.[3]

The Court has previously established the following standard of review in cases such as this:

"Although
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