In re K.H., 22-0125

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
PartiesIn re K.H. and G.H.
Docket Number22-0125
Decision Date31 August 2022

In re K.H. and G.H.

No. 22-0125

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

August 31, 2022


Harrison County 21-JA-151 and 21-JA-152

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Petitioner Mother M.D., by counsel Allison S. McClure, appeals the Circuit Court of Harrison County's January 28, 2022, order terminating her parental rights to K.H. and G.H.[1] The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources ("DHHR"), by counsel Patrick Morrisey and Katica Ribel, filed a response in support of the circuit court's order. The guardian ad litem, Jonathan Fittro, filed a response on behalf of the children also in support of the circuit court's order. On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in terminating her parental rights.

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 standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

1

The DHHR filed a child abuse and neglect petition against petitioner in April of 2021. Specifically, the DHHR alleged that it began an investigation into petitioner after receiving a referral that the family lacked suitable housing. A Child Protective Services ("CPS") worker located the children at school, and they reported that they had just moved into a new apartment the night before. The children denied observing petitioner abuse drugs but admitted that they did not attend school often and that they sometimes went hungry at home. Following her interview with the children, the CPS worker spoke with petitioner, who confirmed that they had moved into a new apartment the night before. Petitioner admitted that there were no utilities hooked up in the home yet, that there were no beds, and that there was no food but stated she planned to address those issues that day. The CPS worker implemented a temporary protection plan due to the lack of resources and placed the children with petitioner's boyfriend's mother while petitioner addressed the issues in the home. Approximately one week later, the children were returned to petitioner's care after she had obtained utilities, food, and beds for the home, and an in-home safety plan was implemented.

The DHHR alleged that, approximately three days after the children were returned, petitioner was evicted from her apartment and left the children in the care of their aunt and uncle. The CPS worker investigated the matter and spoke to the children's aunt, who reported that petitioner had seen the children only twice since she left them in the aunt's home approximately one week prior. The aunt and uncle voiced concerns that petitioner was abusing drugs. The CPS worker changed the safety plan to an out-of-home safety plan and asked petitioner to submit to a drug screen. Petitioner agreed, and thereafter submitted to three drug screens between May 4, 2021, and June 1, 2021, all of which were positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. Accordingly, the DHHR alleged that petitioner neglected the educational needs of the children, failed to provide them with a stable home and necessary food, and had a substance abuse problem.

The circuit court held an initial adjudicatory hearing in July of 2021. However, petitioner's counsel requested that the matter be continued due to concerns that petitioner was under the influence of drugs. The circuit court continued the hearing and suspended visits between petitioner and the children as she had not been attending scheduled visitations with the children, which upset them. The circuit court reconvened the adjudicatory hearing later in July of 2021. Petitioner did not appear at the hearing, but her counsel was present and represented her at the hearing. The DHHR filed records of petitioner's drug screens and presented the testimony of an attendance director from the children's school, a CPS worker, and the children's aunt. At the close of evidence, the circuit court adjudicated petitioner as an abusing parent.

Subsequently, petitioner completed a detoxification program and entered an inpatient substance abuse treatment program. Petitioner filed a motion for a post-adjudicatory improvement period, citing to her progress, and indicated that she would participate in services. At a hearing held in August of 2021, the circuit court granted petitioner's motion for a post-adjudicatory improvement period,...

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