In re KH-V, CAAP-21-0000710

CourtCourt of Appeals of Hawai'i
PartiesIN THE INTEREST OF KH-V
Docket NumberCAAP-21-0000710
Decision Date15 September 2022

IN THE INTEREST OF KH-V

No. CAAP-21-0000710

Intermediate Court of Appeals of Hawaii

September 15, 2022


NOT FOR PUBLICATION IN WEST'S HAWAII REPORTS OR THE PACIFIC REPORTER

APPEAL FROM THE FAMILY COURT OF THE FIRST CIRCUIT (FC-S NO. 18-00170)

Herbert Y. Hamada for Father-Appellant.

Gay M. Tanaka and Julio C. Herrera, Deputy Attorneys General, for Petitioner-Appellee.

Leonard, Presiding Judge, and Hiraoka and Wadsworth, JJ.

SUMMARY DISPOSITION ORDER

Father-Appellant (Father) appeals from the Order Terminating Parental Rights, entered on December 9, 2021, by the Family Court of the First Circuit (Family Court). Father contends that the Family Court abused its discretion in terminating his parental rights over his child (Child). Specifically, Father argues that Petitioner-Appellee Department of Human Services (DHS) failed to provide Father with a reasonable opportunity to reunify with Child, when DHS failed to comply with the Family Court's order to start Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). Father also challenges findings of fact nos. 96, 98, 104, 106-109, and 115, in the Family Court's January 18, 2022 Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (FOFs/COLs).

Upon careful review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties and having given due consideration to the arguments advanced and the issues raised by the parties, we resolve Father's points of error as follows and affirm.

1

I.

"Generally, the family court possesses wide discretion in making its decisions and those decisions will not be set aside unless there is a manifest abuse of discretion." In re Doe, 95 Hawai'i 183, 189, 20 P.3d 616, 622 (2001) (quoting In re Jane Doe, Born on May 22, 1976, 84 Hawai'i 41, 46, 928 P.2d 883, 888 (1996) (internal quotation marks omitted).

We review Father's challenges to the Family Court's FOFs for clear error. Doe, 95 Hawai'i at 190, 20 P.3d at 623.

A FOF "is clearly erroneous when (1) the record lacks substantial evidence to support the finding, or (2) despite substantial evidence in support of the finding, the appellate court is nonetheless left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." "'Substantial evidence' is credible evidence which is of sufficient quality and probative value to enable a person of reasonable caution to support a conclusion."

Id. (citations and ellipsis omitted). Unchallenged findings of fact are binding on the parties and this court. In re Doe, 99 Hawai'i 522, 538, 57 P.3d 447, 463 (2002) (citing Poe v. Hawaii Labor Relations Bd., 97 Hawai'i 528, 536, 40 P.3d 930, 938 (2002) ("Unchallenged findings are binding on appeal.")). We likewise review conclusions of law that present mixed questions of fact and law for clear error. See In re JM, 150 Hawai'i 125, 137, 497 P.3d 140, 152 (App. 2021).

II.

A. Reunification Efforts and FOFs 96 and 107-109

"DHS is under an obligation to provide a reasonable opportunity to parents through a service plan to reunify the family" and to "make reasonable efforts to reunite parent and child." In re Doe, 100 Hawai'i 335, 343, 60 P.3d 285, 293 (2002) (interpreting HRS Chapter 587, the predecessor to HRS Chapter 5 8 7A); see HRS § 587A-2 (2018) ("Every reasonable opportunity should be provided to help the child's legal custodian to succeed in remedying the problems that put the child at substantial risk of being harmed in the family home.").

2

Father argues that DHS did not provide him with a reasonable opportunity to reunify with Child when DHS failed to comply with the Family Court's order to start PCIT services. Father appears to assert that between July and November 2020, DHS unreasonably prioritized the resource caregiver's (RCG) concerns about COVID-19 transmission over DHS's own goal of reunification, which ultimately led to Father's substance abuse relapse and loss of parental rights. Apparently in connection with this argument, Father also challenges FOFs 96 and 106-109,[1] which state:

96. Despite some setbacks and delays due to COVID-19, the DHS made reasonable efforts to assist Father in resolving his safety issues
106. Under the circumstances presented by the instant case the DHS has exerted reasonable and active efforts to avoid foster placement of [Child].
107. Under the circumstances presented by the instant case, the DHS has exerted reasonable and active efforts to reunify [Child] with Father by identifying necessary, appropriate, and reasonable services to address Father's identified safety issues, and making the appropriate and timely referrals for those services.
108. Under the circumstances presented by the instant case, the DHS gave Father every reasonable opportunity to
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