Juvenile Officer v. R.B. (In re D.T.H.), WD84988

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtThomas N. Chapman, Presiding Judge
PartiesIN THE INTEREST OF: D.T.H., M.J.H.; Respondents, v. R.B., Appellant. JUVENILE OFFICER, Respondent,
Docket NumberWD84988
Decision Date13 September 2022

IN THE INTEREST OF: D.T.H., M.J.H.; Respondents,

JUVENILE OFFICER, Respondent,
v.

R.B., Appellant.

No. WD84988

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

September 13, 2022


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Jalilah Otto, Judge

Before Thomas N. Chapman, P.J., Mark D. Pfeiffer and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., JJ.

OPINION

Thomas N. Chapman, Presiding Judge

R.B. ("Mother") appeals a judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County which terminated her parental rights to D.H. and M.H. The circuit court determined that termination was appropriate based on three independent statutory grounds under section 211.447.5,[1] and that termination was in the best interest of D.H. and M.H. The judgment is affirmed.

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Background[2]

Mother is the biological mother of two daughters: D.H. (D.O.B. 10/16/2018) and M.H. (D.O.B. 9/12/2019).[3]

D.H. came under the jurisdiction of the circuit court pursuant to a petition filed on October 19, 2018 in case number 1816-JU001369, which alleged, inter alia, that D.H. was without proper care, custody and support necessary to her well-being. On the same day the petition was filed, the circuit court entered an order of temporary protective custody, which placed D.H. in the custody of the Children's Division. The court held a protective custody hearing on October 23, 2018, after which the court determined that D.H. was to remain in protective custody due to Mother's mental health and actions at the hospital such that D.H. could not safely be returned to Mother. Mother was to be allowed visitation on the condition that visits were supervised by Children's Division or a parent aide.

The circuit court conducted an adjudication hearing on March 18, 2019 on the Juvenile Officer's Second Amended Petition. With respect to Count 1 of the petition, the circuit court amended the allegations to conform to the evidence as follows:

The child, [D.H.] (DOB 10/16/2018), is without proper care custody and support necessary for her well-being and is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court pursuant to 211.031.1 RSMo in that the mother neglects the child. The mother has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and suffers aural hallucinations, including during her pregnancy that were threatening her and her unborn child. The mother told hospital staff that she did not believe her home was safe due to threats made against her but she nonetheless intended to return there with the child after the child's birth. The mother's boyfriend with whom she has had an ongoing relationship and who has resided in the home, has severely physically abused the mother and the mother and the boyfriend have a history of engaging in domestic
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violence such that the child would be at risk in the home After the child's birth, the mother was unable to demonstrate ability to provide proper care for the child in spite of efforts by hospital staff, including ability to feed the child.

The court sustained the allegations in Count 1 of the petition as to Mother by clear and convincing evidence and scheduled a disposition hearing to take place in April of 2019.

On April 17, 2019, the court conducted a disposition hearing, after which the court entered its Findings and Recommendations. The court found that D.H. was at risk of harm due to parental mental health conditions and domestic violence such that removal was necessary. The court made a finding that "[a]t the hearing, the mother exhibited apparent symptoms of a delusional condition. She stated that her mother is not her mother and people are hiding her real mother's body." D.H. was committed to the custody of the Children's Division for appropriate placement with a permanency plan of reunification. The court ordered that the Children's Division was to make reasonable efforts to provide a number of services to Mother, including: supervised visits, the maximum number of parent aide hours, individual therapy, psychiatric treatment, medication compliance, parenting education, and a monthly urinalysis.

M.H. came under the jurisdiction of the circuit court pursuant to a petition filed September 13, 2019 in case number 1916-JU001066. That same day, the circuit court entered an order of temporary protective custody, which placed M.H. in the custody of the Children's Division. The court held a protective custody hearing on September 17, 2019, after which the court determined that M.H. was to remain in the protective custody of the Children's Division because M.H. was at risk of the same harm as D.H. due to Mother's mental health and domestic violence concerns. Mother was to be allowed visitation on the condition that visits were supervised by Children's Division or a parent aide.

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With respect to the case regarding D.H., a permanency hearing was held on December 17, 2019. Based on the evidence received at the hearing, the court changed the permanency plan from reunification to termination of parental rights and adoption, which the court found to be in the best interest of D.H. With respect to Mother, the court found:

The mother has not been participating in individual therapy until recently. No substantial evidence was presented showing that the mother has significantly addressed her serious mental health condition, especially given the age of this case. Given the seriousness of her mental health condition it is likely that a child placed in her custody would be at risk of harm. The mother has not been consistently participating in visits with the child. During visits with the child, she has not demonstrated appropriate parenting skills and abilities. She has not been consistently participating in court-ordered drug testing. The mother has not maintained communications with Children's Division until recently.
. . . .
The information received showed that the parents are living together and, in view of their failure to participate in services to address domestic violence, this constitutes a further barrier to reunification.

On February 7, 2020, the court conducted an adjudication hearing on the Juvenile Officer's petition regarding M.H. With respect to Count 1 of the Juvenile Officer's petition, the court amended the allegations to conform to the evidence as follows:

The child, [M.H.] (DOB 09/12/2019), is without proper care, custody and support necessary for their well-being and is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court pursuant to 211.031.1 RSMo in that the mother neglects the child. Specifically, the mother has a pattern of neglect regarding her other child such that this child is at risk. The child's sibling, [D.H.], is under the jurisdiction of this Court in case number 1816-JU001369, due, in part, to the mother's extreme mental health issue and domestic violence. The mother has been unable to achieve reunification with the child's sibling. Additionally, the mother continues to display erratic and concerning behaviors that are consistent with her untreated mental health issues. Since the child was born, medical professionals at Liberty Hospital have observed the mother to be licking formula from the baby's mouth and licking the forehead of the child. This child is at risk of the same or similar neglect as the sibling has experienced absent the intervention of this Court.
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The court sustained the allegations as amended by clear and convincing evidence and placed M.H. in the custody of the Children's Division for appropriate licensed placement with a permanency goal of reunification. The court referenced the findings made in December of 2019 in the case regarding D.H. The court further found:

The mother has been diagnosed with a mental illness, Schizophreniform Disorder. The mother is not consistently taking her psychotropic medications. She continues to display behaviors consistent with mental illness. At a recent visit she stated "I hope their faces don't change from sucking cocks." "if they have to its ok, but I just hope they don't". She continues to fail to demonstrate an ability to properly care for an infant. The mother has not been consistently visiting the child. She continues to maintain a relationship with [the children's father], which poses a risk of harm to the child and to herself.

The court ordered a number of services be provided to Mother, including: visits to be supervised by the Children's Division or a parent aide, individual therapy, the maximum number of parent aide hours, psychiatric treatment, medication compliance, parenting education, a referral for a neuropsychological evaluation, and a referral for mediation.

On February 10, 2020, the Juvenile Officer filed a Petition for Termination of Parental Rights regarding D.H. The Juvenile Officer alleged that three statutory grounds - abuse or neglect under section 211.447.5(2), parental unfitness under Section 211.447.5(5), and failure to rectify under section 211.447.5(3) - warranted termination and that termination was in the best interest of D.H.

A permanency review hearing was held on June 1, 2020 in D.H.'s case, after which D.H. remained in the custody of the Children's Division for appropriate licensed placement. The permanency goal remained termination of parental rights and adoption. The court found that Mother had not made significant efforts to visit D.H. and that mother was not participating in

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therapy. The court found that there was no evidence that Mother was addressing her mental condition.

A dispositional review hearing in M.H.'s case was also held on June 1, 2020. M.H. remained in the custody of the Children's Division for appropriate placement with a permanency plan of reunification. The court found the Children's Division's efforts at achieving the permanency plan had been reasonable, and services ordered remained essentially the same with the addition of drug testing.

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