Page v. Dep't of Servs. for Children, 337

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Delaware
Writing for the CourtGary F. Traynor Justice
PartiesANDREW P. PAGE, [1] Respondent Below, Appellant, v. DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES (DSCYF), Petitioner Below, Appellee.
Decision Date13 June 2022
Docket Number2021,337

ANDREW P. PAGE, [1] Respondent Below, Appellant,
v.

DEPARTMENT OF SERVICES FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND THEIR FAMILIES (DSCYF), Petitioner Below, Appellee.

No. 337, 2021

Supreme Court of Delaware

June 13, 2022


Submitted: March 16, 2022

Court Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No. 21-02-08TN Petition No. 21-03928

Before VAUGHN, TRAYNOR, and MONTGOMERY-REEVES, Justices.

ORDER

Gary F. Traynor Justice

After consideration of the appellant's brief filed under Supreme Court Rule 26.1(c), his attorney's motion to withdraw, the appellee's response, the Child Attorney's response, and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

(1) By order dated October 4, 2021, the Family Court terminated the parental rights of the appellant, Andrew Page (the "Father"), in his minor daughter (the "Child").[2] The Father appeals.

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(2) On appeal, the Father's counsel has filed an opening brief and motion to withdraw under Rule 26.1(c). Counsel asserts that she has conducted a conscientious review of the record and the relevant law and has determined that the Father's appeal is wholly without merit. In accordance with Rule 26.1(c), however, counsel has identified two arguably appealable claims for the Court to consider. Counsel informed the Father of the provisions of Rule 26.1(c), provided him with a copy of counsel's motion to withdraw and the accompanying brief, and advised him that he could submit in writing any additional points that he wished for the Court to consider. The Father has not provided any points for the Court's consideration. The appellee, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF), and the Child's Attorney have filed responses to counsel's Rule 26.1(c) brief and argue that the Family Court's judgment should be affirmed.

(3) The record reflects that DSCYF opened a treatment case concerning the Child when she tested positive for fentanyl at birth and the Child's mother tested positive for amphetamines, benzos, and methadone. Under a safety plan agreed to by the parties, the Child's parents would reside with the Father's mother (the "Paternal Grandmother") and would not have unsupervised contact with the Child. In March 2020, when the Child was two months old, DSCYF filed an emergency petition for custody of the Child after she was found alone with her parents in the Paternal Grandmother's home with heroin near her bedding. With the filing of

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DSCYF's dependency-and-neglect petition, the mandated hearings ensued.[3] At each of the hearings-several of which the Father did not attend-the Family Court found that the Child was dependent and that it was in her best interests to remain in DSCYF's care and custody. The court also found that DSCYF was making reasonable efforts to reunify the family.

(4) DSCYF developed a case plan for the Father designed to facilitate his reunification with the Child. The plan identified the Father's substance-abuse and mental-health issues as major concerns as well as his lack of stable employment or income. The plan required the Father to work with a family interventionist to address these issues, among others.

(5) Following a permanency hearing on April 5, 2021-more than one year after the Family Court granted custody of the Child to DSCYF-the Family Court granted DSCYF's motion to change the permanency goal from reunification to termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption. An evidentiary hearing on the TPR petition was held over three days, July 16, 2021, and September 3, 2021. The Family Court heard testimony from several witnesses, including the Father, who appeared with counsel; Jessica Kula, the DSCYF treatment worker; Sara Riffe, the DSCYF permanency supervisor; Jillian Bielicki, the family

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interventionist; Dorinda Toney, the clinical director from the addiction-treatment center Pace; Vernell Proctor, the Father's counselor at Brandywine Counseling & Community Services; and Jenny Calhoun, the Child's foster mother.

(6) The testimony at the TPR hearing, together with the pretrial stipulation filed by the parties, fairly established that the Father: tested clean between May 17, 2021, and June 10, 2021; received a substance abuse evaluation at Pace on June 11, 2021; completed an anger-management program at Brandywine; was attending counseling sessions at Brandywine; had established a budget with the family interventionist two weeks prior to the TPR hearing; and, since April 2021, had consistently attended visits with the Child as well as meetings with the family interventionist. The evidence also reflected, however, that: the Father's only income was unemployment benefits; prior to April 2021 (again, more than a year after the Family Court granted custody of the Child to DSCYF); the Father inconsistently attended visits with the Child; the Father had not started parenting classes; and the Father had outstanding warrants related to the drug possession and endangering the welfare of a child charges stemming from the incident that led to the Child coming into care. The evidence also reflected that the Father struggled to maintain sobriety. After refusing to sign consents to give...

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