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the Virginia Court of Appeals.
RICHMOND DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES
COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
Present: Judges Elder, Felton and Senior Judge Willis
Record Nos. 1125-03-2 and1677-03-2
RICHMOND DEPARTMENT OF
SEPTEMBER 30, 2003
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND
T. J. Markow, Judge
(Craig W. Sampson; Sampson Law Firm, PLC, on
briefs), for appellant.
(Kate O’Leary; Janet Moran, Guardian ad litem
for the infant children; Office of the City
Attorney, on brief), for appellee.
Maria Sanchez (mother) appeals decisions of the trial court
terminating her parental rights to her children K.S. and J.S.,
pursuant to Code ? 16.1-283(C). On appeal, appellant contends
the evidence was insufficient to support the termination. We
disagree. Accordingly, we summarily affirm the decision of the
trial court. See Rule 5A:27.
We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
prevailing party below and grant to it all reasonable inferences
fairly deducible therefrom. See Logan v. Fairfax County Dep’t
of Human Dev., 13 Va. App. 123, 128, 409 S.E.2d 460, 462 (1991).
So viewed, the evidence established mother suffers from
bi-polar disorder, for which her treating psychiatrist has
prescribed psychotropic medications.
In August 2001, mother called the Richmond Department of
Social Services (the Department) and indicated she was unable to
care for one-year-old K.S. and two-month-old J.S. A Department
representative reported to mother’s residence and noted the home
was in a state of disarray. The juvenile court ordered the
children’s removal and shortly thereafter mother admitted
herself to a psychiatric ward.
The Department filed initial foster care plans for the two
children with the goal of return home. Mother was ordered to
attend parenting classes, maintain adequate and appropriate
housing, secure employment, and participate in regular
visitation with her children.
During the March 18, 2003 termination hearing before the
circuit court, psychiatrist Dr. Alice Jesudian testified she had
been working with mother during the previous eighteen months.
She stated that during that time mother consistently failed to
comply with her treatment. She explained mother’s condition is
treatable but can only be controlled if mother takes her
medications regularly as prescribed. Mother would also require
therapy to address her behavioral difficulties, which include
impulsiveness and an inability to delay gratification.
Mary Fulchum Woolridge acted as mother’s mental health
counselor for eight months. She explained mother required
constant reinforcement and prompting to make appointments for
parenting skills classes. Woolridge provided mother with
transportation to appointments, weekly medication delivery, and
weekly in-home visits. On a number of occasions, Woolridge
found the apartment filthy and unsuitable for habitation, with
animal feces on the floor and food scattered throughout the
During the time the children have been in foster care,
mother remained unemployed from August 2001 until September
2002. She then participated in a Goodwill job-training program
for less than one month. At the time of the termination
hearing, mother was working as an exotic dancer. She admitted
her recent employment had been sporadic and that up to a month
could pass between jobs.
Following a September 12, 2002 permanency planning hearing
in which she became verbally abusive, the court sentenced mother
to four days in jail and ordered her to participate in and
complete anger management classes. As of the time of the
termination hearing, mother had not attended such classes.
Court psychologist Caroline Campbell supervised mother’s
visitations with her children beginning in September 2002.
Campbell testified mother repeatedly failed to arrive for
visitation at the scheduled times and failed to maintain contact
with her, at times for several weeks.
Mother was arrested four times for assault while the
children were in foster care. She specified at trial that she
"would feel more comfortable that J.S. stay" with his
mother and that she was not hoping to get her daughter back
immediately. On appeal, she asserts "that her health,
and motivation to regain custody of her children had greatly
improved in the months prior to the hearing."
Code ? 16.1-283(C)(2) requires proof, by clear and
convincing evidence, (1) that the termination is in the best
interests of the child, (2) that "reasonable and
services have been offered to help the parent
remedy the conditions which led to or required continuation of
the child’s foster care placement," and (3) that, despite
services, the parent has failed, "without good cause,"
those conditions "within a reasonable amount of time not to
exceed twelve months from the date the child was placed in
We are mindful of the principle that "[t]he termination of
residual parental rights is a grave, drastic and irreversible
action," Helen W. v. Fairfax County Dep’t of Human Dev., 12
Va. App. 877, 883, 407 S.E.2d 25, 28-29 (1991), but we
"’presume [the trial court has] thoroughly weighed all
evidence [and] considered the statutory requirements,’"
Fairfax County Dep’t of Human Dev., 13 Va. App. 123, 128, 409
S.E.2d 460, 463 (1991) (quoting Farley v. Farley, 9 Va. App.
326, 329, 387 S.E.2d 794, 796 (1990)).
The Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that
appellant, without good cause, failed "to substantially
the conditions "which led to or required continuation of
child’s foster care placement" within a reasonable period
The children entered foster care because mother was unable
to parent them and provide them with a clean, safe environment.
Twenty months after their placement in foster care, mother was
still unable to provide for her children. The evidence
demonstrated she did not consistently take her medication, she
was unable to maintain consistent employment or suitable
housing, and she was unable to complete parenting and anger
Despite her contention that she had "greatly improved"
the months before trial, she was arrested for assaulting her
roommate during this time and she failed to maintain contact
with her children or with the Department. She also admitted she
was not then prepared to care for both her children. "It is
clearly not in the best interests of a child to spend a lengthy
period of time waiting to find out when, or even if, a parent
will be capable of resuming his [or her] responsibilities."
Kaywood v. Halifax County Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 10 Va. App. 535,
540, 394 S.E.2d 492, 495 (1990).
Mother has not provided a stable environment for the
children, and she has been unable to address her lack of
parenting skills. "The trial court’s judgment, ‘when based
evidence heard ore tenus, will not be disturbed on appeal unless
plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.’" Logan,
Va. App. at 128, 409 S.E.2d at 463 (citation omitted). The
record supports the trial court’s finding that the Department
presented clear and convincing evidence satisfying the statutory
requirements of Code ? 16.1-283 and establishing that
termination of mother’s parental rights is in the children’s
Accordingly, we summarily affirm the decisions of the trial
court. See Rule 5A:27.
Code ? 17.1-413, this opinion is not
designated for publication.