A mother and father cannot overturn termination of their parental rights to their two children due to their histories of drug abuse, domestic violence and neglect and abuse leading to termination of parental rights to these two children’s five siblings; the Court of Appeals upholds the termination decision.
The department of social services initially became involved with the family in 2006, and it removed five of the mother’s six other children in August 2007 because of physical neglect and inadequate shelter. Two of these five children were also father’s children. In August 2008, the children were returned home. In August 2009, DSS removed the five children again for inadequate shelter and lack of supervision. The children were adjudicated as abused or neglected. On Jan. 4, 2011, mother and father’s parental rights were voluntarily terminated.
In October 2010, the mother removed L.A.R. from mother’s care when she was born because mother and L.A.R. tested positive for cocaine. Father signed an entrustment agreement; the child has been in foster care since birth. With support from the department, the parents made progress and improved their housing situation. DSS eventually agreed to unsupervised overnight visits with L.A.R. until January 2013 when all visitations stopped after father’s arrest and incarceration for domestic violence.
During her pregnancy with C.A.R., mother testified positive for cocaine four times. However, when the child was born, mother did not test positive for any drugs and neither did the child, so DSS did not remove the child. Father tested positive for illegal drugs and admitted consuming alcohol. He and mother fought often, especially when intoxicated. In March 2013, DSS removed C.A.R. from the home.
The department repeatedly offered services to the parents, including substance abuse counseling.
Contrary to the parents’ arguments, the department proved that L.A.R. and C.A.R. were abused or neglected. Mother used cocaine during her pregnancy with L.A.R. and both mother and child tested positive for cocaine at the child’s birth. After DSS removed L.A.R., both parents tested positive for illegal drugs. Mother admitted using cocaine while she was pregnant with C.A.R. In addition to their drug use, both parents consumed alcohol and admitted arguing when they were intoxicated. Father was arrested for felony assault and battery of a family member, third or subsequent offense, demonstrating a pattern of violence. C.A.R. was present at the time. DSS had been providing services and working with this family since 2006. The circuit court did not err in concluding that the parents “just don’t get it” and “it’s not likely they can correct this situation.”
The circuit court also did not err in admitting evidence of the parents’ previous terminations of parental rights. The evidence was not unduly prejudicial and the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting it.
Ragsdale v. Lunenberg Dep’t of Social Servs. (Per Curiam) No. 0089-14-2, Oct. 7, 2014; Lunenberg County Cir.Ct. (Osborn) Joseph E. Taylor, Robert E. Hawthorne Jr. for parents; Carol B. Gravitt, Matthew E. Evans, GALs. VLW 014-7-296(UP), 9 pp.