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CAV: Improvements didn’t cure need for foster care

Rebecca M. Lightle//June 29, 2018

CAV: Improvements didn’t cure need for foster care

Rebecca M. Lightle//June 29, 2018

Although a mother had gotten a job, completed parenting classes, and attended counseling, her housing was not stable enough to provide care for her three young children, two of whom needed therapy.


Appellant Misty Watkins and Johnathan Watkins are the biological parents to K. and M., born in 2012 and 2013. In August 2015, the Roanoke City Department of Social Services received a complaint of domestic violence and inadequate supervision. Misty and Johnathan separated, and Misty went to a domestic violence shelter.

The Department offered co-parenting counseling, individual counseling, a mediation session, a referral to Head Start, and housing assistance. However, the Department sought removal after Johnathan and his girlfriend tested positive for drugs; the Department staff believed that Misty was protecting Johnathan at the expense of the children’s safety. The Department also noted that Misty was romantically involved with a convicted sex offender. The children were placed in foster care, but the Department offered additional services to Misty.

In March 2016, Misty and Johnathan reunited and the Department placed K. and M. back into their home on a trial basis. Later in June 2016, Misty gave birth to J. But in July, police reported a domestic violence incident between the parents, and the Department placed the children back into foster care. When K. entered foster care, she had bruises and marks on her body that were consistent with the use of a belt. In November 2016, the juvenile and domestic relations court entered a preliminary removal order. The Department referred Misty for services.

In October 2016, Misty moved to North Carolina and was hospitalized for three days for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. After her release, she advised the Department that she was working, taking parenting classes, studying for her GED, and attending counseling in North Carolina. She consistently visited with the children. But her housing was unstable, and the Department was concerned that she was using illegal drugs. She later tested positive for marijuana.

The circuit court terminated Misty’s parental rights pursuant to Code § 16.1-283(B) and (C)(2) and approved the foster care goal of adoption. This appeal followed.

Sufficiency of evidence

The circuit court did not err by terminating Misty’s parental rights.

At the time of the hearing, K. and M. had been in foster care for almost two years, and J. had been in foster care for one year. The Department presented evidence that Misty had not substantially remedied the problems that led to foster care placement. The Department initially became involved with the family due to concerns about substance abuse, domestic violence, and safety. After temporary removal, the parents showed signs of improvements, so the Department arranged a trial home placement. The trial lasted about a month, until a pair of domestic violence incidents between the parents that led Watkins to obtain a protective order against Johnathan.

Between July 2016 and November 2017, Misty had lived in at least four different residences, living with her father at the time of the hearing. She stopped going to counseling in June 2016, and was hospitalized for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts the following October. In May 2017, Misty tested positive for marijuana. She didn’t complete parenting classes until August 2017.

Although Misty had shown improvements, she was not in a position to care for the children. K. and M. had special needs and required therapy. The circuit court explained that it could not simply look at a “snapshot” of Misty right now but instead had to consider the “evidence taken as a whole” since the children entered foster care. Taking that approach, the circuit court found that it was in the best interests of the children to terminate mother’s parental rights.


Watkins v. City of Roanoke Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Record No. 0020-18-3, June 26, 2018. CAV (per curiam), from Roanoke City Cir. Ct. (Clemens). VLW No. 018-7-164, 9 pp.

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