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CAV: Mother’s lack of contact with kids supports termination

Despite significant compliance with social services requirements to reunite with her five living children, a mother had not substantially remedied the conditions that required them to be placed in foster care. She had not seen the children since they were removed, had no job or driver’s license, and struggled to function independently.


Appellant Sonya King and her husband are the biological parents to six children, five of whom are the subject of this appeal. In 2011, one child apparently drowned in a bathtub in what was later adjudicated as involuntary manslaughter by the father.

The Department of Social Services remained involved with the family over the years. King suffered postpartum depression after the birth of her youngest child, depression over the loss of the child who died, and stress from raising the children alone while their father was incarcerated.

By September 2015, King had a severe narcotic dependency and stole money and possessions from the household to purchase drugs. Her husband obtained a protective order against her and received possession of the home. King was not allowed to have contact with the children or their father. The protective order was later dismissed, but King continued to live elsewhere and not see the children.

After the children’s school made several reports about the children’s clothing and appearance and their father’s unwillingness to seek medical attention for them, the Department removed them and placed them in foster care.

King completed several of the Department’s requirements to remedy the conditions requiring foster care. However, she did not have any face-to-face visits with the children or present any plans about how she would provide for them if she were to have custody. She started living with her husband again and testified that she would care for the children as a stay-at-home mother. She admitted at trial that she was a “compulsive liar” and said whatever she had to say to get the children.

The circuit court terminated King’s parental rights pursuant to Code
§ 16.1-283(C)(1)( and (2). King has appealed.


The circuit court did not err in terminating King’s parental rights.

King had previously been removed from the home in September 2015 due to her husband obtaining a protective order against her. Even after she was no longer prohibited from contact, she didn’t try to contact them for months because she was angry at her husband. Her actions support an evaluating psychologist’s conclusion that King’s “excessive self-focus limits the attention she can give to the needs and feelings of others including her children.”

King was incarcerated during spring 2016 for driving under the influence and drug possession. She admitted that foster care was the best option for the children. While the children were in foster care, King didn’t have stable housing or a job and intended to rely on her husband to meet her and the children’s financial needs. She had no driver’s license.

The circuit court found that King was “chronically tense, anxious, and depressed, a self-confessed compulsive liar who is likely to have a moderate to severe substance abuse disorder the remainder of her life.” The circuit court further held that King had “no workable plan to have physical custody of her children…. Her only stated plan was to sleep four hours per day, work part-time and be the sole provider and sole caretaker of her five children. She has no job.”

King did not substantially remedy the conditions that led to continued foster care. A psychologist opined that she “lacks self-esteem and confidence in her ability to function independently and consequently she tends to seek out dependency relationships.” The children had special needs and numerous therapy and medical appointments, but King had to rely on others for transportation. She also had a history of substance abuse, with a “high lifetime probability of a moderate to severe substance use disorder.”

At the time of the hearing, the children had been in foster care for 16 months. Accordingly, the circuit court did not err in terminating King’s parental rights.


King v. King George Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Record No. 0179-18-2, Aug. 14, 2018. CAV (per curiam), from King George Cir. (Hewitt). VLW No. 018-7-213, 10 pp.

VLW 018-7-213