Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

CAV: With 7 children removed, adoption is best for 8th

Rebecca M. Lightle//August 24, 2018

CAV: With 7 children removed, adoption is best for 8th

Rebecca M. Lightle//August 24, 2018

Based on expert testimony that a father of eight is unable to parent independently, that his rights as to the elder seven have been terminated, and that his youngest is doing well in foster care, the circuit court did not err in approving the goal of adoption for the youngest child.


Mother and Father, the biological parents of eight children, have a long history of involvement with social services agencies in various states. Father’s appeal here concerns only the youngest child (the other seven have been removed by other jurisdictions).

After the child’s birth, the hospital called the Department due to concerns about the parents’ mental health and knowledge that other children had been removed from their care. The Department sought the entry of foster care plans with goals of adoption, due to the parents’ loss of rights with respect to their other children.

On Father’s referral for a psychological evaluation, Dr. Carter determined that Father was experiencing multiple cognitive difficulties and general mood dysregulation. He has problems with short-term memory, working memory, verbal abstract reasoning, and executive function. Carter concluded that “it was obvious” that Father could not independently parent children.

At the hearing, Father testified that he and Mother were renting a three-bedroom home in Maryland and that he received disability and Medicare benefits. He asserted he was capable of raising a child. The circuit court nevertheless found that the child was at risk of abuse or neglect and approved the goal of adoption.

Out-of-state orders

The circuit court did not err by admitting the Maryland and New Jersey orders. The Maryland orders were properly certified under Code § 8.01-389. The New Jersey documents bore a clear relationship to one another, with the same docket numbers, same parties, same judge, and same date. The certification provided was sufficient to meet statutory requirements.

Goal of adoption

The circuit court noted the Department’s almost conclusory finding in advance that the parties were not capable of parenting because of previous behaviors, but it concluded that “one of the surest indicators of future behavior is past behavior.” The court underscored that Father’s rights to his other seven biological children had been terminated in other jurisdictions. In consideration of those terminations, expert testimony raising serious concerns about Father’s ability to parent given significant and fixed cognitive defects, the court entered its finding that the children were at risk of abuse and neglect.

This court finds no error in the circuit court’s conclusion that a goal of return home was not in the child’s best interests. Based on his detailed psychological evaluation, Carter concluded that it was “hard to imagine a set of circumstances” that would allow Father, even with significant support, to raise a child. Although Father expressed his willingness to “do anything” to have the child returned to him, evidence proved he lacked the ability to parent safely. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the circuit court did not err in approving the goal of adoption.

Affirmed and remanded for any further action as the case may require.

Civis v. Fauquier Cnty. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Record No. 1560-17-4, Aug. 21, 2018. CAV (Annunziata), from Fauquier Cir. Ct. (Parker). Harold N. Ward Jr. for Appellant; no argument for Appellee. VLW No. 018-7-220, 16 pp.

Verdicts & Settlements

See All Verdicts & Settlements

Opinion Digests

See All Digests