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Lack of contact, incarceration backed termination of rights

The trial court did not err in terminating a father’s parental rights where the record showed he was incarcerated during most of his daughter’s time in foster care, he only made contact once when he was out of jail, he made no plans for her future and was incarcerated again at the time of the court’s decision, and social services reported that the child was thriving in foster care. Thus, the court’s decision was in the child’s best interests.


Mother and father are the biological parents to the minor child, D.R.

In April 2016, D.R. was 10 years old and lived in a home with the maternal grandmother, as well as the maternal grandmother’s minor son, three of her adult daughters and five of her grandchildren. D.R. was placed in foster care after the maternal grandmother informed the court that she was unable to care for several of her grandchildren, including D.R. At the time of the removal, father was incarcerated.

Father was incarcerated for most of the time that D.R. was in foster care. In May 2017, father was not incarcerated and spoke with the department about D.R., but he did not offer a plan for D.R.’s future. Father visited with D.R. once before he was incarcerated again. The department twice attempted to visit with father while he was in jail; however, it was unable to meet with him. Considering father’s circumstances, the department determined that he was not a placement option and could not care for D.R.

In August 2017, the department filed a petition to terminate father’s parental rights to D.R. The JDR court entered orders terminating father’s parental rights and approving the foster care goal of adoption. Father appealed to the circuit court.

On March 12 and 13, 2018, the parties appeared before the circuit court. After hearing the parties’ arguments, the circuit court terminated father’s parental rights pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-283(C)(1) and approved the foster care goal of adoption.


Father argues that the circuit court erred by finding that the evidence was sufficient to terminate his parental rights pursuant to Code § 16.1-283(C)(1). He further contends that the department failed to provide him with appropriate services and that the termination of his parental rights was not in the best interests of D.R.

The department proved that while D.R. was in foster care, father contacted the department only once in May 2017. He did not contact the department again, despite being home between November 2017 and February 2018. The circuit court held that father could have contacted the department by telephone or by letter, but he did nothing. Father’s only contact with the child was a single visit. Furthermore, father had no plans for D.R.’s future, other than that she should live with mother or her grandmother, an option that the circuit court rejected.

Contrary to father’s arguments, the department was not required to offer him services while he was incarcerated. Nevertheless, the department attempted to visit father twice while he was incarcerated. The department also met with father in May 2017 to discuss D.R. Father did not communicate with the department after the meeting in May 2017.

The department presented evidence that D.R. was thriving in foster care placement and that her mental health was improving. There was no evidence of when father might be in a position to care for D.R., and in fact, he was uncertain as to how long he would be incarcerated on his pending charges. Considering the circumstances of the case, the circuit court did not err in finding that the evidence was sufficient to terminate father’s parental rights under Code § 16.1-283(C)(1) and that termination of father’s parental rights was in D.R.’s best interests.


Johnson v. Fairfax County Department of Family Services, Record No. 0628-18-4, Jan. 8, 2019. CAV (per curiam) from Fairfax Cir. Ct. (Kassabian). Paul D. Langley for Appellant; Elizabeth D. Teare, May Shallal, Jessica C. Miller for Appellee. VLW No. 019-7-003, 8 pp.