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Dept. of Human Services v. T.M.M.

248 Or App 352

February 29, 2012

Clatsop County


Mother appeals the judgment terminating her parental rights of her five children, N, C, G, L and W arguing that at the time of the hearing she was not unfit and that the children could be reunited with her within a reasonable amount of time.

Mother and father have a lengthy involvement with child welfare. Beginning in January 2008, child protective services in Indiana was alerted to concerns about the safety of the children in mother and father's care. The reason for involvement by Indiana was due to criminal activity by mother, a dirty house, and exposure to an individual that had a substantiated sexual abuse allegation related to a child. Mother was addicted to opiates at the time. The children were removed in january and returned in July of 2008. After the return, L seriously burned herself on the oven and the other child required stitches after cutting himself with a knife. Indiana closed the case in December of 2008.

In January 2009 the the family moved to Astoria so they could be closer to family support. The family did not bring any of their belongings from Indiana and did not have plans for suitable housing. The seven family members stayed in a two-bedroom apartment with three of mother's relatives and during that stay L burned herself again, and fearing DHS involvement, mother treated the burn at home. Mother also continued to use opiates and engaged in drug-seeking behavior between January 2009 and August 2010.

The family moved into their own apartment in March of 2009. On March 16, law enforcement responded to the home due to a domestic dispute between mother and father. Father was angry because methamphetamine was left on the floor in the reach of children and mother slit her wrists. Mother was taken to the hospital and placed on a mental health hold. Law enforcement referred the matter to DHS and during the assessment, mother was arrested for shoplifting baby formula and lunch meat. Mother and father also failed to give UAs that they had agreed to provide. DHS also received a report from a family friend that mother was high and abusing prescription medication around the children. The children were removed from the home on March 26, 2009.

The children had various behavioral and developmental problems. The older children exhibited parentified behavior. Some showed symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder. One required to be separated from his siblings for a time due to concerns about his behavior. All of the children had Axis I diagnoses. The youngest did not have any attachment to mother or father.

During the case, mother participated in various services to ameliorate the reasons that the children came into care. She completed inpatient treatment in December 2009 and participated in aftercare. However, she missed more than half of her individual and group treatment appointments. Mother eventually moved to a faith-based shelter/recovery program. She participated in a psychological evaluations in October 2009 and March 2010. Progress was noted between the two evaluations, but her long-term prognosis for being consistently stable and a protective parenting resource was guarded. Mother began drug seeking behaviors again in March 2010 and was terminated from the family drug court program in April 2010. Mother moved out of the recovery program in May. She was terminated from her aftercare program in June as she was non-compliant. Mother acknowledged her relapse, returned to the shelter and began outpatient treatment. However, she continued to miss appointments. Mother continued her drug-seeking behavior. At the termination hearing in December, mother had self-reported that she had not used pain medication for five months except for two occasions.

Mother's visitation with the children were problematic. She missed a substantial amount. She did not understand their nutritional needs. She did not effectively parent all five of them at the same time. The visits had the be restructured so she was visiting the children one-on-one and she was doing much better with that.

Based on the facts, the court concluded that when using opiates, mother had a difficult time putting her needs in front of the children and caused serious detriment to the children and therefore was unfit. At the time of termination, the children had been in and out of foster care in two states since the beginning of 2009. They exhibited significant behavioral problems as a result of mother's unfitness, but were showing improvement in their foster care placements. Mother would not be able to parent them for at least seven more months, and that was best case scenario. The children needed permanency and mother was unable to provide them permanency within a reasonable time. Therefore, termination was appropriate.

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