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Hill v. Division of Family Services

Supreme Court of Delaware

December 12, 2013

CLAY HILL, Respondent Below-Appellant,
v.
DIVISION OF FAMILY SERVICES, Petitioner Below-Appellee.

Submitted: Sept. 30, 2013.

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.

Court Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County, ID No. CN09-03749.

Before HOLLAND, JACOBS, and RIDGELY, Justices.

ORDER

HENRY DuPONT RIDGELY, Justice.

On this 12th day of December 2013, it appears to the Court that:

(1) Respondent-Below/Appellant Clay Hill [1] (" Father" ) appeals a Family Court order granting Petitioner-Below/Appellee Division of Family Services' (" DFS" ) Petition to Terminate Parental Rights (TPR) of his daughter (" Child" ). Father raises one claim on appeal. He contends that the Family Court erred in concluding by clear and convincing evidence that DFS provided bona fide reasonable efforts to reunite Father and Child. We find no merit to Father's appeal and affirm.

(2) Child's mother gave birth to Child at home in February 2012. Mother and Child were later transported to Christiana Hospital. They both tested positive for cocaine and opiates upon arrival. The mother had a long history of substance abuse, unemployment, and homelessness.[2] Custody of Child was granted to DFS, and Child was placed in the foster home where she remains today. Father was incarcerated at the time Child was born. Father has had difficulty securing housing and employment and had periods of substance abuse. He also has a lengthy criminal history with multiple periods of incarceration, and suffers from anxiety and depression. Moreover, Father is an insulin-dependent diabetic with a history of cardiac problems, hypertension and renal failure.

(3) Father told DFS that he wanted to care for Child upon his release from prison and that he did not want her placed for adoption. He was released from prison in March 2012. DFS developed a case plan for Father focusing on housing, employment, substance abuse, mental health, parenting skills, and legal issues. Father did not successfully complete any aspect of the case plan. He missed scheduled visitations with Child. He started a parenting class but did not finish, and he was discharged from parent aide services for non-compliance. DFS referred Father to New Behavioral Network (NBN), a DFS contract agency, who provided him with parenting assistance services focused on housing, employment, transportation, completing a budget, and recommending other social services. NBN reports indicate that Father missed scheduled appointments and had inappropriate interactions with staff.

(4) In May 2012, Father violated his probation for failing random drug screenings. As a result, he was incarcerated. At the time of his incarceration, father was unemployed and without stable housing. Father was released from prison on September 20, 2012. Following a mental health examination, he resumed scheduled visits with Child in November and successfully completed both a parenting class and life skills program. Although Father engaged in mental health treatment and interacted appropriately with Child, Father has never independently cared for Child, been alone with her, or been around her for longer than an hour at a time.

(5) On October 1, 2012, shortly after Father's release, the Family Court issued an Order changing the goal from reunification to a concurrent goal of Termination of Parental Rights and Permanent Guardianship with Child's Paternal Aunt. Father failed to respond to the notice issued by the Family Court or to move for reargument once the Family Court issued the Order. DFS proceeded with the new goals as ordered by the Family Court, immediately initiating the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (" ICPC" ) process for Permanent Guardianship with Child's Paternal Aunt, who lived in Maryland.

(6) Father has not had stable employment or appropriate housing for Child at any point since she was born. Moreover, Father has no long-term housing plan for himself and Child, should they be reunited. He is unemployed and receives limited public financial assistance. This state of affairs is unlikely to change because Father claims that his primary care physician advised him not to return to work for six to twelve months due to health concerns. Further, Father owes arrears on child support for his other children.

(7) Child is extremely bonded to her foster family, which is the only family she has ever known and considered a potential adoptive resource. Father's sister said she would be willing to have Father and Child in her home for about six to twelve months, but she believes that Child is bonded to her foster family and that Child's should remain with them. Based on this evidence, the Family Court found by clear and convincing evidence that Child was dependent on DFS care and that ...


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