Submitted: January 9, 2018
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File No.
CK15-01455; 17-06-2TK Pet. Nos. 15-07734; 17-16781
VAUGHN, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.
2nd day of March 2018, upon consideration of the
appellant's brief filed pursuant to Supreme Court Rule
26.1(c), her attorney's motion to withdraw, and the
appellee's response and motion to affirm, it appears to
the Court that:
respondent-appellant, Janice Price ("Price"), filed
this appeal from the Family Court's order, dated August
28, 2017, terminating her parental rights in her son, Kevin
(born February 11, 2015).
Mother's appointed counsel on appeal has filed an opening
brief and a motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule
26.1(c). Counsel asserts that she has reviewed the record and
has determined that no arguable claim for appeal exists. By
letter, Mother's counsel informed her of the provisions
of Rule 26.1(c) and provided her with a copy of the motion to
withdraw and the accompanying brief. Mother responded by
letter with points for the Court to consider on appeal. The
appellee, the Department of Services for Children, Youth and
their Families for the State of Delaware ("the
State"), has filed a response to counsel's Rule 26.1
brief and has moved to affirm the Family Court's
judgment. The guardian ad litem appointed to represent the
interests of the child joined in the State's response.
March 20, 2015, the Family Court entered an emergency ex
parte Order awarding custody of Kevin to the State,
after Mother entered a mental health facility. Mother's
grandmother told State workers that she could not care for
the infant, and there were no other family members willing or
able to care for him. The Family Court held a preliminary
protective hearing on March 25, 2015, at which neither parent
appeared. The Family Court held an adjudicatory hearing on
April 28, 2015, at which neither parent appeared.
May 27, 2015, the Family Court held a dispositional hearing.
Mother appeared at the hearing with appointed counsel and
signed a case plan with the State. Following a review hearing
held on August 19, 2015, the Family Court instructed the
State to seek a transfer of Kevin's case to Pennsylvania,
where Mother was involved in dependency proceedings involving
her older children. In April 2016, the State filed a motion
requesting to change the goal of Mother's case plan from
reunification to termination. After several continuances, the
Family Court held a hearing in April 2017. The Family Court
granted the State's motion to change the goal to
Family Court held a termination hearing on August 28, 2017.
Mother appeared at the hearing by telephone. Mother
disconnected the phone call shortly after the hearing began,
asserting that the proceedings were unlawful. The Family Court
moved forward with the hearing and heard testimony from a
former State treatment worker assigned to Kevin's case,
an employee with Children and Families First, a permanency
worker, and Kevin's foster mother.
testimony at the hearing established that the State had
developed a plan for reunification of Kevin with Mother in
May 2015. Despite early attempts at compliance with the plan
and visitation with Kevin, Mother had not had any meaningful
contact with Kevin since May 2016. By the time of the August
2017 hearing, Mother had been convicted of criminal charges
in Pennsylvania and was incarcerated pending sentencing on
those charges. The evidence also established that
Mother's parental rights in Kevin's three older
siblings had been terminated by a Pennsylvania court. Mother
had failed to complete most of the requirements of her
testimony also established that Kevin had been living with
the same foster family since entering the State's custody
in March 2015. Kevin is thriving and happy. His foster mother
testified that she would like to adopt Kevin.
Family Court found clear and convincing evidence that Mother
had failed to plan adequately for Kevin's needs,
that Mother had abandoned Kevin,  and that Mother had her
parental rights over another child involuntarily terminated
in another proceeding. The Family Court also found clear and
convincing evidence that the State had made reasonable
efforts to reunify Mother with Kevin and that it was in
Kevin's best interest that Mother's parental rights
be terminated. This appeal followed.
response to her counsel's Rule 26.1 brief on appeal,
Mother contends that she is eligible for early release from
her Pennsylvania sentence and that she has guaranteed housing
and employment upon her release. She also contends that she
wants to be reunified with Kevin and that she is prepared to
care for Kevin if he is returned to her. She asserts that she
has completed updated courses in anger management, domestic
violence, and parenting as part of her early release plan.
She also contends that she has been diagnosed with
schizophrenia and is receiving treatment. She argues that
there is no evidence of long-term drug use and ...