Submitted: April 11, 2018
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File Nos.
CN11-01936 16-05-11TN, Petition Nos. 15-15104 16-15113
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
COLLINS J. SEITZ, JR. JUSTICE
25th day of April 2018, upon consideration of the
parties' briefs and the record below,  it appears to the
respondent-appellant, Kelly Nichols ("the Mother"),
filed an appeal from the Family Court's decision, dated
July 20, 2017, terminating her parental rights to her son
("the Son"), who was born in 2007, and her daughter
("the Daughter"), who was born in 2008
(collectively "the Children"). The
respondent-appellant, Ronald Sampson ("the
Father"), also filed an appeal from the Family
Court's July 20, 2017 decision terminating his parental
rights to the Children. Having carefully reviewed the record,
we find no error or abuse of the discretion in the Family
Court's decision. Accordingly, we affirm the Family
Children first came into the care of DSCYF/DFS in March 2011.
After the Mother and the Father completed their respective
case plans, the Children were returned to them in August
2011. On May 29, 2015, DSCYF/DFS filed a petition for an
emergency ex parte order granting custody of the
Children to DSCYF/DFS. The petition was based on the
Mother's substance abuse issues and domestic violence
perpetrated by the Father against the Mother. The Family
Court granted the petition, scheduled a preliminary
protective hearing, and appointed a guardian ad
litem to represent the best interests of the children.
the preliminary protective hearing on June 3, 2015, the
Family Court appointed counsel to represent the Mother and
the Father. The Mother stipulated to probable cause of
dependency for the Children due to her lack of stable housing
and substance abuse issues. At that time, the Father was
subject to a criminal no contact order with the Mother and
the Children. The Family Court found probable cause to
believe the Children were dependent. The Family Court also
found that there was currently no appropriate placement for
the Children with relatives. The Mother was awarded
supervised visitation with the Children, but the Father was
not awarded visitation due to the no contact order.
July 14, 2015, the Family Court held an adjudicatory hearing.
The Family Court found that the Children were dependent based
on the parents' stipulations regarding a lack of
appropriate housing. The Father was awarded supervised
visitation because the criminal charges against him were
dropped and the no contact order was lifted. The State
advised that the Children were doing well in the home of a
foster mother ("the Foster Mother"). The Family
Court also found that DSCYF/DFS was making reasonable efforts
August 11, 2015, the Family Court held a dispositional
hearing. The Family Court continued to find the Children to
be dependent and that DSCYF/DFS was making reasonable efforts
at reunification. Case plans were entered for the Mother and
November 17, 2015, the Family Court held a review hearing.
The Family Court continued to find the Children to be
dependent and that DSCYF/DFS was making reasonable efforts at
reunification. The Mother and the Father were living together
again, but their housing was unstable. They were making
progress on their case plans. At the review hearing, it was
noted that the Daughter, who has Down Syndrome, was receiving
treatment for diabetes. Concerns were also expressed
regarding the Daughter's sexualized behaviors. The
Daughter was scheduled for an interview with the Child
March 11, 2016, the Family Court held a review hearing. The
Family Court continued to find the Children to be dependent
and that DSCYF/DFS was making reasonable efforts at
reunification. DSCYF/DFS noted that the Daughter continued to
act out sexually and was recently diagnosed with celiac
April 26, 2016, DSCYF/DFS filed a petition to change the goal
from reunification to termination of parental rights. The
guardian ad litem had no objection to the motion,
but the Mother and the Father opposed the motion. On May 23,
2016, DSCYF/DFS filed a petition for termination and transfer
of parents rights. The petition alleged that the parents'
rights should be terminated under 13 Del. C. §
1103(a)(5) because they were not able or had failed to plan
adequately for the Children's physical needs or mental
health and development. The parties later stipulated that
there would be concurrent goals of termination of parental
rights/adoption and reunification. They also stipulated that
the Child Advocacy Center interviews with the Children would
be submitted to the Family Court.
Family Court held a permanency hearing on November 4, 2016.
The Family Court interviewed the Son on December 6, 2016. The
Family Court subsequently held that concurrent goals of
termination of parental rights/adoption and reunification
were appropriate. A termination of parental rights hearing
was originally scheduled for January 24, 2017, January 27,
2017, and February 7, 2017, ...