Submitted: April 20, 2018
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File Nos.
CN15-02932 16-11-02TN Petition Nos. 15-16125 16-35570
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.
L. Valihura Justice
5th day of June 2018, upon consideration of the
appellant's brief under Supreme Court Rule 26.1(c), her
attorney's motion to withdraw, the responses of the
Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their
Families, Division of Family Services ("DFS") and
the Office of the Child Advocate ("OCA"), and the
record below,  it appears to the Court that:
respondent-appellant, Rachel Hawkins ("the
Mother"), has filed an appeal from the Family
Court's decision, dated November 6, 2017, terminating her
parental rights to her daughter ("the Child"), who
was born on June 24, 2014. DFS originally filed a petition
for an emergency ex parte order granting custody of
the Child to DFS on June 5, 2015. The petition arose from the
Mother, who had a history as a domestic violence victim of
the Child's father ("the Father"), a history of
substance abuse and mental health issues, and an extensive
history with DFS, testifying during a protection from abuse
("PFA") hearing that she had only applied for a PFA
against the Father because DFS made her do it, she loved the
Father, and she wanted to reunite with him after couples
counseling. The Family Court granted the petition and
scheduled a preliminary protective hearing. On June 11, 2015,
the Family Court appointed a court appointed special advocate
("CASA") to represent the Child.
the preliminary protective hearing on June 17, 2015, the
Family Court appointed counsel to represent the Mother and
the Father. The Mother stipulated to probable cause of
dependency for the Child due to lack of stable housing. The
Father, who was incarcerated and prohibited from contact with
the Mother and the Child, also stipulated to probable cause
of dependency. The Family Court found probable cause to
believe the Child was dependent. The Family Court also found
that DFS made reasonable efforts to prevent the unnecessary
removal of the Child from her home. The Mother was awarded
biweekly visitation with the Child.
August 26, 2015, the Family Court held an adjudicatory
hearing. The Family Court found that the Child was dependent
based on the Mother's stipulation to a history of
domestic violence and the Father's incarceration. The
Family Court also found that DFS was making reasonable
efforts at reunification and to find an appropriate relative
caretaker. There were indications that the Mother's
brother might file a petition for guardianship.
October 6, 2015, the Family Court held a dispositional
hearing. The Mother did not appear for the hearing. The
Family Court found that the Mother's case plan, which the
Mother had previously signed, was appropriate. The Family
Court ordered DFS to prepare a case plan for the Father. The
Mother's case plan provided, among other things, that the
Mother would participate in counseling for domestic violence
victims and have no contact with the Father, complete a
substance abuse evaluation and receive treatment if
recommended by the evaluation, speak with a counselor
whenever she felt stressed or overwhelmed, take any
prescribed medication and meet with a therapist if necessary,
obtain appropriate housing, and seek employment.
November 16, 2015, the Family Court held a review hearing.
The Family Court continued to find the Child to be dependent
and that DFS was making reasonable efforts at reunification.
There was a lapse in the Mother's substance abuse
treatment due to her relocation from downstate to upstate.
The Mother was working on her case plan and having supervised
visits with the Child. A case plan was entered for the
February 9, 2016, the Family Court held another review
hearing. The Family Court continued to find the Child to be
dependent and that DFS was making reasonable efforts at
reunification. The Mother had a mental health evaluation and
was prescribed medication in October 2015. In November 2015,
the Mother informed DFS that she was going to admit herself
to Bowling Green for 15-20 days because she was depressed and
using alcohol. She did not do so, however, and gave differing
accounts as to why she had not admitted herself.
Mother said she had previously been diagnosed with Bi-Polar
Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Major Anxiety
Disorder. She also said that she was involved with the ACT
Program at Connections and had begun receiving outpatient
mental health services from Rockford in January 2016. The
Mother was willing to sign release forms so DFS could verify
these claims. The Mother also said her brother was willing to
be a placement resource for the Child.
April 22, 2016, the Family Court held another review hearing.
The Mother had been working on her case plan, but DFS had
concerns about the consistency of her treatment. The Mother
had missed multiple sessions with ACT and her domestic
violence counselor. The Mother said that DFS had concerns
about her brother's housing. Her brother had been unable
to visit the Child due to his work schedule; he could only do
visits on nights and weekends.
April 29, 2016, DFS filed a motion to change the goal from
reunification to a concurrent goal of reunification and
termination of parental rights/adoption because the parents
had not completed their case plans. The Family ...