Submitted: April 22, 2019
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware File Nos.
17K-10-8TK & 17-10-9TK Petition Nos. 17-33033 &
STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.
F. Traynor Justice
consideration of the appellant's brief filed under
Supreme Court Rule 26.1, her attorney's motion to
withdraw, the response of the Division of Family Services
("DFS"), and the response of the attorney ad
litem, it appears to the Court that:
respondent below-appellant, Marion Garrett ("the
Mother"), filed an appeal from the Family Court's
decision, dated December 5, 2018, terminating her parental
rights to her two daughters
("Children"). On appeal, the Mother's counsel
("Counsel") has filed an opening brief and motion
to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26.1. Counsel represents
that she has made a conscientious review of the record and
the law and found no meritorious argument in support of the
appeal. The Mother has submitted points for the Court's
consideration. In response to Counsel's submission, DFS
and the Children's attorney ad litem, have moved
to affirm the Family Court's termination of the
Mother's parental rights.
older daughter was born in 2011 and the younger daughter was
born in 2013. On August 30, 2016, DFS was awarded temporary
custody of the Children by emergency ex parte order.
DFS alleged that the family had been involved with DFS for
several months, the family had been residing at a hotel since
mid-July, the Mother was unemployed and lacked funds to pay
for a place to stay, and there were no other family members
or friends who could take care of the Children.
the preliminary protective hearing on September 7, 2016, the
Family Court appointed counsel to represent the Mother. The
Mother stipulated to the Children's dependency or neglect
based on her homelessness and continued mental health issues.
She also waived protective and adjudicatory hearings and
requested a reunification case plan. The Family Court found
that the Children continued to be dependent or neglected and
that the Children continued to be in, or there was
substantial imminent risk of, actual physical, mental or
emotional danger. The Family Court also found that DFS had
exercised due diligence to identify and notify all
grandparents and adult relatives of the Children.
October 6, 2016, the Family Court held a dispositional
hearing. The Children were in a different foster care home
after the initial foster care parent expressed concern with
the older child's behavioral issues. The Mother's
case plan included a mental health evaluation and compliance
with any mental health treatment recommendations, working
with a parent aide, finding and maintaining housing, and
obtaining employment. DFS had communicated with the maternal
grandmother (who had the Mother's two older children)
about the Children, but she was unable to care for them. The
Family Court found that Children continued to be dependent,
it was in their best interests to remain in DFS custody, and
DFS was making reasonable efforts toward reunification.
January 3, 2017, the Family Court held a review hearing. The
Mother's progress on her case plan included working with
a parent interventionist, finding possible employment, and
moving in with the family of her girlfriend. The older child
had alleged that the husband of the girlfriend's mother
had abused her, but he was not living in the home. The older
child attended trauma-focused therapy every other week.
April 5, 2017, the Family Court held another review hearing.
The Family Court found that the Mother had been doing well on
her case plan at the last review hearing, but had since
missed several visits with the Children because she felt
overwhelmed. Based on the Mother's mental health
evaluation, it was recommended that she engage in
psychotherapy to address her experience as a victim of
domestic violence and to develop coping mechanisms. The older
child was moved to a different foster home after behaving in
a dangerous and aggressive manner toward the younger child.
The older child continued to see a therapist.
July 11, 2017, the Family Court held another review hearing.
The Mother was attending visits with the Children more
regularly since the last hearing. She had a therapist for her
mental health issues, but was seeing him inconsistently. The
Mother was no longer living with her girlfriend and was not
employed. The older child had extreme temper tantrums and
continued to see a therapist.
August 30, 2017, the Family Court held a permanency review
hearing. The Family Court found the Mother's progress on
her case plan was inconsistent. She had missed four out of
eight visits with the Children, failed to address her past
issues with domestic violence, and needed to reengage with
the parent interventionist. She had obtained employment and
was seeing her therapist consistently. She was also pregnant
and living again with her girlfriend. The older child's
behavior was improving. The Family Court authorized DFS to
add termination of parental rights/adoption as a concurrent
goal to the permanency plan and warned the Mother that time
was running out on her time to complete the case plan. DFS
filed petitions for termination of parental rights on October
November 27, 2017, the Family Court held a review hearing.
The older child continued to see a therapist and the younger
child had started therapy due to some behavioral issues the
foster mother had noticed. The Mother had stable housing and
made significant progress in her therapy, which also
addressed the domestic violence she had survived. DFS wanted
to see how the Mother coped with the new baby before
attempting trial reunification with the Children. Based on
the Mother's significant progress on her case plan in the
preceding three months, the ...