June 19, 2019,
decision has been designated as "Table of Decisions
Without Published Opinions." in the Atlantic Reporter.
Below-Family Court of the State of Delaware. File Nos.
18-08-08TN CN08-02835. Petition Nos. 18-24769 17-18676.
Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and TRAYNOR,
Strine, Jr. Chief Justice
consideration of the appellant's brief filed under
Supreme Court Rule 26.1(c), her attorney's
motion to withdraw, the appellee's response and motion to
affirm, and the Child's attorney's response, it
appears to the Court that:
This is an appeal from the Family Court's December 5,
2018 order that terminated the parental rights of Linda
Sawyer (aka Aarons) (" the Mother" ) in her son
(" the Child" ).
The Mother's counsel has filed a no-merit brief and a
motion to withdraw under Supreme Court Rule 26.1(c).
Counsel asserts that, based on a conscientious review of the
record, there are no arguably appealable issues. Counsel
informed the Mother of the provisions of Rule 26.1(c),
provided her with a copy of his motion to withdraw and the
accompanying brief, and informed the Mother of her right to
supplement counsel's presentation. Counsel submitted the
Mother's concerns as " Appellant's Points"
in the brief on appeal. The appellee, the Department of
Services for Children, Youth and Their Families/Division of
Family Services (" DFS" ), and the Child's
attorney have responded to the Rule 26.1(c) brief and argue
that the Family Court's judgment should be affirmed.
The Child was born in 2008 and is now eleven years old. In
June of 2017, DFS received a report that emergency services
had been called to a public park in Wilmington where the
first responders found the Mother extremely intoxicated with
the Child in her care. The Mother was transported to
Christiana Hospital where she was sedated due to her high
level of intoxication and combativeness. The Child reported
to DFS that his father lived in Wilmington but he was unable
to provide any contact information for either his father or
any other family member. The Family Court granted ex
parte custody of the Child to DFS on June 21, 2017. With
the filing of DFS's dependency and neglect petition on
June 22, 2017, the mandated hearings
the preliminary protective hearing on June 28, 2017, the
Mother stipulated the Child was dependent in her care based
on the Mother's unstable housing situation and an acute
alcohol dependency that required treatment. The Family Court
found that the Child was dependent and that it was in his
best interests to remain in DFS's care and custody. The
Family Court also found that DFS had made reasonable efforts
to prevent the removal of the Child from the home and to
reunify the family. The Family Court concluded
that placement of the Child in the home of a relative was not
appropriate because there were no relatives in Delaware known
to be available and willing resources for placement.
July 21, 2017, the Family Court held a dispositional hearing.
The Child's father did not appear and DFS had been unable
to ascertain his current address. DFS had developed and
reviewed with the Mother a case plan for reunification with
the Child. The Mother's case plan required that she: (i)
undergo a substance abuse evaluation; (ii) obtain and
maintain housing and financial stability; (iii) undergo a
mental health evaluation; (iv) resolve her pending legal
matters; and 4 (v) address her experience as a victim of
domestic violence. The Mother had disclosed to DFS that she
had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had
been inconsistently taking her medications after her Medicaid
had been deactivated. The Mother also acknowledged that she
recently struggled with alcohol abuse.
the time of the dispositional hearing, the Mother was
unemployed and living with a friend. DFS did not approve of
the home as a residence for the Child or as an acceptable
environment for visitation. The Mother had been regularly
visiting with the Child on a weekly basis. DFS was exploring
the option of placing the Child with his maternal
grandmother. Although the maternal grandmother was then
residing in a shelter in New York, she planned to move into
her own residence and wished to be a resource. The Mother
testified that the Child's adult half-sister also lived
in New York and the Family ...