for Publication April 28, 2016.
from Talladega Juvenile Court. (JU-10-100302.03). Marcus R.
Rumsey, Trial Judge.
Talladega County Department of Human Resources, Appellant:
Sharon E. Ficquette, Chief Legal Counsel, Karen P. Phillips,
Asst. Atty. Gen., Department of Human Resources.
J.J., Appellee: Trina Hammonds, Talladega.
N.J., Appellee: Nicholas J. Beckham, Childersburg.
Milam, Guardian Ad Litem, Gulf Coast Attorneys LLC, Grand
Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Thomas, and Moore, JJ.,
Talladega County Department of Human Resources ("
DHR" ) appeals from a judgment of the Talladega Juvenile
Court (" the juvenile court" ) denying its petition
to terminate the parental rights of J.J. (" the
father" ) and N.J. (" the mother" ) to their
child, S.J. (" the child" ). We affirm the juvenile
and Procedural History
November 1, 2013, DHR filed a petition in the juvenile court
to terminate the parental rights of the father and the mother
to the child. On the same day, the juvenile court appointed a
guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child.
The mother and the father were represented by separate
counsel. The juvenile court held a trial on April 2, 2014.
The record contains the following facts relevant to the
issues presented for review.
child, born in May 2001, has been diagnosed with autism and
requires constant supervision. At some point not specifically
indicated in the record but likely around 2009, the mother
was convicted in Tennessee on charges related to sexual abuse
of the child. The record does not establish whether the
offense was a felony. At the time of trial, the mother
remained incarcerated in Tennessee. Jennifer Ponder, a DHR
caseworker, testified that the mother was expected to be
released from prison in November 2016, although other
witnesses testified that the mother would be released in 2020
or at some later point in time.
father is unemployed and disabled. He suffers from multiple
debilitating illnesses and infirmities, including type II
diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
and back pain due to 18 ruptured disks. He has suffered eight
heart attacks and three strokes. He has had three back
surgeries and two hydrocele-cyst operations. He testified
that he was undergoing tests to see if he would require
cardiac surgery. He testified that he was under the care of 6
different physicians and that he takes 30 prescription
medications per day. He is confined to a wheelchair.
December 2010, DHR received a report from the child's
school that the child had bruises on her back. Lewis Prince,
a DHR caseworker, testified that DHR concluded that the
bruises were not caused by an accident but that " they
had to have been inflicted [by someone] other than
herself." Prince testified, however, that DHR could not
determine if the bruises were caused by the father. The
father denied that he had abused the child. Prince testified
that he went to the father's home and found it to be
unclean. Prince found that the father was unable to meet the
special needs of the child and that the child was having
trouble in school. DHR petitioned for and received custody of
the child in December 2010 and placed the child in foster
care in a therapeutic foster home. The father continued to
have unsupervised overnight visitation with the child after
December 2010, although the father had a caregiver, his
paramour, in the home at the time to assist with caring for
testified that DHR provided services to the father. He stated
father had completed parenting classes and that DHR had
provided him with counseling, including providing him with
two in-home case aides who instructed him about caring for
the child, how to discipline the child appropriately, and how
to provide a clean home. Prince testified that the father
yelled and screamed and cursed at the child " quite
often" when DHR first became involved with the family,
including in front of Prince. He testified that dealing with
the child requires patience, consistency, care, and firm
direction without agitation. He testified that DHR worked
with the father on issues relating to anger management and
proper discipline of the child. He testified that the
father's physical disabilities prevented him from
providing adequate care and supervision for the child.
testified that the father maintained regular visits with the
child up until the time he stopped working on the case in
March 2013. Prince testified that the child enjoyed the
visits with the father and that the child appeared to have an
emotional attachment to the father. Under cross-examination
from the guardian ad litem, Prince stated:
" Q. Did it appear to you that [the child] had an
emotional attachment to her father?
" A. Yes, sir.
" Q. What made you feel that way?
" A. Her reaction to her dad. If you said I'm going
to get to see dad, she was very excited. Always wanted to see
him up until the last time I participated in the visit, she
wanted to see her dad. It got to the point where she wanted
to see her dad, loved her dad, as far as I know still does,
was attached to him, but it got to the point where the
attachment was not so much. She was ready to go home, she was
ready to go home, and to her home had become somewhere else.
She loved seeing her dad, wanted to visit with him, but after
just a time, she was ready to go."
testified that the child's condition had improved since
being placed in foster care. He testified that he never
believed that it was in the child's ...