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A.P. v. Covington County Department of Human Resources

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

August 9, 2019

A.P.
v.
COVINGTON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES D.T.H.
v.
Covington County Department of Human Resources.

Page 893

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 894

         Appeals from Covington Juvenile Court JU-15-118.05 and JU-16-48.04.

         Stephanie Cotton, Andalusia, for appellant A.P.

          David S. Baker of Laird, Baker & Blackstock, Opp, for appellant D.T.H.

          Steve Marshall, atty. gen., and Felicia M. Brooks, chief legal counsel, and Karen P. Phillips, asst. atty. gen., and Department of Human Resources, for appellee.

         DONALDSON, Judge.

         A.P. ("the mother") and D.T.H. ("the father") appeal from judgments of the Covington Juvenile Court ("the juvenile court") terminating the father's parental rights to W.T.H., G.H., and J.H. ("the children") and the mother's parental rights to G.H. and J.H. We reverse the judgments and remand the causes.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The father and the mother are the unmarried parents of G.H., born in October 2008, and J.H., born in January 2011. The father is a parent of W.T.H., born in June 2004. After W.T.H.'s mother passed away when he was four or five years old, W.T.H. began living with the father and the mother. In March 2016, the juvenile court granted the Covington County Department of Human Resources ("DHR") emergency custody of the children, and the children have been in the legal custody of DHR since then. G.H. and J.H. are in the foster care of T.P. and J.P. W.T.H. is in the foster care of another couple. The parents' visitations with the children were required to be supervised.

         On September 15, 2017, DHR filed complaints seeking the termination of the father's parental rights to the children and of the mother's parental rights to G.H. and J.H. The father answered the complaints and filed a counterclaim seeking custody of the children or, in the alternative, visitation with them. A guardian ad litem was appointed to represent the best interests of the children.

         On November 29, 2017, and on January 31, 2018, the trial court conducted a trial. At the trial, the father and the following DHR employees testified: Ladarious Benson, Andrea Hobbie, and Melinda Barton. Barton supervised the parents' case with DHR. Benson worked with the mother and the father from the end of 2015 to March 2017. According to Benson, DHR's initial concerns were the children's missing school days and doctor's appointments, reports of drug use, and overall stability of the home. Hobbie testified that she began working with the mother and the father in April 2017. Hobbie testified that she had the following safety concerns regarding returning the children to the parents: substance abuse, mental instability, financial instability, and housing instability.

         The DHR employees testified that there were regular Individualized Service Plan ("ISP") meetings at which goals were set for the parents and that the parents did

Page 895

not comply or provide proof that they had met many of the goals. Benson testified that the parents' financial situation was part of the reason that the parents did not meet the ISP goals. The DHR employees testified that the parents had generally been uncooperative throughout much of the time that the children were in DHR's legal custody. In his testimony, the father denied being uncooperative with DHR but admitted that he did not achieve many of the goals set.

         Benson testified that the mother and the father each underwent a psychological evaluation. Hobbie testified that, based on her psychological evaluation, the mother had a borderline personality disorder. Benson testified that, as a result of the psychological evaluations, drug counseling was recommended to the mother and marital counseling was recommended to both parents but that the mother and the father did not follow the recommendations.

         Hobbie testified that the parents were asked to participate in counseling services, mental-health services, drug screening, and substance-abuse treatment, but not parenting classes, because, she said, the parents were not ready for reunification with the children. According to Hobbie, the mother received a drug-treatment assessment on August 1, 2017, but did not receive drug treatment services because she had said that she had been sober for 180 days. Hobbie testified that the parents did not participate in other requested services.

         According to Benson, the parents have not received any drug treatments or counseling services. The father testified that he had attended a number of Narcotics Anonymous meetings and that he had attended some of the meetings with the mother. Benson testified that, while he worked with the mother, the results for the mother's drug screens were as follows: one positive for opiates and oxycodone, one passed, two refused, and one involving a diluted sample. Benson also testified that the mother had tested positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine. Hobbie testified that, while she worked with her, the mother submitted to the drug screens and tested positive once for "spice" in November 2017.

         Benson testified that the father tested positive in March 2016 for methamphetamine. Benson and Hobbie testified that the father did not test positive for illegal drugs while they worked with him but that he did not participate in some drug screens. Barton and Hobbie testified that the mother had reported that the father had used someone ...


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