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In re W. J. T.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

October 23, 2013

In the Matter of W. J. T., a Child.
v.
L. A. S., aka L. A. O., Appellant. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent, In the Matter of A. A. O., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
L. A. S., aka L. A. O., Appellant.

Submitted on September 06, 2013.

Lane County Circuit Court 05495J, 1560J, Petition Number 05495J02, 11560J01 Eveleen Henry, Judge.

Peter Gartlan, Chief Defender, and Valerie Colas, Deputy Public Defender, Office of Public Defense Services, filed the brief for appellant.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Cecil A. Reniche-Smith, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.

Before Schuman, Presiding Judge, and Wollheim, Judge, and Duncan, Judge.

DUNCAN, J.

In these consolidated juvenile dependency cases, mother appeals the juvenile court's judgments that changed the permanency plans for her two children, W and A, from reunification to adoption. Mother asserts that the court erred in concluding that she had not made sufficient progress toward ameliorating the conditions that gave rise to the court's jurisdiction over the children. We affirm.

The juvenile court took jurisdiction over the children in February 2012, primarily because of mother's "use of alcohol and/or controlled substances." In February 2013, the court held a permanency hearing. At the time of the hearing, W was seven years old and A was approximately 14 months old. As a result of both this case and an earlier case, W had been in foster care for nearly half of her life. A had been in foster care for all of his life.

After the hearing, the court issued a permanency judgment for each child concluding that the Department of Human Services (DHS) had made reasonable efforts to reunify the family but that mother had not made sufficient progress to make it possible for the children to safely return home. Regarding mother's progress, both judgments state:

"Mother is involved in the case and has not made sufficient progress toward meeting the expectations set forth in the service agreement, letter of expectation and/or case plan, and the child cannot be safely returned to mother's care."

The judgments further state:

"The case plan of reunification should be changed to a different plan because * * * notwithstanding the reasonable reunification efforts of DHS, the child cannot be safely returned to the care of either mother or father at the time of the hearing, and the evidence does not support a determination under ORS 419B.476(4)(c) and (5)(c) that further efforts by the agency will make it possible for the child to safely return home within a reasonable time."

Mother appeals, arguing that the juvenile court did not have authority to change the permanency plans for the children from reunification to adoption. Changes to permanency plans are governed by ORS 419B.476. As relevant here, ORS 419B.476(2) provides that, at a permanency hearing, if the permanency plan is reunification, the court shall

"determine whether [DHS] has made reasonable efforts * * * to make it possible for the ward to safely return home and whether the parent has made sufficient progress to make it possible ...

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