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In re S.E.M.-P.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

December 18, 2013

In the Matter of S.E.M.-P., a Child.
K. M. M., Appellant. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,

Argued and submitted on September 18, 2013.

Washington County Circuit Court, No. J110256 James Lee Fun, Jr., Judge. Petition Number M2J110256

Megan L. Jacquot argued the cause and filed the brief for appellant.

Laura S. Anderson, Senior Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. On the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Inge D. Wells, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

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


Mother appeals from a juvenile court judgment terminating her parental rights to her daughter, S, on the ground of unfitness. ORS 419B.504. First, mother contends that the evidence is not sufficient to show that she was unfit at the time of the proceeding by reason of conduct or condition that was seriously detrimental to S. Second, mother argues that the juvenile court erred in finding that integration of S into mother's home was improbable within a reasonable time. Finally, mother contends that the court erred in determining that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child. Based on our de novo review, ORS 19.415(3)(a), we find clear and convincing evidence that mother is unfit to parent S and that termination of mother's parental rights is in the child's best interest. Accordingly, we affirm.


We begin with a discussion of the facts, as we find them. ORS 19.415(3)(a) (in appeals from a judgment in a proceeding for the termination of parental rights, the Court of Appeals shall review the case de novo).

A. General Background

Mother has two children, daughter S and son J, but only S is the subject of this appeal. S was born in 2002 in Nevada and, when she was less than a year old, her father died of a drug overdose. In 2006, mother and S moved to Oregon and began living in an apartment in Beaverton. Problems began when, between January and June 2010, mother made approximately 25 calls to the nonemergency line for the Beaverton Police Department to report break-ins and suspicious activity at her home. She reported that she was "convinced that people were getting into her vehicle, detached garage and apartment to 'mess' with things." She reported, among other things, that people had put "extra stitches in her clothes" and had taken "a single sleeve to a DVD." The police determined that all of mother's reports were unfounded. Based on mother's explanations of what had occurred at her apartment, Officer Wolfe, one of the responding officers, became concerned about mother's mental health and her ability to care for S.

In June 2010, Wolfe communicated his concerns about mother's mental health to the Washington County Crisis Team (WCCT) and to the Department of Human Services (DHS). The WCCT offered to take mother's future calls about break-ins, so that she would not need to contact the police for nonemergency concerns, and offered her mental health services; mother declined both offers. Later in 2010, mother was contacted by Washington County mental health authorities and DHS. After a home visit, DHS concluded that there would be no safety concerns if mother would participate in a mental health assessment at LifeWorks Northwest (LifeWorks) and engage in mental health treatment. In December 2010, mother completed a mental health assessment at LifeWorks and was diagnosed with delusional disorder. After her assessment, however, mother did not participate in further counseling sessions at LifeWorks.

Problems for mother continued. Mother had unfounded concerns about S's safety. For example, mother believed that S had a skin disorder and, for that reason, could not be exposed to sunlight. Mother also believed that, while she was breastfeeding S, she had given the child herpes. S does not have a skin disorder or herpes. S was aware of mother's beliefs, which made her "very fearful of going out in the sun, because her mother told her that [the] sun * * * is evil" and believed that "nobody would want to play with [her at school], because [she has] herpes." Because mother had general concerns about S's safety while she was at school, mother removed S from school and enrolled her in home school.

In May 2011, when mother was sick and vomiting, S called 9-1-1. In response to S's call, WCCT, along with medical response personnel, came to mother and S's apartment, and WCCT response personnel reported that mother was acting "psychotic" and did not "make a lot of sense" when she was talking. Based on their observations, the response personnel were concerned that S, who was eight years old, was acting as mother's caregiver. The next day, WCCT followed up with mother and recommended that she participate in mental health counseling; mother again refused further mental health treatment. WCCT then reported to DHS its concerns about mother's mental health.

On May 17, 2011, DHS Caseworkers Moore and Shelton visited mother's home in response to WCCT's report. During that visit, Moore explained that mother needed to follow through with the mental health services as previously recommended. In response, mother denied needing mental health treatment and explained that she was only required to participate in a mental health intake assessment at LifeWorks, which she already had completed. Mother expressed a reluctance to participate in any additional mental health treatment. On that day, Moore took S into protective custody based on "concerns [mother] has not addressed her mental health or followed through with service." As previously mentioned, S was eight years old at the time.

DHS filed a petition with the juvenile court, alleging, among other things, the following:
"The conditions and circumstances endanger the welfare of said child by reason of the ...

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