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In re A. K. H.

Court of Appeals of Oregon

March 8, 2017

In the Matter of A. K. H., a Child.
v.
M. A. H., Appellant. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent, In the Matter of T. M. H., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
M. A. H., Appellant. In the Matter of M. R. H., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
M. A. H., Appellant. In the Matter of A. K. H., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
M. A. H., Appellant. In the Matter of T. M. H., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
M. A. H., Appellant. In the Matter of M. R. H., a Child. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
M. A. H., Appellant.

          Argued and submitted January 5, 2017

         Clatsop County Circuit Court Nos. 14JU03564; 14JU03565; 14JU03566; 15JU03660; 15JU03661; 15JU03662; Paula Brownhill, Judge

          Valerie Colas, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was Shannon Storey, Chief Defender, Juvenile Appellate Section, Office of Public Defense Services.

          Erin K. Galli, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

         Case Summary: In a consolidated juvenile dependency case, mother appeals permanency judgments changing the permanency plans for her children from reunification to adoption. She challenges the juvenile court's determination that DHS made reasonable efforts to ameliorate her mental health issues, which was one of several bases for jurisdiction. Although she acknowledges that DHS made reasonable efforts as to other bases for jurisdiction, she argues that DHS failed to make any efforts aimed at her mental health issues. Held: DHS made extensive efforts throughout the life of the case to reunify mother with the children and made some efforts aimed specifically at ameliorating mother's mental health issues. In the totality of the circumstances, the extent of the efforts DHS made over the duration of the case, including efforts made up until three months before the permanency hearing, supports the juvenile court's determination that DHS made reasonable efforts overall.

         Affirmed.

          ORTEGA, P. J.

         In this consolidated juvenile dependency appeal, mother appeals multiple permanency judgments that changed the permanency plans for her three children from reunification to adoption.[1] She asserts that the juvenile court erred by changing the permanency plans away from reunification because the court erroneously concluded that the Department of Human Services (DHS) made reasonable efforts to reunify her with her children. Specifically, she argues that the record contained insufficient evidence that DHS provided any efforts that were tailored to help mother ameliorate one of several of the bases for jurisdiction-i.e., mother's mental health issues. She asserts that that failure rendered DHS's reunification efforts unreasonable as a matter of law. DHS responds with several arguments, most of which we need not address because ultimately we agree with DHS that, in the particular circumstances of this case, where DHS did make some efforts aimed at ameliorating mother's mental health issues, the court did not err in concluding that DHS's efforts were reasonable. Accordingly, we affirm.

         On appeal, we view the evidence, as supplemented and buttressed by permissible derivative inferences, in the light most favorable to the juvenile court's disposition, and assess whether, when so viewed, the record was legally sufficient to permit the juvenile court's disposition. Dept. of Human Services v. N. P.. 257 Or.App. 633, 639, 307 P.3d 444 (2013). We state the historical and procedural background in accordance with that standard.

         DHS removed mother's children, M (age 12), T (age 11), and A (age 3), from her care in November 2014 after M contacted his aunt about mother's drug use.[2] The juvenile court took jurisdiction over the children in January 2015 based on the risk of harm created by mother's criminal activities, lack of parenting skills, substance abuse, and her practice of leaving the children with unsafe care providers (the 2014 dependency case).[3]

         In June 2015, DHS filed new dependency petitions, alleging that "mother has mental health issues that interfere with her ability to safely parent her children." Because DHS filed new petitions instead of amending the petitions filed in the 2014 dependency case, the new petitions created a new case number for each child (the 2015 dependency case). The 2014 and 2015 dependency cases were not consolidated and they proceeded on separate tracks. In August 2015, the juvenile court took jurisdiction based on the allegation in the new dependency petitions and set permanency plans of reunification in that case. Shortly thereafter, DHS asked the court to change the plans in the 2014 dependency case to adoption. At the ensuing permanency hearing, DHS asserted that it was not seeking a change in the plans in the 2015 dependency case, and that it could simultaneously proceed in that case based on a plan of reunification. The parties argued about whether the plan could be changed in the 2014 dependency case to adoption while the plan in the 2015 dependency case remained reunification. Ultimately, the court entered permanency judgments changing the plans in the 2014 dependency case to adoption. No judgment or order with respect to the 2015 dependency case was entered at that time.

         Mother and father appealed those permanency judgments. On appeal, we held that "to the extent there are separate, concurrent dependency cases involving the same child, it is error for the juvenile court to set a permanency plan for a child that results in the existence of different plans for the same child at the same time in those concurrent cases."[4]Dept. of Human Services v. M. J. H.. 278 Or.App. 607, 614, 375 P.3d 579 (2016). Accordingly, we vacated and remanded the permanency judgments in the 2014 dependency case for further proceedings. Id.

         During the pendency of that appeal, DHS filed petitions to terminate parents' parental rights. The juvenile court held a several-day trial in March 2016 and, at the end, terminated parents' parental rights.[5] At that point, DHS stopped providing services to mother. We issued our decision vacating and remanding the underlying permanency judgments on June 2, 2016, and a few weeks later, DHS resumed contact with mother. On July 25, 2016, ...


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