In the Matter of H. N. F., a Child.
H. R. E., aka H. R. F., Appellant. DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Petitioner-Respondent,
Submitted January 29, 2019
County Circuit Court 17JU06801 Jesse C. Margolis, Judge.
Kenneth A. Kreuscher fled the brief for appellant.
F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor
General, and Shannon T. Reel, Assistant Attorney General,
fled the brief for respondent.
Hadlock, Presiding Judge, and DeHoog, Judge, and Aoyagi,
Summary: Mother appeals a juvenile court judgment terminating
her parental rights to her four-year-old daughter. Over
mother's opposition, the court terminated her parental
rights on grounds of unfitness, ORS 419B.504, and neglect,
ORS 419B.506. On appeal, mother asserts that the juvenile
court erred in determining that she is unfit to parent child
and that she had neglected child. Held: On de
novo review, the Court of Appeals was not persuaded, by
clear and convincing evidence, that mother's conduct or
condition at the time of the termination trial was seriously
detrimental to child and, accordingly, it was error to
terminate mother's parental rights based on unfitness.
Furthermore, the Department of Human Services did not prove,
by clear and convincing evidence, that mother had failed or
neglected without reasonable and lawful cause to provide for
the needs of child under ORS 419B.506.
Or.App 248] DEHOOG, J.
appeals a juvenile court judgment terminating her parental
rights to her four-year-old daughter.Over mother's opposition,
the juvenile court terminated her parental rights on grounds
of unfitness, ORS 419B.504, and neglect, ORS 419B.506. On
appeal, mother raises three assignments of error. In
particular, mother asserts that the juvenile court erred in
determining that she is unfit to parent child and that she
had neglected child. As a result, mother contends, the court
erred in terminating her parental rights. As we explain
below, we conclude, on de novo review,
that the juvenile court erred in terminating mother's
parental rights; accordingly, we reverse and remand.
juvenile court took jurisdiction over child in 2016, when she
was two years old. The Department of Human Services (DHS) had
removed child from mother's care after police stopped a
car driven by father and found methamphetamine and syringes
inside. Mother and child were passengers in the car. At that
time, child was dirty, behind on her vaccinations, and needed
dental care. Mother and father both displayed physical signs
associated with methamphetamine use, which included a dirty
appearance, tooth decay, and "pick" marks on their
faces. DHS placed child in relative foster care with
father's adult son, child's half-brother. Child has
since remained in that placement, where she has done well.
She is bonded with her caregivers and has no special needs or
concerning behavioral or health problems.
Or.App 249] Before removing child in this case, DHS was
involved with mother in relation to her now-adult children.
Specifically, in 2010, as a result of mother's use of
methamphetamine, her children were removed and placed in
substitute care with family members. Those children returned
to live with mother upon reaching adulthood; two of the older
children currently live with mother and she has frequent
contact with the third.
child was removed from her care, mother sought out and
engaged in substance abuse treatment through the Karuk Tribe.
Mother has also undergone urine testing in connection with
her treatment and employment at various times over the life
of the case; none of those tests have been positive for the
use of methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. However, two
"hair follicle" tests conducted in the months
leading up to the termination trial detected low levels of
methamphetamine. Also, despite mother's assertion that
she very rarely drank, two of her urine samples tested
positive for alcohol use, leading DHS to suspect that she
drank more than she claimed.
addition to obtaining substance abuse treatment, mother has
also attended numerous parenting classes, and her family
members have attended classes to help them recognize the
signs of relapse in people addicted to drugs. Mother's
adult daughter testified that she had seen "remarkable
changes" in her mother over the past couple of years.
Mother no longer exhibits the moods and behaviors that she
did during her time of habitual drug use. We could credit the
testimony that she seems happier, is more involved with the
family, and looks healthier.
child's placement in substitute care, mother has
participated in weekly telephone visits. Mother has also
attended weekly, in-person visits with child, each time
driving hundreds of miles to Oregon from California, where
mother has been living with her parents. Indeed, since 2016,
mother has cumulatively driven many thousands of miles to
attend her weekly visits with child. Mother has interacted
appropriately with child during her visits, playing and
laughing with child and otherwise remaining actively engaged.
Or.App 250] Approximately six months before the termination
trial, mother obtained full-time employment, and she remains
employed in a supervisory position in a casino. As part of
her responsibilities, mother handles large sums of money. Her
position requires that mother be licensed by the State of
California, and her employer subjects her to random drug
time of trial, mother continued to live in her parents'
home, together with her parents and two of her adult
children. After a home study conducted in the course of these
dependency proceedings, that home was approved as a placement
for child, provided that mother not live
there. In other words, the home itself was
determined to be safe and appropriate for
child. Mother intended to continue living with
her parents in that home.
noted, although mother's urine tests were negative for
methamphetamine and she denies having used methamphetamine at
any time during child's placement in substitute care, two
"hair follicle" tests conducted approximately three
to four months and a week or two before trial indicated the
presence of that drug. A "positive" result for
methamphetamine indicates the detection of at least 500
picograms per milligram of tested hair. In this case, one
test detected just over that minimum confirmation level,
showing 532 picograms of methamphetamine per milligram. The
other, earlier test detected ...