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Caroler R. v. Christine D.

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department C

October 15, 2013

CAROLE R. Appellant,
CHRISTINE D., GALE P., A.L., [1] Appellees.

Not for Publication – Ariz. R.P. Juv. Ct. 103(G); ARCAP 28

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. JS507006 The Honorable Peter A. Thompson, Judge

Robert D. Rosanelli Phoenix Attorney for Appellant

Jeffrey M. Zurbriggen, P.C. Phoenix by Jeffrey Zurbriggen Attorney for Appellee


RANDALL M. HOWE, Presiding Judge

¶1 Carole R. ("Mother") appeals the juvenile court's termination of her parental rights to A.L. ("Child") based on abandonment and substance abuse. Finding no error, we affirm.


¶2 Mother has suffered from a long history of substance abuse. Since 2010, Mother has been sober only while incarcerated or on probation. While pregnant with her eldest child, Mother used methadone daily. As a result, that child was born with severe symptoms of drug withdrawal.

¶3 In 2005, Mother gave birth to Child. Child's biological father reported that although Mother's substance abuse tempered during the pregnancy, she "really started getting bad" approximately one year after Child's birth. At the worst stages of her substance abuse, Mother was drunk daily. Mother was later diagnosed with opioid and alcohol dependency, and received treatment in a rehabilitation program.

¶4 In 2010, Mother received two separate citations for driving under the influence ("DUI"). At the time of the first offense, both of her children were with her in the vehicle and Mother had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.2 percent.

¶5 Mother entered into plea agreements to resolve the citations, in which she agreed to nine months of incarceration. In light of her impending incarceration, Mother allowed Child's paternal grandmother to care for Child. Thereafter, Child's health forced her to leave a pre-kindergarten program. Among other things, serious issues had arisen regarding her hair and skin, and she had to be treated for bed bugs and taken to the dentist to treat ten cavities and four rotten molars.

¶6 On February 17, 2011, Mother was sentenced on her two DUI offenses to 30 days in jail, 8 months in prison, and 4 years of probation. Because of Mother's prison term, Father filed a petition in family court seeking temporary sole custody. At the custody hearing, Mother agreed that Father should have sole custody of Child and that the child should live in Illinois with Father's relatives. The court granted Father sole custody of Child and encouraged contact between Mother and Child, but ordered that contact would be at Father's discretion. Initially, Child resided in Illinois with the paternal grandmother's sister, Rita. When financial issues arose, Child went to live with the paternal grandmother's sister, Christine, and her husband, Gale P. In July 2011, Father purported to grant Christine guardianship over Child, and Christine filed a Petition to Terminate Parent Child Relationship.

¶7 At the severance hearing, the court heard testimony from a variety of witnesses, including Mother. A clinical counselor testified that she believed Child had experienced some type of trauma while with her biological family. She believed, however, that Child was stable in her placement with Christine, felt safe and secure, and had formed an attachment to Christine and Gale and recommended not disrupting the placement. Both Christine and Gale testified that they were willing to adopt Child.

¶8 The court found that Mother had "made only minimal efforts to support or communicate with [Child] and failed to provide a normal parent child relationship without good cause for approximately two years." The court also found that Mother was unable to discharge her parental responsibilities because of a history of chronic abuse of dangerous drugs and alcohol and reasonable grounds existed to believe that her inability to parent would continue for a prolonged indeterminate time. Specifically, the court found that Mother's two decades of significant substance abuse rendered her unable to "discharge her parental responsibilities in the near future." Finally, the court found that termination was in Child's best interests because termination would make Child available for adoption and provide her "a safe, permanent and stable drug and alcohol abuse free environment ...

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