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Jeffery M. v. Arizona Department of Economic Security

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

November 26, 2013

JEFFERY M., Appellant,
v.
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY, T.C., Appellees.

Not for Publication – Rule 111, Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. JD509207 The Honorable Peter A. Thompson, Judge

Robert D. Rosanelli, Phoenix Counsel for Appellant

Arizona Attorney General's Office, Mesa By Amanda Holguin Counsel for Appellee Arizona Department of Economic Security

Presiding Judge Winthrop delivered the decision of the Court, in which Judge Downie and Judge Thompson joined.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

WINTHROP, Presiding Judge:

¶1 Jeffery M. ("Father") appeals the juvenile court's order terminating his parental rights to T.C. ("Child"). Father argues that reasonable evidence does not support the statutory grounds for termination. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 Child was born in February 2012 to Father and Rosanna C. ("Mother"). Although Mother and Father had ended their relationship by Child's birth, Father formally acknowledged paternity. Four days later, Child Protective Services ("CPS") took Child into temporary custody, and the Arizona Department of Economic Security ("ADES") later filed a dependency petition alleging that Child was dependent as to Father and Mother based on the parents' history of drug abuse and domestic violence. In April 2012, after Father's failure to appear at the initial dependency hearing, the juvenile court found Child dependent as to Father and set the case plan for family reunification.

¶3 Because of an on-going paternity dispute with Mother regarding another child, Father purportedly had doubts that he was Child's father. As a result, Father only saw Child at the hospital once after her birth and once in an early supervised visit. From April to October 2012, Father was absent from Child's life. Father never provided clothing, cards, or gifts for Child, even after paternity was established.

¶4 In the early stages of this case, ADES offered Father various services in furtherance of the reunification plan, including substance abuse treatment, urinalysis testing, visitation, parent aide services, and access to domestic violence education. Father later blamed his failure to maintain contact with Child and engage in ADES-provided services on his continuing concern as to paternity. When Father reappeared in October 2012, he requested a paternity test from ADES. He took the test in Decision of the Court December, and it confirmed his paternity. ADES then attempted to contact Father, but could not locate him. Meanwhile, in December, the juvenile court authorized a change in the case plan to severance and adoption, and ADES filed a motion to terminate Father's parental rights to Child. [1]

¶5 In late January 2013, ADES had the opportunity to tell Father about the results of the paternity test when he contacted the case manager and claimed he was working in Tucson but would be back in Phoenix the following week. Father requested visitation with Child, but that request was rejected because it was not in Child's best interest. When he returned to Phoenix, Father was arrested in connection with a previous criminal matter and spent seventeen days in jail.

¶6 After paternity had been more fully established to Father's satisfaction, ADES attempted to engage Father in drug rehabilitative services and urinalysis testing. In March 2013, Father failed a drug screening. Father refused to participate in ADES-offered services, choosing instead to enroll in an inpatient treatment program on the eve of the severance hearing "in order to show [ADES] that [he] was trying to make a change, " rather than as an acknowledgment of drug dependency.

¶7 In April 2013, the juvenile court held a termination adjudication hearing. At the hearing, the CPS case manager testified about the rehabilitative services offered to Father and his unwillingness to engage in those services, Father's lack of support for Child, and his lack of contact with Child. Father testified about his confusion regarding paternity, his inability to maintain ...


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