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Annette H. v. Arizona Department of Economic Security

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

December 3, 2013

ANNETTE H., Appellant,
v.
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY, D.H., M.H., F.H., Appellees.

         Not for Publication – Rule 111(c), Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. JD21462 The Honorable Joan M. Sinclair, Judge.

Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Michael Valenzuela Counsel for Appellee

Arizona Department of Economic Security Maricopa County Public Advocate, Mesa By Erin N. Jones Counsel for Appellant

Presiding Judge Andrew W. Gould delivered the decision of the Court, in which Judge Donn Kessler and Judge Michael J. Brown joined.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

GOULD, JUDGE

¶1 Annette H. ("Mother") appeals the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights to D.H., M.H., and F.H. (the "children"). Finding no error, we affirm.

Facts And Procedural Background

¶2 Mother has a history of substance abuse and mental health issues. She began using marijuana at age eight, and started consuming alcohol at age ten. Mother began using methamphetamine and ecstasy at age sixteen, and cocaine at age twenty.

¶3 Mother began feeling "depressed" in 2006, and first came to the attention of Child Protective Services ("CPS") on April 30, 2011 after she had been hospitalized for cutting her wrists. At the time of her hospitalization, Mother tested positive for methamphetamine; she was twenty weeks pregnant. On February 11, 2012, CPS received a report stating that Mother had brought her children to the hospital after two of her children disclosed they had been sexually abused by Mother's live-in boyfriend, a known sex offender. CPS removed the children and placed them in foster care.

¶4 In February 2012, the Arizona Department of Economic Security ("ADES") filed a petition alleging that the children were dependent due to Mother's substance abuse and mental health problems, which, the petition claimed, prevented Mother from safely caring for them and protecting them from her boyfriend's sexual abuse. The juvenile court found the children to be dependent and ordered that the children be placed in ADES custody, with a case plan for family reunification and a concurrent plan for severance and adoption, contingent on Mother's ability to take care of herself, and eventually her children.

¶5 In December 2012, Mother's case manager requested reunification services be discontinued "because the mother has not made significant progress in achieving the necessary behavioral changes" and "continues to demonstrate poor judgment." Specifically, Mother had not completed her substance abuse treatment, had not consistently attended her counseling sessions, and maintained an intimate relationship with a methamphetamine user. The psychological evaluation revealed that "if mother does not address her substance abuse and mental health issues, the children are at risk of neglect and endangerment" and recommended that the children not be returned to Mother. Based on these findings, ADES moved to change the case plan to severance and adoption. The court approved of the change, and shortly thereafter, ADES moved to sever Mother's parental rights on grounds of substance abuse and extended out-of-home placement.

¶6 The juvenile court held a contested severance hearing in May 2013. Mother was provided notice of the hearing but failed to appear, and the juvenile court proceeded by default, noting that by failing to appear Mother had waived her rights to contest the severance petition. Following the hearing, the juvenile court ordered termination of the parent-child relationship. In its termination order, the juvenile court found termination was in the best interests of the children because: (1) the children were adoptable, (2) adoption would provide them with permanency and stability, (3) termination would further the plan for the children to be adopted, and (4) the children were currently placed with another family member "who has a significant relationship" with the children and "is the least restrictive placement consistent with the needs of the ...


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