Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. Nos. JD 28153, JS 17676. The Honorable Kristin C. Hoffman, Judge.
JURISDICTION ACCEPTED; RELIEF DENIED.
Law Office of Ed Johnson, PLLC, Peoria, By Edward D. Johnson, Counsel for Petitioner.
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix, By Michael Valenzuela, Counsel for Real Party in Interest Arizona Department of Child Safety.
Burguan Clarke Law Office, PLLC, Phoenix, By Jessica J. Burguan, Advisory Counsel for Real Party in Interest Melissa D.
Law Offices of Lincoln Green, Jr., PC, Phoenix, By Lincoln Green, Counsel for Real Party in Interest Chad D.
Diana Theos, PLLC, Glendale, By Diana Theos, Guardian Ad Litem for Real Party in Interest H.D.
Judge Patricia K. Norris delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen and Judge Margaret H. Downie joined.
Patricia K. Norris, Judge.
[¶1] The question in this special action is whether the juvenile court may consider the best interests of a child in foster care in deciding whether to allow the child to attend and testify at dependency and termination hearings. The answer is " yes."
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
[¶2] In 2014, the Arizona Department of Child Safety (" DCS" ) initiated dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings against Melissa D. and Chad D., parents of petitioner, K.D., born in 2001, and H.D., born in 2004. On the second day of the dependency and termination adjudication hearings, which were consolidated (" consolidated hearings" ), K.D., through counsel, asked to attend the consolidated hearings and testify. Two mental health professionals--K.D.'s therapist and DCS's psychologist--advised the court that attending and testifying at the hearings would be contrary to K.D.'s best interests. K.D.'s therapist explained that seeing her mother " would be detrimental to [K.D.'s] stability and the safety that she has developed already in her placement," and DCS's psychologist advised the court K.D.'s attendance would cause her " significant regression." K.D. did not present any contrary evidence.
[¶3] The juvenile court ruled that, based on K.D.'s best interests, it would not allow her to be present or testify at the consolidated hearings scheduled for the following day and the next month, although it would reconsider her request to appear at the consolidated hearings scheduled for later in the year. The next day, K.D. renewed her request to be present and testify, but the court again denied her request, stating, " I think it's appropriate when she is therapeutically ready to do so for her to be ...