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In re Welfare of N.M.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

November 25, 2014

In the Matter of the Welfare of N.M

Oral Argument September 4, 2014

Appeal fro Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 13-7-01276-0. Judge signing: Honorable Kathryn J Nelson. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 01/28/2014.

Lise Ellner, for appellant.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Eric S. Beckendorf, Assistant, for respondent.

Authored by Lisa Worswick. Concurring: Bradley A. Maxa, Linda Cj Lee.


Page 763

[184 Wn.App. 667] Worswick, J.

¶ 1 H.M. is the mother of N.M., a child born in 2007.[1] H.M. appeals the juvenile court's order terminating her parental rights as to N.M. She argues that the juvenile court abused its discretion by denying her motion to continue the juvenile termination trial in order to attempt to establish a guardianship. She also argues that the Department of Social and Health Services (Department) failed to meet its burden to prove that (1) all necessary services capable of remedying parental deficiencies were offered or provided, (2) continuation of the parent and child relationship clearly diminished the child's prospects for early integration into a stable and permanent home, and (3) termination of H.M.'s parental rights was in the child's best interests. In the published portion of this [184 Wn.App. 668] opinion, we hold that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to continue the termination trial. In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we hold that substantial evidence supports all of the juvenile court's findings of fact on the challenged statutory elements required for termination. Accordingly, we affirm.


¶ 2 In October 2012, H.M. was arrested on an outstanding bench warrant. During her arrest, drugs and a firearm were found in the home. At the time of H.M.'s arrest, N.M. was removed from the home and placed in foster care. After approximately two months in foster care, N.M. was placed in relative care with her paternal grandmother. In December 2012, the juvenile court entered an agreed order of dependency, and also entered a dispositional order requiring H.M. to engage in the following services: obtain a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow all treatment recommendations, obtain a psychological evaluation with a parenting component and follow all recommendations, and submit to random urinalysis (UA) testing.

¶ 3 Rion Tisino, the assigned social worker, referred H.M. to UA testing. H.M.'s first UA was positive for opiates and morphine. H.M. failed to appear at the remaining UA tests. Ultimately, the service provider terminated the service contract based on H.M.'s failure to participate.

¶ 4 Tisino also referred H.M. for a drug and alcohol evaluation. The drug and alcohol evaluation recommended intensive outpatient treatment. H.M. did not enter or participate

Page 764

in drug treatment until her subsequent incarceration on a drug conviction.

¶ 5 Tisino also referred H.M. for a psychological evaluation. H.M. failed to attend several appointments, but she was ultimately able to complete the first portion of the evaluation. The second portion of the evaluation required observation of H.M. and N.M. together. This second portion [184 Wn.App. 669] was not completed because the Department was unable to confirm an appointment with H.M. and, as a result, could not coordinate transporting N.M. to the evaluation.

¶ 6 Overall, H.M.'s participation in the dependency was minimal. In June 2013, the Department filed a petition for termination of H.M.'s parental rights. In September 2013, H.M. was sentenced on another drug charge. H.M. received a drug offender sentencing alternative sentence. Her anticipated release date from incarceration is January 2015.

¶ 7 The termination trial was scheduled for January 22, 2014. On the day of the termination trial, H.M.'s attorney moved to continue the hearing because he had not had a meaningful opportunity to communicate with H.M. He also stated that the continuance was necessary to arrange for H.M. to appear by telephone from prison. The juvenile court granted the motion to continue, and the termination trial was rescheduled for January 28.

¶ 8 On January 28, H.M. requested a 90-day continuance. H.M.'s attorney explained that he had recently discussed with H.M. the potential for a guardianship with N.M.'s paternal grandmother and that H.M. wanted to pursue guardianship as an alternative to termination. The Department opposed the motion. The Department argued that a guardianship had never been identified as a potential permanency plan for N.M. and that it would be in N.M.'s best interests to move forward with termination. Tisino stated that after H.M. raised the potential for a guardianship, he discussed the option with N.M.'s grandmother and N.M.'s grandmother did not seem interested in a guardianship. He also stated that he had planned on speaking to N.M.'s grandmother about a final decision earlier that morning but that he had not been able to contact her. The juvenile court denied the motion to continue and proceeded with the termination trial.

¶ 9 At the termination trial, Tisino testified to the above facts. He also testified that N.M.'s grandmother was an adoptive placement and that the Department had completed [184 Wn.App. 670] an approved adoption home study. He stated that N.M. had been placed with her grandmother for almost the entire dependency and N.M. was thriving in her current environment. He ...

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