In the Matter of the Dependency of G.G., Jr., et al.
Itzel Jiminez Salazar, Appellant The Department of Social and Health Services, Respondent,
Oral Argument November 4, 2014
Appeal from Snohomish Superior Court. Docket No: 13-7-00420-4. Judge signing: Honorable David a Kurtz. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 12/16/2013.
Marla L. Zink (of Washington Appellate Project ); and Devon C. Knowles (of Seattle University School of Law ), for appellant.
Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Kristin P. Glenn, Assistant, for respondent.
Molly A. Terwilliger and David J. Ward on behalf of Legal Voice, amicus curiae.
Authored by James Verellen. Concurring: Michael J. Trickey, Stephen J. Dwyer.
[185 Wn.App. 815]
¶ 1 Itzel Jiminez Salazar appeals from an order terminating her parental rights to her three children. She contends that she was deprived of her right to counsel of choice when the trial court denied her motion for a continuance to hire private counsel. But because she had not selected substitute counsel and failed to show that she had the ability to obtain substitute counsel, the trial court did not violate her right to counsel of choice or abuse its discretion. She further challenges the court's finding that she was unfit to parent. Because the record supports the court's finding of unfitness, her challenge to the termination order is without basis. Accordingly, we affirm.
¶ 2 Itzel Jiminez Salazar gave birth to S.M. on November 23, 1999, when she was 15 years old. S.M.'s father was not involved with S.M. and ultimately relinquished his parental [185 Wn.App. 816] rights. Salazar lived with her mother during this time but eventually moved out of her mother's home with S.M. when she was 17 years old. According to Salazar, her mother physically and verbally abused her while she was a minor living in her mother's home.
¶ 3 Salazar had two more children with Gerardo Guizar, whom she married in 2003. J.G. was born on September 30, 2003, and G.G. was born on November 7, 2004. During the marriage, there were several incidents of domestic violence requiring police intervention, and in 2005, Salazar left Guizar and obtained a protection order against him. That same year, Salazar sent S.M. to live with her mother because she was unable to care for all three children.
¶ 4 By 2009 or 2010, Salazar, J.G., and G.G. had moved in with Salazar's mother and S.M. Sometime in 2010, Salazar moved out of her mother's home, taking J.G. and G.G. with her. She left S.M. to remain living in the home with her mother and her younger brother. In March 2011, J.G. and G.G. disclosed to Salazar that they had been sexually assaulted by Salazar's brother while they were living with her mother. Salazar reported this to the police and Child Protective Services (CPS), but she did not remove S.M. from her mother's home. Salazar's brother continued to live in the home and pleaded guilty to assaulting J.G. and G.G. in 2012.
¶ 5 In June 2011, Salazar left J.G. and G.G. in her roommate's care while she was at work as a cocktail waitress. After her shift, she drank until she blacked out and did not return home that night. The next morning, her roommate called the police and CPS when she was unable to locate Salazar. All three children were taken into protective custody and placed in foster care.
¶ 6 On June 10, 2011, the State filed a dependency petition. On July 27, 2011, the court found the children dependent as to Salazar and maintained the children's [185 Wn.App. 817] placement in out-of-home care. The court also ordered remedial services and required Salazar to participate in a drug/alcohol evaluation, random urinalysis testing (UA), and parenting classes. The order allowed Salazar to have a minimum of two hours' supervised visitation once per week.
¶ 7 From October 2011 to December 2012, Department of Social and Health Services (Department) social worker Matthew Shaw worked with Salazar to comply with the court-ordered service requirements. He referred her to service providers and scheduled weekly meetings with her, but she often failed to show for the meetings and never provided proof that she participated in any of the services. Salazar had not participated in intensive outpatient alcohol treatment as recommended
by the court-ordered evaluation. In fact, she told Shaw that she was working as a cocktail waitress in a bar and asked that he not share that information with her treatment provider. And while she claimed to be involved in parenting classes, she never provided Shaw any proof of her participation.
¶ 8 Salazar's visitation with her children during this time was inconsistent. She had weekly two-hour visits scheduled with them but struggled with logistics and was often late or failed to appear for visits, causing stress for the children and escalation of their behavior. Shaw spent a considerable amount of time addressing visitation logistics with little change in Salazar's behavior.
¶ 9 Shaw gave Salazar referrals for court-ordered mental health counseling, but Salazar did not participate in counseling. She would either deny needing counseling or falsely report that she was participating in counseling or trying to. She never provided documentation of her participation, nor were any of the providers able to confirm that she had kept appointments or completed intakes.
[185 Wn.App. 818] ¶ 10 All three children received services. J.G. required more extensive services due to her extreme behaviors. When Shaw attempted to explain to Salazar the severity of the children's behaviors, she was overwhelmed. According to Shaw, Salazar needed to play an active engaged role in trying to stabilize the children's behaviors in their placements; but instead, she simply reacted and lacked an awareness of the severity of their trauma. She constantly struggled to set limits with them and escalated their behavior by failing to be on time or to show up for the visits. J.G. was particularly traumatized by Salazar's missed visits. J.G. was assaultive at times and often took weeks to recover after a missed visit. Because Salazar's transient involvement was too disruptive to the treatment team working to stabilize the children, she was never introduced into the children's therapy. In July 2012, the court ordered that visitation be reduced to a single two-hour visit per month, finding it necessary to protect the children's health, safety, and welfare.
¶ 11 In September 2012, Shaw recommended that Salazar participate in a second alcohol evaluation. He did so based on concerns about her failure to participate in alcohol treatment and involvement in a domestic violence incident where she was found to be intoxicated in March 2012. Salazar completed the evaluation, but no treatment recommendations were made, leading Shaw to believe that she may not have been honest in this evaluation.
¶ 12 On December 12, 2012, the court held a permanency planning hearing. The court found that Salazar had only partially complied with court-ordered services as she had completed a drug/alcohol evaluation but had not participated in parenting classes or mental health counseling. The court also found that Salazar had not visited the children on a consistent basis, noting that she had only recently resumed visits after not visiting for over five months. In [185 Wn.App. 819] addition to the previously ordered services, the court ordered a psychological evaluation with a ...