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In re Dependency of O.R.L.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3

March 24, 2015

In the Matter of the Dependency of O.R.L

Appeal from Asotin Superior Court. Docket No: 13-7-00093-1. Judge signing: Honorable William D Acey. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 02/24/2014.

Jennifer M. Winkler (of Nielson Broman & Koch PLLC ), for appellant.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and John S. Meader, Assistant, for respondent.

Authored by Robert E. Lawrence-Berrey. Concurring: Laurel H. Siddoway, Stephen M. Brown.

OPINION

Lawrence-Berrey, J.

[186 Wn.App. 684] [¶1] -- Kristi Dawn Lewis appeals the trial court's order terminating her parent-child relationship with O.R.L. Ms. Lewis contends that the termination should be reversed because the Department of Social and Health Services (Department) failed to offer or provide all reasonably available services capable of correcting her parental deficiencies. Specifically, Ms. Lewis maintains that visitation is a remedial service that the Department failed to provide. We reaffirm In re Dependency of T.H.,

Page 84

139 Wn.App. 784, 162 P.3d 1141 (2007), hold that visitation is not a required service, and affirm the trial court's order terminating Ms. Lewis's parental rights to O.R.L.

FACTS

[¶2] Ms. Lewis is the mother of O.R.L., born September 17, 2012. One week prior to O.R.L.'s birth, Ms. Lewis's doctor sent a letter to the Department expressing concern for Ms. Lewis and the unborn child. The doctor stated that Ms. Lewis missed multiple scheduled appointments, was suffering from a long history of mental illness, had attempted suicide multiple times, had no stable home, exhibited comprehension difficulties, and failed to utilize services available to her. The doctor also informed the Department that Ms. Lewis was seen panhandling as " homeless and pregnant," although she gave the doctor a different account of her living situation. Ex. P-4.

[¶3] The day after O.R.L. was born, the Department removed O.R.L. from Ms. Lewis's care and filed a petition for dependency. The dependency order was entered on November 7, 2012. The court found O.R.L. dependent because there was no parent capable of adequately caring for the child and because the child was in circumstances that placed her in danger of substantial damage to her psychological or physical development. The court required the following services to be offered to Ms. Lewis: drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment, random urinalysis, parenting [186 Wn.App. 685] classes, a psychological evaluation, mental health services and related medication management, a women's support group, and weekly contact with the caseworker.

[¶4] The Department filed a termination petition in November 2013 due to Ms. Lewis's alleged failure to participate in required services. On February 13, 2014, a termination hearing occurred to address Ms. Lewis's parental rights.[1] At the time of the hearing, O.R.L. had been a dependent minor for all but one day of her life, a little less than 15 months. The child was in a safe and stable foster care home and had an opportunity for adoption into a permanent family with her foster parents.

[¶5] The testimony and exhibits at the hearing established that in the year prior to O.R.L.'s birth and through much of the dependency, Ms. Lewis was homeless or bouncing from house to house. When O.R.L. was born, Ms. Lewis was temporarily living with friends whose parental rights to their own children were terminated due to physical abuse. After a few days at this address, she continued to move from house to house and shuffled between five different cities without finding permanent housing. However, at trial, Ms. Lewis testified that she moved into an apartment in Lewiston, Idaho, on November 3, 2013.

[¶6] Ms. Lewis had a history of chronic unemployment and had not worked since 2009. She held only short-term jobs in the fast food industry, one that lasted two to three weeks and another that lasted three months. During the dependency, Ms. Lewis reported that her income was from disability.

[¶7] Ms. McDougall's Testimony. Department social worker Sheila McDougall was assigned to O.R.L.'s case. Ms. McDougall said that the Department was concerned that Ms. Lewis's mental illness would prevent her from parenting. She was also concerned that Ms. Lewis frequently moved residences [186 Wn.App. 686] and tended to stay with unsafe people or people she did not know well.

[¶8] After O.R.L.'s birth, Ms. Lewis attended four weeks of visitation at the beginning of the dependency. However, she showed no understanding of how to care for an infant and did not appear to understand the normal actions of a child that age. One month into the dependency, Ms. Lewis discussed the possibility of relinquishing her rights. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Lewis lost contact with Ms. McDougall except for sporadic telephone calls to check in on O.R.L.

[¶9] Ms. McDougall testified that the Department provided numerous services to assist Ms. Lewis. These services included chemical dependency and psychological ...


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