mother, LCW, and his stepfather, MDB, challenge the trial
court's denial of their request for a protective order to
prevent the release of AWA's counseling records to
AWA's father, JDA. LCW and MDB argue that the trial court
erred by not considering AWA's best interests and by not
conducting an in camera review of the records. We agree,
reverse the trial court's denial of a protective order,
and remand for further proceedings consistent with this
lives with his mother, LCW, and her husband, MDB. LCW and MDB
have been married for seven years. JDA is AWA's father
and lives in California. His involvement in AWA's life
has been sporadic.
2012, following a visit in California with his father, AWA
disclosed to his mother that JDA sexually assaulted him. LCW
took AWA to the hospital. The hospital referred AWA to Amber
Bradford, a child therapist. JDA denied that he abused AWA.
obtained a temporary protection order on behalf of AWA
against JDA in 2012. The temporary order became permanent in
December 2014, MDB petitioned for JDA's parental rights
to be terminated and for MDB to adopt nine-year-old AWA under
chapter 26.33 RCW. LCW joined the petition.
2015, AWA began counseling with Darren Wenz. LCW signed an
agreement that they would not involve Wenz in any custody or
visitation disputes and would not involve him in any court
proceedings. LCW also agreed that Wenz would not "be
asked to share my records regarding any such
proceedings." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 52. LCW and MDB
told AWA that he could share openly with Wenz without fear
that the counseling sessions would be disclosed.
guardian ad litem (GAL) submitted a report, recommending AWA
participate in a forensic interview with a qualified mental
health professional regarding the abuse allegations. The GAL
noted in his report that AWA's current counselor is Wenz.
Upon learning that AWA was in counseling with Wenz, JDA
requested Wenz's records. LCW and MDB filed a motion for
a protective order to prevent disclosure of Wenz's
counseling records. They argued that the court must conduct
an in camera review before allowing JDA access to the records
and that the court must consider AWA's best interest.
hearing on the protective order motion, the trial court
So I think that the records of Wenz are important. I
don't think that they can be excused from this entire
proceeding when he's the current treatment provider. I
don't know exactly what's going to be in those
records. I don't feel as though I need to have an in
camera review, though.
Report of Proceedings (VRP) at 16. The trial court made no
mention of AWA's best interests in either its written
findings of fact or oral ruling. The trial court denied the
(1) This case involves the possible termination of
[JDA's] parental rights and therefore the stakes are very
high for the parties involved;
(2) The records of Mr. Wenz are important to the Court's
ultimate determination of ...