State of Utah, in the interest of C.C., R.T., T.T., and X.W., persons under eighteen years of age.
State of Utah, Appellee. A.W., Appellant,
District Juvenile Court, Farmington Department The Honorable
J. Mark Andrus No. 1102119
C. Garrett and Virginia Ward, Attorneys for Appellant
D. Reyes, Carol L.C. Verdoia, and John M. Peterson, Attorneys
Pierce, Guardian ad Litem
J. Frederic Voros Jr. authored this Opinion, in which Judge
David N. Mortensen concurred. Judge Michele M. Christiansen
concurred, with opinion.
A.W. (Mother) appeals the juvenile court's termination of
her parental rights to her four children: C.C., an
eleven-year-old male; R.T., an eight-year-old male; T.T., a
four-year-old male; and X.W., a three-year-old male. We
Mother is a person with a learning disability who also
suffers from anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress
disorder. She has a history of illegal substance abuse,
particularly methamphetamine. She was involved in two abusive
marriages before her marriage to her current husband, L.W.
Mother's involvement with the Division of Child and
Family Services (DCFS) that led to termination of her
parental rights began in March 2014. Mother lived with
Husband, her mother (Grandmother), and her brother (Brother).
DCFS investigated a claim of domestic-violence-related child
abuse against Husband and found it to be factually supported.
Husband had fractured Mother's jaw while she was holding
X.W. At the time, X.W. was still an infant. After the
incident, Mother and Husband agreed to adhere to a treatment
plan that included a domestic violence assessment, domestic
violence counseling, and individual counseling. Mother and
Husband did enter counseling but did not obtain a domestic
violence assessment or domestic violence treatment.
Three months later, Husband physically restrained C.C. and
screamed at Grandmother. A few days later, Husband held
R.T.'s face against a wall and yelled an obscenity at the
child. Husband then engaged in an altercation with Brother
and Grandmother and left the home with X.W. After this
incident, Mother gathered the other three children and stayed
with Husband at another family member's house.
In June 2014 DCFS placed the children in protective custody.
One of the foster families with whom C.C. and R.T. were
placed explained that when the boys arrived they were
"really wild." R.T. was developmentally delayed.
Both boys had frequent bed-wetting accidents. Nor did they
know how to wash their hands, bathe their bodies, or brush
their teeth properly. R.T. did not know how to use eating
utensils and would "stick his head down in the
bowl" to eat food. He refused to eat anything besides
junk food, and C.C. "almost would gorge himself"
when he ate and "would take food and put it in his
pockets and save it for later."
In September 2014 the juvenile court ordered that a Child and
Family Plan (the service plan) be developed for the children
and the parents. In its order, the court stated that Mother
"is lower functioning and . . . suffers from severe
anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia." The court also
ordered that reunification services be provided to Mother and
established the primary permanency goal as reunification with
Mother with the concurrent goal of adoption.
The service plan contained the following requirements for
Mother: (1) continue to participate in mental health
treatment; (2) obtain a domestic violence assessment with
Husband and comply with its recommendations for treatment or
counseling; (3)avoid further domestic violence, hostile
arguments, and other unsafe behavior in her relationship with
Husband; (4) avoid criminal behavior; (5) improve her
parenting skills through parenting classes, counseling, and
eventually peer parenting; (6) avoid illegal substances; (7)
provide a stable home for the children and not allow unsafe
persons in the home; (8) address the children's various
medical and educational needs; and (9) have regular and
appropriate visits with the children. The juvenile court
accepted the service plan in October 2014; Mother did not
The DCFS caseworker assigned to the case began reunification
services in September 2014. The caseworker had received
training on working with persons with disabilities. She was
aware that Mother had several special needs and would need
personalized care to succeed with the service plan. The
caseworker reviewed the service plan with Mother and
discussed where Mother could receive the required services.
When Mother had questions about a requirement, the two would
"talk about it [at] length, " discussing "why
it was put into place [and] what the steps are to follow
through with it." Although the DCFS caseworker did not
"normally go out to the parent's home and go quite
as in-depth or spend quite as much time with the families,
" the caseworker "spent numerous hours, several
times a month" with Mother. The caseworker noticed that
Mother "seemed to lack a lot of skills. For example, . .
. her house was very messy, [Mother] did not know how to keep
the children entertained and safe while she cleaned up the
kitchen or gave one of the children a bath or played with one
of them." The caseworker "helped show [Mother] how
to clean her house, how to take care of the children while
she was cleaning her house, . . . how to . . . make a grocery
list, cut coupons, [and] go to the store."
When the caseworker worked with Mother, she noticed that
Mother "would do very well at taking the skills and
applying them to the situation" but tended to get
side-tracked easily, causing the caseworker to
"constantly . . . redirect her back to the
skill-building." The caseworker noticed that Mother
"did very well hands-on"; as a result, the
caseworker modeled different skills, which Mother then
repeated on her own. The caseworker prepared charts for
Mother to help her manage her time, to budget, and to help
care for herself and her children. Mother "did well on
those for the most part, but after . . . two or three weeks,
she would get side-tracked with something else and then
everything [she] worked on was gone."
In addition to working with the DCFS caseworker, Mother
received 41 in-home family therapy sessions starting in
December 2014, each lasting one to two hours. The DCFS
caseworker arranged the in-home therapy to accommodate
Mother's agoraphobia. Mother disclosed her learning
disabilities, agoraphobia, and trauma history to the
therapist at intake. Because of her disclosed disabilities,
the therapist "slowed things down [and] did a very
individualized family approach." The therapist also
noted that Mother responded well to hands-on learning and
integrated it into the skill-building by demonstrating
example behavior for Mother and then observing Mother follow
the example. The therapist worked with Mother to create a
victim personal safety plan to address the domestic violence
issues involving Husband. However, toward the end of
reunification efforts, Mother stopped implementing the skills
she had acquired in the therapy sessions.
Mother also completed a domestic violence class. The
instructor was aware that Mother had a disability and
requested that Mother repeat the class to help reinforce the
concepts, which she did. The instructor also met with Mother
one-on-one to help her complete homework assignments and
ensure that Mother comprehended her reading assignments.
After Mother repeated the class, the instructor recommended
that Mother take three additional domestic violence courses,
but Mother either did not complete the courses or did not
provide verification that she had completed them. After
Mother expressed discomfort with the group setting of the
classroom due to her agoraphobia, the caseworker suggested a
domestic violence course that was taught in a one-on-one
classroom setting. Mother did not follow through with this
Mother submitted to a mental health assessment but failed to
provide documentation and verification of the assessment to
DCFS. Mother maintained that her mental health diagnoses were
controlled by medication. Mother attended regular ...