State of Utah, in the interest of E.R., a person under eighteen years of age.
State of Utah, Appellee. J.R., Appellant,
District Juvenile Court, Provo Department The Honorable F.
Richards Smith No. 1012098
Margaret P. Lindsay, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes, Carol L.C. Verdoia, and John M. Peterson, Attorneys
Pierce, Guardian ad Litem
Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in
which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Kate Appleby concurred.
CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE:
J.R. (Mother) appeals the juvenile court's termination of
her parental rights to E.R. We affirm.
The Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) has been
involved with Mother and her family on and off since 2008.
Between 2008 and Mother's termination trial in 2018, DCFS
made multiple supported findings of environmental neglect
against both Mother and her husband (Father) with respect to
their three children, as well as findings of emotional
maltreatment, emotional abuse, domestic-violence abuse, and
physical abuse against Father.
E.R. is the youngest of Mother's three children and was
eleven years old at the time of Mother's termination
trial. E.R. "has been diagnosed with behavioral and
emotional dysregulation, secondary post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), mood disorder and Asperger's." E.R.
has severe behavioral problems, including aggression and
Mother and Father divorced in 2013. "The current case
was initiated in January 2016 when DCFS supported a finding
of dependency against the parents as to" E.R. after he
was hospitalized twice in the course of a month. The Utah
State Hospital accepted E.R. for admission but eventually
withdrew its placement offer after Father refused to consent
to his hospitalization. Subsequently, DCFS sought and
obtained a warrant to take E.R. into protective custody. The
juvenile court awarded legal custody and guardianship of E.R.
to DCFS and set concurrent goals for E.R. of reunification
with Mother or permanent custody and guardianship with a
relative. DCFS first placed E.R. at the Utah State
Hospital and later placed him with a foster family. On
November 30, 2016, the court terminated reunification
services after finding that neither parent was in substantial
compliance with the reunification plan. The court then
"set a primary goal of adoption with a concurrent goal
of permanent custody and guardianship." On September 28,
2017, the State filed a petition to terminate Mother's
and Father's parental rights, which was later bifurcated.
The court terminated Father's parental rights following a
trial in March 2018.
Mother's termination trial was held in August and
November 2018, following which the court terminated
Mother's parental rights. The court found that Mother had
made "some progress" in therapy but that she
"continues to minimize her own issues and the role she
played in the difficulties in her home." The court
attributed her progress "partly to her years of
treatment, and partly to the fact that she has not been
parenting [E.R.] for the last three years." It further
found that although E.R. and Mother are bonded and have had
appropriate contact in their bi-weekly visits, Mother
"does not possess the skills needed to effectively
parent [E.R.] over time." The court found grounds for
termination based on its determination that Mother is
"an unfit or incompetent parent," that there had
"been a failure of parental adjustment," and that
Mother had not remedied the circumstances causing E.R. to be
in an out-of-home placement and was unlikely to be capable of
exercising proper parental care in the future. See
Utah Code Ann. § 78A-6-507(1)(c)-(e) (LexisNexis 2018).
The court found that E.R. had made "significant
progress" through the "intense treatment he
received at the State Hospital," "ongoing
treatment," and the skills and efforts of his foster
family. It found that E.R. was "bonded with his mother,
and desires to have ongoing contact with her," and that
the "foster parents are supportive of appropriate
ongoing contact between [E.R.] and his now-adult siblings,
and between [E.R.] and his mother, and have encouraged such
contact." The court believed that "[i]f the foster
parents were to adopt [E.R., ] they would continue to support
that contact as long as it is healthy for [E.R.] and in his
The court found that it was in E.R.'s best interest to be
adopted by the foster parents. It observed that E.R.
"has a particular aversion to anything court
related" and that court proceedings cause him
significant distress. For this reason, the court determined
that E.R. "has a significant need for stability in his
placement" and that awarding permanent custody and
guardianship to the foster parents, rather than terminating
Mother's rights and permitting him to be adopted,
"would be detrimental to [him], and deny him the sense
of permanency and stability that he so desperately
needs." The court therefore determined that ...