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In re Joy D.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

January 29, 2014

In re JOY D.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Nenutzka C. Villamar (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Eileen Franch & Janet Hartge (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: DEBORAH S. EYLER, GRAEFF, RAYMOND G. THIEME, JR. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

GRAEFF, J.

[216 Md.App. 61] Crystal D., appellant, appeals from an order of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, sitting as a juvenile court, granting the motion of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services (" BCDSS" ) to waive its obligation to continue to make reasonable efforts to reunify Ms. D. with her daughter, Joy D.[1] On appeal, Ms. D. presents the following question for our review, which we have rephrased, as follows:

When a local department of social services files a motion to waive reasonable efforts to reunify a parent and child pursuant to Md.Code (2013 Repl. Vol.) ยง 3-812 of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article (" CJP" ), is the court required to grant the motion when it finds that the parent has had his or her parental rights to other children involuntarily terminated?

For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Ms. D. has a long history with BCDSS and the court system, involving each of her five children: Joshua, born June 19, 1991; India, born July 7, 1996; Linda, born July 21, 1999; Malachi, born June 11, 2007; and, Joy, born September 21, 2002. We previously set forth the background of Ms. D.'s [216 Md.App. 62] involvement with BCDSS in In re Malachi D. and Joy D., No. 3006, Sept. Term, 2010 (filed Sept. 20, 2011), an appeal involving the dismissal of children in need of assistance petitions (" CINA" ) [2] pertaining to Malachi and Joy.

On June 18, 1998, Ms. D. brought Joshua to Johns Hopkins Hospital and requested that he be evaluated and hospitalized. When the hospital staff informed her that Joshua did not require hospitalization, Ms. D. became so upset that the police were called, and she subsequently was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.

On August 6, 1998, with Ms. D.'s consent, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City found Joshua and India to be CINA and removed them from Ms. D.'s custody. The children were placed with their maternal grandparents. Ms. D. previously had expressed a desire to place the children for adoption, and she had only " sporadic" contact with Joshua after the placement. Joshua, who has since turned 21 years old, was never reunified with Ms. D.

Ms. D.'s parental rights with respect to India and Linda, who was found to be CINA on October 1, 1999, were terminated on November 6, 2003, after a contested

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hearing.[3] Prior to the termination of Ms. D.'s parental rights to India and Linda, Dr. Dale L. Peterson diagnosed Ms. D. with borderline personality disorder, a " chronic and severe" condition that results in " ‘ very, very fractured’ " interpersonal relationships and " ‘ inappropriate displays of anger and affective instability,’ including ‘ sudden fits of rage.’ " Dr. Peterson opined that Ms. D.'s disorder made it " ‘ highly unlikely that she could provide [216 Md.App. 63] an environment of adequate safety and emotional stability for her children.’ " Her " ‘ unpredictability also affected her willingness to parent, and ... at times, she wanted to waive her parental rights.’ "

In 2000, Ms. D. met Elliott D. He was abusive and forced her into sexual activity. Despite the abuse, Ms. D. married Elliott D. in 2002 when she was pregnant with Joy. Ms. D. believed that, by being married to Elliott D., it would be less likely that BCDSS would remove Joy from her care, as it had with her other children. Ms. D. and Elliott D. never lived together, and he contributed very little to Joy's care.[4]

In June 2006, when Joy was three years old, Ms. D. took her to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital after Joy had fallen and injured her lip. While Ms. D. was registering Joy, she became hysterical and verbally abusive to Joy and the registration coordinator. A social worker who witnessed the incident took Ms. D. to a separate room. Once Ms. D. calmed down, she reported that she was a victim of domestic violence, and the incident with the registration process had triggered feelings " of everyone treating her like she was nothing." Joy appeared to have " some fear of her mother." Hospital staff provided Ms. D. with a number of referrals for support services, including the House of Ruth, BCDSS Adult and Family Support Unit, and Turnaround, a program that assists families and children who have witnessed violent acts. Ms. D., however, never enrolled Joy in mental health services.

Joy's first contact with BCDSS was in 2007. On May 29, 2007, BCDSS filed a Petition with Request for Shelter Care with regard to Joy. Shortly after Malachi's birth, on July 17, 2007, BCDSS initiated shelter care proceedings for him, as well. The juvenile court authorized Joy's placement in shelter care, but it denied the initial request for shelter care for Malachi, ordering instead that Ms. D. ensure that Malachi receive " ‘ all necessary medical care’ " and cooperate with [216 Md.App. 64] BCDSS and hospital staff. On October 5, 2007, the petitions were dismissed without prejudice at the request of BCDSS, following Ms. D.'s compliance with the court's orders.

On March 13, 2009, while at a local hospital, Ms. D. was observed hitting twenty-one-month-old Malachi on his back. Someone contacted the police, and a child protective services report was filed. BCDSS concluded that there was no neglect, but based on Ms. D's statement to a social worker at the hospital that she was overwhelmed with the care of her children, BCDSS placed both Joy and Malachi in shelter care. At the shelter care hearing on March 16, 2009, the court ordered that Joy be kept in shelter care. The court denied shelter care for Malachi, but it issued an order controlling conduct, which specified that Ms. D. not use physical discipline against Malachi and permit announced

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and unannounced visits by BCDSS and the child's counsel. Joy subsequently was returned to Ms. D.'s custody, but the order controlling conduct was continued.

On July 13, 2009, a BCDSS social worker made a visit to Ms. D.'s home. While the social worker interviewed Joy, Ms. D. became very upset and stated, in front of Joy, that Joy was " ‘ an evil devil.’ " Based on Ms. D.'s statement and conduct, the children's counsel filed a motion for immediate review of the children's CINA petitions. Prior to that hearing, on August 31, 2009, BCDSS placed Joy and Malachi in the home of Charlene and Herbert K., after Ms. D. requested psychiatric hospitalization of Joy. On September 1, 2009, the juvenile court ordered that Joy and Malachi be placed in shelter care. Joy adjusted well to Mr. and Ms. K.'s home, bonded with the family, and improved in all areas of development.

During a supervised visit in April 2010, after Joy referred to her foster mother as her mother, Ms. D. became verbally aggressive and threatened to kill the BCDSS family preservation worker, Chante Hoke-King. Joy was frightened and cried uncontrollably. The police had to be called to escort Joy, Malachi, and the foster parent away from the building.

[216 Md.App. 65] In May 2010, BCDSS developed a service agreement for Ms. D., offering mental health services and parenting classes, to try to work toward reunification. Ms. D. denied having mental health issues and declined both individual therapy and family counseling. She also missed many scheduled visits with the children. Ms. D.'s desire to have Joy return home was " inconsistent and when positive conditioned on evil spirits being out of Joy." Ms. D. referred to Joy as a " demon of hell," whom she did not " really like," and she stated that Joy needs to be " out [of] my house" and " should be with her bipolar and abusive father instead and drive him crazy." She also sent approximately 2,000 e-mails to Ms. Hoke-King, protesting BCDSS' involvement in her life.

In July 2010, an adjudicatory hearing was held. The Master recommended dismissal of Malachi's petition and sustained certain allegations in Joy's petition. The Master recommended finding that Ms. D. had acted in ways that had caused Joy emotional harm, and she had been aggressive toward BCDSS workers, threatening to kill one of them in front of Joy. On October 20, 2010, the Master recommended that Joy be found a CINA and committed to BCDSS. Ms. D. filed exceptions in Joy's case. On January 21, 2011, after a de novo hearing, the court dismissed the CINA petitions, and Joy and Malachi were returned to the care and custody of Ms. D.[5]

On June 25, 2011, while the appeal was pending in this Court, Joy called 911 and reported that she was being abused; she requested BCDSS involvement. Joy told the responding police officers that her mother had hit her on her bottom. [6]

[216 Md.App. 66] After the police left, Ms. D. took Joy to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She reported that Joy's alleged

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behavior was unmanageable, and she did not want Joy home with her. She stated that Joy needed to be returned to foster care because Ms. D. could not manage Joy's behavioral problems. Joy also reported to social worker Kathleen Orr that she wanted to return to her previous foster family. Even when she was informed that she might not be able to return to her previous foster family, she persisted in her desire to return to foster care.

After extensive discussion with hospital staff, Ms. D. determined that she would be able to safely manage Joy until Monday with the help of her fiancé, Henry E., who agreed to stay in the home and help her until Monday morning. Ms. D. did not report to hospital staff Joy's concerns about potential sexual abuse by Mr. E.

On June 28, 2011, Ms. D. again took Joy to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins Hospital and requested an emergency psychiatric evaluation. The hospital did not admit Joy. On June 29, 2011, Ms. D. took Joy to University of Maryland and reported that Joy required an emergency psychiatric evaluation for her " bad behavior." When Ms. D. was informed that Joy would not be admitted, she became violent and verbally abusive. In an effort to calm Ms. D., the treatment team agreed to have Joy transferred to a pediatric clinic for evaluation. Ms. D.'s aggressive behavior continued, however, and she threatened a social worker.

During the interview with a social worker, Ms. D. repeatedly called Joy a " liar" and a " horrible child" and loudly denigrated Joy in Joy's presence. Ms. D. became increasingly agitated and began making delusional statements. Joy and Malachi sat very close to one another on one chair, and Joy appeared to make herself as small as possible, getting closer and closer to Malachi, indicating in a soft voice, " I don't like when mommy gets angry like this." The social worker concluded that Ms. D. needed a psychiatric evaluation in light of her " observed paranoid and irrational behavior," and that Joy [216 Md.App. 67] " was not safe with her mother exhibiting these behaviors." BCDSS removed Joy, and on June 30, 2011, the juvenile court ordered the continuation of Joy's placement in shelter care. BCDSS was able to place Joy back into the K.'s home. Joy has never returned to Ms. D.'s home.

On June 25, 2011, Diana Wade [7] was assigned to work with the D. family. Initially, Ms. D. acknowledged Ms. Wade's efforts and reported that she had a good rapport with her. Ms. D. still insisted that Joy was a liar and the " major problem [in] the case." She persisted in her belief that Joy was the " devil's child," and that the devil uses Joy. She thought that Joy needed an exorcism, stating that she wanted Joy returned to her only if Joy was " assessed for possible possession."

On July 26, 2011, Ms. D. contacted BCDSS. She was extremely anxious and overwhelmed. A family preservation worker, Ravital Shalev, met with Ms. D. for a home safety assessment. Ms. D. reported that she was overwhelmed by Malachi and his emotional needs. She stated that she was extremely frustrated, and she asked that Malachi be removed from her care. Ms. D. was offered family preservation services, as well as mental health, parenting, counseling and financial assistance services, but she " wanted none of it." The following day, BCDSS ...


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