Argued: September 6, 2017
Court for Baltimore City Case No.: 814192003
Barbera, C.J. Greene Adkins McDonald Watts Hotten Getty, JJ.
case, we settle conflicting decisions from the Court of
Special Appeals on the appealability of a juvenile
court's order waiving the government's obligation to
provide reasonable reunification efforts to families. In
doing so, we also clarify which actions by a juvenile court
"deprive" a parent of care or custody of a child as
outlined by Maryland Code (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol.), §
12-303(3)(x) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article
issued a writ of certiorari to consider two questions. First,
did the Court of Special Appeals err in holding that the
court's order waving reasonable reunification efforts was
not a final order and not appealable? Second, did the
juvenile court err in holding that a waiver of reasonable
efforts pursuant to Md. Code. (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol., 2016
Supp.), CJP § 3-812 was constitutionally permitted?
shall answer the first question no, holding that Petitioner
had no right to an interlocutory appeal. We do not reach the
FACTS AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
the mother of C.E., has an extensive history with Baltimore
City Department of Social Services ("Department").
Under a series of saddening circumstances, all six of
C.D.'s children have been adjudged CINA. The first
finding occurred in 1998 and the latest in 2015. Juvenile
courts have involuntarily terminated C.D.'s parental
rights for four of her six children.
Involuntary Terminations of C.D.'s Parental
suffers from several mental illnesses that prevent her from
properly caring for her children. C.D.'s previous mental
health diagnoses include paranoia, adjustment disorder, major
depression, somatization disorder, borderline personality
disorder, mania, and bipolar affective disorder. C.D. also
demonstrated "fits of rage" and underwent
psychiatric hospitalizations, yet she refused regular and
continuing mental health treatment. Despite numerous services
and referrals, juvenile courts repeatedly have found that
C.D. displayed a complete inability to care for her children,
control her emotions, or effectively communicate with her
children and the Department.
result of her inability to care for her children, primarily
attributed to her mental illnesses, C.D. lost parental rights
to four of her six children. C.D.'s second child, I.S.,
was found to be a CINA in 1998. Her third child, L.B., was
also found to be a CINA in 1999. In 2003, a juvenile court
terminated C.D.'s parental rights over both I.S., and
L.B. after a contested hearing. The Court of Special Appeals
affirmed the juvenile court's termination of C.D.'s
parental rights. C.D.'s fourth and fifth children, J.D.
and M.D., were both found to be CINA in 2012. After a
contested hearing in 2014, C.D.'s parental rights with
respect to J.D. and M.D. were also terminated. Again, the
Court of Special Appeals affirmed. When C.D. had her sixth
child in 2014, the Department intervened once again.
CINA Finding Regarding C.E.
was born prematurely in May of 2014. In June, C.E. was
transferred from the neonatal intensive care unit at Johns
Hopkins to Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital after
complications arising from C.E.'s low birth weight. In
July, before C.E. could leave the hospital in the care and
custody of C.D., the Department filed a CINA Petition for
shelter care of C.E. in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
The Department alleged that C.D. had untreated mental health
conditions that prevented her from caring for C.E. Two weeks
later, the juvenile master approved the CINA petition and
ordered C.E. into the Department's custody. The
Department then transferred custody of C.E. to relatives. An
adjudicatory hearing was set for October of 2014. This
hearing was postponed five times. The juvenile court agreed
to four of these postponements to allow C.D. to hire an
attorney-she hired and fired several in this timeframe.
16, 2015, nearly a year after the Department filed its
Petition, the court conducted an adjudicatory hearing and
found C.E. was a CINA. Shortly thereafter, the Department
requested a waiver of the Department's obligation to
continue reasonable reunification efforts.
Department's Waiver Request
Department expended extensive resources and took substantial
steps to provide C.D. with reasonable reunification services.
The Department, through an assigned caseworker, made repeated
referrals to assist C.D. in obtaining mental health
treatment. C.D. refused to leave her home for mental health
treatment. To appease C.D. the Department contacted twelve
mental healthcare providers but each refused to provide
in-home care to C.D. A social worker attempted to give C.D.
psychiatric resources, but C.D. promptly ripped up the
resources and handed them back to the social worker. C.D.
rejected the transportation offered by the Department for
visits with C.E. Although C.D. had a period of supervised
bi-weekly visits with C.E., these visits were marred by
C.D.'s emotional outbursts.
9, 2015, the Department filed a Motion to Waive Reasonable
Efforts to Reunify pursuant to CJP § 3-812. This statute
permits the juvenile court to waive the Department's
obligation to continue reunification efforts under certain
conditions. Specifically, CJP § 3-812(c) allows the
Department to "immediately request the court to find
that reasonable efforts to reunify the child with the
child's parent or guardian are not required, " if
"any of the circumstances specified in subsection (b) of
this section exists . . . . " Subsection (b)(3) permits
the Department to request a waiver if "a parent or
guardian: . . . [h]as involuntarily lost parental rights of a
sibling of the child."
Department argued that it should not continue to provide
reasonable reunification services because C.D. involuntarily
lost her parental rights to four siblings of C.E. C.D.,
opposing the motion, argued that CJP § 3-812 violated
her fundamental right to parent by unconstitutionally
penalizing her for contesting the previous termination of her
parental rights because the statute would not apply had she
consented to the previous terminations. Further, she argued
that application of the statute would end her ability to
reunify with C.E.
the court heard argument on the Department's Motion and
C.E.'s response, it granted the Department's Motion.
The hearing judge noted C.D.'s four previous contested
terminations of parental rights and explained that "in
my view of the entire record of this case . . . it is
mandatory for me to grant the Department's motion under
[C]P] 3-812." In his written order, the hearing judge
again noted "[C.D.'s] four prior appellate-sustained
[terminations of parental rights] over [C.D.'s] objection
for [C.E.'s] siblings." C.D. immediately appealed
the order waiving reasonable efforts to the Court of Special
C.D.'s Appeal of the Waiver Order
intermediate appellate court, in an unreported decision,
affirmed the waiver. In re C.E., No. 0464, 2016 WL
7235560 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Dec. 14, 2016). The Court did not
address the question C.D. submitted,  but instead held that an
order waiving reasonable reunification efforts is not
immediately appealable because it was merely an interlocutory
order and not a final judgment. Id. at *7.
intermediate court also considered whether CJP § 12-303
permitted the Court to hear the appeal. Id. at *5-7.
CJP § 12-303(3)(x) provides that a party may appeal any
interlocutory order "[d]epriving a parent, grandparent,
or natural guardian of the care and custody of his child, or
changing the terms of such an order[.]" The Court
considered whether the waiver order deprives a parent of the
care and custody of her child, or changes the terms of such
an order. Id. at *5. It turned to In re Karl
H., 394 Md. 402 (2006), which explained that the
question depends on "'whether the order and the
extent to which that order changes the antecedent custody
order.'" Id. at *7 (quoting In re Karl
H., 394 Md. at 430). Reasoning that the order regarding
reunification services did not change any other order in the
case, alter a permanency plan, or deprive C.D. of the care or
custody of her child, the panel majority dismissed C.D.'s
dissenting judge disagreed with the Court's rejection of
C.D.'s appeal and reasoned that that the panel majority
improperly characterized the waiver order as one that would
not affect C.D.'s care or custody. Id. at *9.
2016 decision conflicts with an earlier decision from the
Court of Special Appeals. In that case, In re Joy
D., 216 Md.App. 58 (2014), a different panel considered
the same question: whether a party may immediately appeal an
order waiving a department's obligation to provide
reasonable reunification services. Id. at 61. The
intermediate appellate court, in a unanimous opinion,
reasoned that a waiver order was appealable as a change to
the terms of another order regarding a parent's care or
custody of her child. Id. at 73 n.10. ("An
order waiving the requirement to make reasonable efforts to
reunify a parent with his or her child is appealable pursuant
to CJP § 12-303(3)(x) . . . .").
makes two arguments before this Court. First, she contends
that the juvenile court's order waiving reasonable
reunification efforts deprived her of care and custody of
C.E, thereby creating an immediate right to an appeal.
Second, C.D. argues that CJP § 3-812-facially and as
applied to her-violates the constitutional guarantees of
substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal
Standard of Review
courts do not disturb the juvenile court's findings of
fact unless they are clearly erroneous. In re Yve
S., 373 Md. 551, 586 (2003) (citing Davis v.
Davis, 280 Md. 119, 125-26 (1977)). We review the
juvenile court's decisions on matters of law without
deference. Id. Here, the parties do not dispute the
juvenile court's finding with respect to the only
relevant fact-that C.D.'s parental rights to four of
C.E.'s siblings were involuntarily terminated.
juvenile court determined, as a matter of law, that CJP
§ 3-812 permitted the waiver of the Department's
obligation to provide reasonable reunification efforts. The
Court of Special Appeals concluded that C.E. has no right to
appeal the juvenile court's non-final interlocutory
order. We review both of these legal determinations without
B. Appealability of the Juvenile Court's
decision regarding the appealability of the juvenile
court's waiver of the Department's obligation to
provide reasonable reunification services first requires an
exploration of the CINA statutory scheme and the progression
of such cases.
CINA Statutory Framework and Proceedings
social services department can file a petition to remove a
child from a home to protect a child "from serious
immediate danger." Md. Code (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol.), CJP
§ 3-815(b). The department must then seek an immediate
court authorization to continue emergency shelter care
placement of the child. Id. § 3-815(c). The
parties have a right to an attorney "at every
stage" of any CINA proceeding. Id. §
3-813(a). To justify continuing emergency shelter care of a
child, the court must determine that returning the child to
the child's home "is contrary to the safety and
welfare of the child"; and removal "is necessary
due to an alleged emergency situation and in order to provide
for the safety of the child"; or "[r]easonable
efforts were made but were unsuccessful in preventing or
eliminating the need for removal of the child from the
home." Id. § 3-815(d). The court must also
decide whether the Department has made reasonable efforts to
assist in returning the child to the home, or the
reasonableness of the absence of such efforts. Id.
the emergency shelter care hearing, the juvenile court must
hold an adjudication hearing. The rules of evidence apply and
the juvenile court must decide "whether the allegations
in the petition . . . are true." Id.
§§ 3-801(c); 3-817. The court must find: (1) that
the child is abused, neglected, has a developmental
disability, or a mental disorder, and (2) the child's
parent, guardian, or custodian is unable or unwilling to
provided appropriate care and attention to the child and the
child's needs. Id. § 3-801(f). If the court
makes this finding, it then holds a disposition hearing.
Id. § 3-819(a); see also Maryland Rule
11-115(a). At this hearing, the court will determine whether
a child requires assistance, and if the court makes such a
determination, it will then decide the ...