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Adoption of Bianca

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex

April 28, 2017

ADOPTION OF BIANCA[1]

          Heard: February 10, 2017.

         Petition filed in the Middlesex County Division of the Juvenile Court Department on March 10, 2011.

         The case was heard by Kenneth J. King, J.

          Deborah Sirotkin Butler for the mother.

          Use Nehring for the father.

          William T. Cuttle for Department of Children and Families.

          Yvette L. Kruger for the child.

          Present: Milkey, Hanlon, & Neyman, JJ.

          MILKEY, J.

         This case involves the welfare of a child to whom we shall refer as Bianca. After trial, a Juvenile Court judge found the child's mother and father unfit, and issued decrees terminating their parental rights. See G. L. c. 119, § 26; G. L. c. 210, § 3. The judge approved a plan put forward by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for Bianca to be adopted by a couple who were close friends of the father's family and who have cared for Bianca for much of her life.[2]Finally, the judge ordered regular postadoption contact with both parents, but permitted the preadoptive parents to terminate visitation with the mother or father if they determined it was no longer in Bianca's best interests.

         On appeal, the mother and father contest the termination of their parental rights. The father also challenges the approval of the DCF adoption plan over his plan that the preadoptive parents be made Bianca's guardians so that he could seek custody in the future. The mother requests that the case be remanded to determine whether she remains unfit and to determine Bianca's current best interests. We affirm.

         Background.[3]

         As a result of the father's abuse of the mother, Bianca's life has been fraught with instability and exposure to violence. In addition, the mother has long struggled with substance abuse, and due to incarceration or treatment, she was frequently unavailable to care for Bianca. Little would be served by providing further detail of the mother's history, particularly because she does not contest that she was unfit at the time of trial.

         The father physically abused the mother throughout their marriage, including during the mother's pregnancy with Bianca, who was born in January, 2010. The findings of fact detail twenty specific incidences of domestic violence, ten of which occurred in Bianca's presence. In March, 2011, when Bianca was fourteen months old, DCF filed a petition for care and protection. See G. L. c. 119, § 24. By stipulation, the father was given conditional custody of Bianca, with the preadoptive mother providing primary caretaking responsibilities for her during the week.[4] Among other conditions, the parents were not to be together with Bianca without the presence of a third party. The father violated this condition and assaulted the mother again in June, August, and September, 2011. In October, temporary custody was awarded to DCF, and Bianca was placed with the preadoptive parents. The father completed a forty-week intimate partner abuse education program for domestic abusers (formerly known as a batterers' intervention program), and Bianca was returned to the father's care in ...


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