Heard: July 28, 2017.
filed in the Suffolk County Division of the Juvenile Court
Department on March 6, 2013.
case was heard by Peter M. Coyne, J.
M. Toomey for the mother.
F. Bertram, Assistant Attorney General, for Department of
Children and Families.
Deborah J. Bero for the child.
Present: Green, Ditkoff, & Wendlandt, JJ.
mother appeals from a decree issued by a judge of the
Juvenile Court finding her unfit to parent her son, Talik,
terminating her parental rights, placing the child in the
care of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and
approving DCF's plan for adoption of the child by his
foster parents. The mother argues that (1) the judge
impermissibly drew an adverse inference from her failure to
attend the trial; (2) the evidence of her unfitness was stale
and thus could not support a finding of her unfitness by
clear and convincing evidence; and (3) the pretrial placement
of the child with the foster parents instead of with the
child's maternal grandmother's first cousin
(relative) in California was an abuse of discretion. We
conclude that the judge did not err in drawing a negative
inference from the mother's absence and finding that the
mother was unfit, and that there was no abuse of discretion
in the child's pretrial placement. Accordingly, we
on the detailed findings of fact made by the judge, which
find ample support in the record. The child was born in
March, 2013, and his meconium tested positive for marijuana.
The mother tested positive for OxyContin, cocaine, and
opiates. The child was admitted to the neonatal intensive
care unit due to high blood sugar levels (attributed to the
mother's mismanagement of her diabetes during the
pregnancy), a possible heart murmur, and concerns regarding
his liver. During the pregnancy, the mother tested positive
for marijuana at her first prenatal appointment, which
occurred just over two months before the child was born. She
refused toxicology screens for the remainder of her
pregnancy. Between December, 2012, and the child's birth,
the mother exhibited drug seeking behavior, visiting the
hospital several times to seek pain medication ostensibly
because she was unable to regulate her insulin levels; on one
occasion, she smelled of alcohol.
days after the child's birth, DCF filed a care and
protection petition seeking custody of the child. Both
parents waived their rights to a temporary custody hearing,
and the petition was allowed. Twelve days after his birth,
the child was discharged to the care of his foster parents,
where he has remained ever since.
DCF took temporary custody of the child in March, 2013, DCF
drafted a service plan for the mother with the goal of
reunification. The plan tasked the mother with (1) attending
parenting classes; (2) participating in substance abuse
treatment; (3) providing toxicology screens; (4) engaging in
mental health treatment and taking any prescribed
medications; (5) maintaining contact with DCF; (6) making her
whereabouts known to DCF; and (7) attending visits with the
child. The mother attended an outpatient addiction and
treatment management program in March, 2013, but was
discharged from the program in May, 2013, due to her lack of
attendance. She submitted two urine screens in April, 2013,
both of which came back negative. Other than these efforts,
the mother did not complete the service plan tasks. In
addition, the mother has a long history of domestic violence
with the father in front of their other children,
additional incidents of domestic violence were reported after
DCF obtained temporary custody of the child.
September, 2013, DCF changed the child's placement goal
to adoption. The mother continued her noncompliance with
DCF's service plan and has not visited the ...