Heard: December 3, 2018.
Petition filed in the Essex County Division of the Juvenile
Court Department on November 20, 2015. The case was heard by
Mark Newman, J.
Deborah Sirotkin Butler for the mother.
J. Haile, Assistant Attorney General, for Department of
Children and Families.
M. Noonan for the children.
Present: Blake, Lemire, & Singh, JJ.
a trial in the Juvenile Court, the judge found that the
mother was unfit to assume parental responsibility of two
children, terminated her parental rights, and declined to
order posttermination visitation. The mother appeals
contending that the Department of Children and Families
(department) failed to prove her unfitness by clear and
convincing evidence and that the judge abused his discretion
in declining to order posttermination visitation. We affirm.
mother has a long history of serious mental health issues,
including anxiety and depression. In 2013, the department
received a report pursuant to G. L. c. 119, § 51A (51A
report), alleging that Julie (born in 2005) sexually abused
Querida (born in 2002) while in the mother's care. The
department did not remove the children, but the case remained
open for services. In 2015, five additional 51A reports were
received over a six-month period. These reports included
allegations that the mother was drinking and smoking
marijuana to excess, hitting the children, and failing to get
the children to school. The department continued to provide
services to the family while investigating the reports. In
November, 2015, another 51A report was filed that led to the
children's removal. This report was filed as a result of
the mother taking Julie to the emergency room because she had
been coloring on the walls and on toys. During this hospital
visit, the mother indicated that her boy friend had hit
Julie. The department conducted an investigation pursuant to
G. L. c. 119, § 51B (51B investigation), issued a report
(51B report) supporting the allegations, and filed a care and
protection petition on behalf of the children.
of the 51B investigation, school personnel reported that the
children had between fifty and sixty absences each, for each
of the past two years. In response, the mother blamed the
children and had numerous excuses for her failure to both get
the children to school and get them to school on time. School
personnel reported that the mother was often inappropriate in
front of the children, calling the children
"horrible" and suggesting "she should give
them to the state. "
Medical and educational needs.
children have significant medical needs. Querida suffers from
asthma and a number of food and environmental allergies. She
has been prescribed multiple medications, which she must take
daily, and has an EpiPen. Julie has been diagnosed with major
depressive disorder and moderate cognitive disorder. She
performs in the "extremely low" range of
intellectual functioning and suffers from
"visual-perceptual motor deficits." Julie also
suffers from other maladies, including nightmares. She is
prescribed medication for agitation.
mother has been unable to manage the children's medical
needs. She is unable to make sure that Querida takes her
medication daily. Indeed, Querida reported that her
medications were "all over the place" at the
mother's home. In addition, the mother smoked in the
house, which aggravated Querida's asthma. Querida's