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Adoption of Querida

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Essex

February 11, 2019

ADOPTION OF QUERIDA (and a companion case [1]).

          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.

          Andrew J. Haile, Assistant Attorney General, for Department of Children and Families.

          Erin M. Noonan for the children.

          Present: Blake, Lemire, & Singh, JJ.

          BLAKE, J.

         Following 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.[2] We affirm.

         1. Background.

         The 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.

         a. School attendance.

         As part 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. "

         b. Medical and educational needs.

         Both 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.

         The 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 ...


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