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In re Gonzales/Martinez, Minors

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 5, 2015


Macomb Circuit Court Family Division LC No. 2013-000318-NA

Before: M. J. Kelly, P.J., and Wilder and K. F. Kelly, JJ.

Per Curiam.

Respondent appeals by right the order terminating her parental rights to her two children, MG and HM, under MCL 712A.19b(3)(b)(ii), MCL 712A.19b(3)(g), and MCL 712A.19b(3)(j). Because we conclude there were no errors warranting relief, we affirm.


MG and HM were removed from respondent's care and placed with relatives after it was discovered that respondent's boyfriend had sexually assaulted both children. The children told a worker from the Department of Human Services that when they first told their mother of the abuse, she slapped HM and called MG a liar. Respondent was allowed supervised parenting time, but the Department expressed concern about the visits after a worker observed respondent "coaching" MG about the sexual assault case. A mental health professional who evaluated respondent recommended suspending respondent's parenting time and the court agreed.

The Department initially sought immediate termination of respondent's parental rights, but withdrew the petition and offered respondent a parent agency agreement. During a later hearing, it was revealed that respondent had kept in contact with her boyfriend after his arrest. Respondent also missed several drug screens and tested positive for cocaine. Because of these events, the Department again petitioned for the termination of respondent's parental rights.

At a hearing on the petition, respondent admitted that she continued to have contact with her boyfriend. Two police officers also testified about an incident that occurred before the Department offered respondent an agency agreement; respondent had assaulted an elderly woman with whom she lived. There was also a psychological report in which the author wrote that respondent had difficulty with the part of her brain that controls emotional stability and aggression. It was also revealed that respondent had criminal charges pending against her. Elizabeth Heath, a foster-care specialist working for the Department, submitted evidence that respondent had hallucinations and had been inconsistent with seeking treatment, including refusing to engage in in-patient treatment. Respondent also had positive drug tests for cocaine from May through July and had twice been hospitalized for overdosing.

Respondent was then living with an 83-year-old man, and he indicated that they were sexually involved. On one occasion when Heath went to the residence to deliver a subpoena, she found respondent passed out on the couch. Respondent's elderly roommate told Heath that he had seen respondent drinking and had given her pills. Respondent was unemployed throughout the proceedings, but did receive social security. Heath testified that both children were doing well in their current placement with their aunt and uncle. Heath discussed a possible guardianship with the children's aunt and uncle, but the children's caregivers were afraid that respondent might continue to have contact with them and they did not feel safe around her.

The hearing referee found that the Department had established by clear and convincing evidence grounds for termination under MCL 712A.19b(3)(b)(ii), (3)(g), and (3)(j). Regarding § 19b(3)(b)(ii), the referee noted respondent's refusal to believe the allegations of sexual abuse and continued relationship with her children's alleged abuser. The referee also felt that respondent's continued problems with drug use, her lack of appropriate housing, her ongoing mental health issues, the number of appointments she had missed, her failure to enter an in-patient treatment program, and the criminal charges she was facing, implicated § 19b(3)(g). As for § 19b(3)(j), the referee referred to respondent's lack of stability, the ongoing drug problems, and the criminal activity. However, the referee found that there was not adequate grounds for terminating respondent's parental rights under MCL 712A.19b(3)(c)(i) and (3)(c)(ii).

The referee further found that termination was in the children's best interests. The referee stated that the children needed permanency and safety, which respondent could not provide. The referee also found it noteworthy that the children had been traumatized while in respondent's care and were scared of her. The referee stated that the children needed finality beyond a mere guardianship. The trial court adopted the referee's findings and entered the order of termination.

Respondent now appeals in this Court.


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