In re S. R. RICHARDSON, Minor.
Saginaw Circuit Court Family Division LC No. 17-035259-NA
Before: Sawyer, P.J., and Borrello and Shapiro, JJ.
these consolidated appeals,  respondents appeal the
termination of their parental rights under MCL
712A.19b(3)(c)(i) (conditions that led to
adjudication continue to exist) and (g) (failure to provide
proper care and custody). For the reasons set forth in this
opinion, we vacate the trial court's order and remand
this matter for further proceedings.
case initially came to the trial court by way of a Department
of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated
child-protective proceeding regarding SRR on June 26, 2017,
after SRR tested positive for the presence of marijuana at
birth. The petition alleged that mother had an extensive
history of substance abuse that had resulted in the
termination of her parental rights to her two older children.
The prior terminations occurred in 2015 and were based on
mother's substance abuse and methamphetamine production.
Father was not the father of those two older children. The
petition further alleged that mother had failed to benefit
from the services the DHHS had provided, that mother had
knowingly used marijuana while she was pregnant, and that
mother had placed SRR at an unreasonable risk of harm through
her substance abuse that resulted in SRR's prenatal
marijuana exposure. The only petition allegation against
father, other than that he was SRR's father, was added to
the petition by oral amendment at the adjudication plea
hearing. This allegation stated that father was currently
incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections
(MDOC) and unable to provide a care plan for SRR.
trial court assumed jurisdiction on the basis of mother's
and father's respective pleas of admission to the
petition allegations. The petition had originally sought
termination at the initial disposition. However, the referee
noted at the adjudication hearing that mother had "shown
some significant desires to make major changes in her life
that weren't made during the termination back in
2015" and that "[g]iven her age and situation the
Court is of the opinion that she deserves to have that
opportunity based on the information I have at this point in
time so I would be looking at having the termination taken
off the table to both these individuals and work with
them." The referee warned mother that this was "a
huge break" for her and that she was "on what we
call a short leash." The referee also stated, "The
key is-you understand-it's kind of your last straw given
that you've had significant treatment-my understanding at
least-or opportunities for treatment previously. And this is
a chance for you to make that final step to completely get
away from substances." The referee further indicated
that termination could become an option again if mother did
not "stay on the track of sobriety."
initial disposition was held on August 28, 2017. Father was
incarcerated but the court was unable to secure his presence
by video link because father had been transferred to a
different facility, apparently unbeknownst to his attorney or
the court. MDOC staff also apparently ignored the orders that
had been sent out indicating that father was to be made
available for the hearing. Nonetheless, father's attorney
waived any issue with the lack of father's presence,
stating that he had "no objection proceeding without him
today" subject to maintaining father's "right
to object" to anything "out of the
ordinary." The referee stated, "Being that this
is original disposition with him in prison there isn't a
whole lot we can do at this point for him . . . we'll get
him up to speed and it will be probably the next hearing
that's gonna be most important for him anyways."
had begun an inpatient substance abuse treatment program at
Kairos Treatment Facility approximately one week before this
hearing. Mother enrolled herself in this program. The court
report also indicated that mother's parenting time visits
had been positive with no concerns. Mother indicated that she
had enrolled in a parenting class, which she had personally
arranged to be provided to her and other women at Kairos, and
was "willing to take as many parenting classes as-as
need be." Mother also stated that at Kairos, she was
participating in therapy and was working with doctors to get
her seizures under control through medication. Her seizures
were not completely under control yet.
referee then questioned mother as follows about her seizures:
Q. I am extremely knowledgeable and familiar with
seizures. Obviously, do you-have they given you a diagnosis
of-sometimes they call it epilepsy, sometime they call is
[sic] seizure disorder.
A. Epilepsy is my diagnosis.
Q. Okay. All right. And are they working with a
neurologist over there right now?
Q. Okay, and who's the neurologist working on
A. At-I believe it's Abbott.
A. Ah, that sounds about right.
Q. All right. Have you been working with a
neurologist up to this point? 'Cause you said you have
A. I was not. I was using medical marijuana.
Q. What you will probably find out in talking with a
neurologist and everything, marijuana can exacerbate the
seizures, depending on the types that you're having and
everything because of fact-so it can make it worse for you.
So, the question you want to maybe verify and everything with
all the information I've been presented with is a problem
for people with seizures.
A. It was working for me but that's why I've
got to try (inaudible)-
A. -at the time, you know.
A. I'm going-I will give it up. I want my baby
A. -so I'll play the battle with medication and
do what I ...