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Denny M. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services

Supreme Court of Alaska

January 13, 2016

DENNY M., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES, OFFICE OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Gregory Heath, Judge. Superior Court No. 3PA-13-00053 CN and 3PA-13-00054 CN (consolidated).

Lars Johnson, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan G. Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant.

David A. Wilkinson, Assistant Attorney General, Fairbanks, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Fabe, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 346

MAASSEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

The Office of Children's Services (OCS) filed a petition to terminate a mother's parental rights to two of her daughters. The superior court granted the petition. The mother appeals the superior court's finding that OCS made active efforts to reunify the family, as required by state and federal law, as well as a few of the factual findings underlying this conclusion. Because the superior court did not clearly err in finding that OCS made active efforts by providing services geared toward reunification -- some by OCS directly and others through the mother's involvement

Page 347

in a therapeutic court -- we affirm the termination decision.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Denny M. is the mother of three daughters, two of whom, Tony (born in 2008) and Kam (born in 2010), are involved in this case.[1] They are Indian children for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA).[2] OCS first became involved with Denny's family in 2010, when it received a report that Denny abused alcohol and marijuana while pregnant with Kam and said she hated the baby. OCS removed Tony and Kam from Denny's care and began a trial home visit with their father, Tyler Y., who in April 2011 was given permanent custody of the girls.

On May 30, 2013, OCS removed Tony and Kam from Tyler's home after Kam " showed up at her day care provider's house with two black eyes, a blackened nose and swollen face," allegedly caused by Tyler. The next day OCS filed an emergency petition for temporary custody based on both Tyler's physical violence and Denny's mental health. OCS placed the children with their aunt, Denny's sister.[3]

OCS developed a case plan intended to promote the family's eventual reunification. Denny started work on the plan in July 2013,[4] but her progress stopped in August when she was arrested for assaulting her father -- her fourth arrest for assault since 2010. She was incarcerated until October. The disposition of her criminal case required that she participate in a variety of services provided through a therapeutic mental health court, including counseling, psychiatric care, medication management, and residence in an assisted living ...


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