from the Superior Court of the State o f Alaska, Third
Judicial District, Anchorage, Frank A. Pfiffner, Judge.
Superior Court No. 3AN-14-00036 CN.
Kalytiak Davis, Anchorage, for Appellant.
M. Grace, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Craig W.
Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.
Fabe, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Stowers, Chief
Justice, not participating.].
Office of Children's Services (OCS) took custody of a
young girl due to her
mother's neglect and substance abuse. The father was
incarcerated at the time, but on his release he made limited
efforts to participate in his case plan. OCS filed a petition
to terminate his parental rights, asserting that he had
abandoned his daughter, and the superior court granted the
petition and terminated his rights. The father appeals,
arguing that he did not abandon his daughter and that if he
did he was not given enough time to remedy the problem.
Because the superior court's findings are not clearly
erroneous, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
is the three-year-old daughter of Sarah S. and Trevor
M. Trevor's criminal history includes
a number of assault charges and domestic violence restraining
orders involving different victims;  he has also
struggled with substance abuse. He testified that he "
rarely got to see" Maya while she was a baby because it
was up to Sarah to decide " when she felt like bringing
[him his] daughter." He also testified, however, that he
" always call[ed] [Sarah] to check on [his]
daughter" and that he gave " her money plenty of
times for whatever she needed."
twice removed Maya from Sarah's custody after receiving
reports of neglect -- once in October 2012, when Maya was
five months old, and again in December 2013. Each time OCS
placed Maya with her maternal grandparents, Dennis S. and
Sylvia E. The second time OCS took custody, Maya had cocaine
in her system at such a high level that it was determined she
had probably ingested the drug. Trevor was in jail at the
time for assaulting Sarah. Since then, Maya has remained with
her maternal grandparents.
example, in 2012 Trevor was convicted of assaulting his
then-girlfriend, the mother of his other child; in 2013 Sarah
accused him of assaulting her; and in 2014 a different
girlfriend was granted a long-term domestic violence
protective order based on the finding that Trevor posed a
threat to her safety.
February 2014 OCS assigned caseworker Rick Mitcham to
Maya's case. Mitcham met with Trevor a few weeks later,
after Trevor's release from prison. Trevor said he was
willing to participate in anger management classes; also
included in his case plan were a substance abuse assessment
and regular urinalyses (UAs).
and Trevor met again on March 1. Mitcham described Trevor as
" receptive to engaging in services" at that time,
and after the meeting Mitcham made a referral for supervised
visitation. For the rest of the month Mitcham and another OCS
worker tried to contact Trevor to follow through with the
referral, but Trevor never answered the phone or returned
messages. On March 27 Mitcham made an unannounced visit and
found Trevor at home; he talked to Trevor " about the
case and about . . . setting up the family contact."
According to Mitcham, Trevor still seemed willing to engage
with his case plan.
Trevor failed to show up for an April meeting with Mitcham,
and they did not meet again until May. At that time they
discussed Trevor's case plan again, but Trevor was
reluctant to pursue it because he believed he was likely to
be reincarcerated soon, making his efforts pointless. Around
this time another OCS worker made a number of attempts by
telephone to facilitate visitation, but Trevor's phone
and Mitcham met again in early June. By this time Trevor had
learned he was not going back to jail, and he again seemed
willing to follow his case plan and to submit to the required
UAs. He signed the plan and records releases for anger
management classes and a substance abuse assessment. But
after this meeting OCS was again unable to reach him to
coordinate a visitation schedule, despite many attempts.
did attend a substance abuse assessment and another
assessment for a batterers' intervention program. The
batterers' program met once a week for 36 weeks. Trevor
attended two classes in June, three in July, one in August,
and two in October, after which he was discharged from the
program because of unexcused absences. His
experience with substance abuse treatment was similar. He did
not follow up on the assessment's recommendations for
intensive outpatient treatment; he later testified that he
had limited funds to put toward his rehabilitation and chose
to spend them on the batterers' intervention course
instead. He testified that he discussed this decision with
Mitcham and another OCS employee and they understood his
reasoning -- though Mitcham declined to confirm this. Trevor
missed most of the scheduled UAs, showing up for only four of
26 appointments and twice testing positive for marijuana.
June Trevor gave Mitcham his new phone number, and OCS was
able to schedule weekly visitation. Trevor visited Maya three
times: on July 1, 17, and 31. Regular visitation was then
suspended because Trevor started a new job on the North
Slope. Although OCS had instructed him that he would need to
call to restart visitation when he returned, it did not hear
from him again and was unable to reach him despite continued
efforts. In October OCS petitioned to terminate Trevor's
and Sarah's parental rights.
January 2015 Trevor was again incarcerated. Sarah voluntarily
relinquished her rights to Maya, and in March the superior
court held a two-day trial on Trevor's parental rights.
Trevor participated telephonically from jail. He had not had
any contact with Maya since his last visit in July 2014,
seven and a half months earlier.
trial, two OCS employees described their unsuccessful
attempts to contact Trevor and facilitate visitation from
March to the end of June 2014; one testified about the
further loss of contact following Trevor's three visits
with Maya in July. Mitcham testified that he had explained to
Trevor when they first met that time was of the essence, and
that Trevor appeared to understand. But Mitcham also
testified that after he last met with Trevor in June 2014 he
was unable to reach him again.
maternal grandfather, Dennis, testified that he had provided
all of Maya's financial support since her birth and that
he had never asked for or received any help from Trevor. He
testified that Maya never asked about Trevor and that to his
knowledge Trevor had spent time with Maya maybe ten times in
testified on his own behalf. He explained that he had rarely
seen Maya when she was a baby because Sarah limited his
access. He testified that participating in his case plan was
difficult because he had no driver's license, had started
a new job in June 2014, and had trouble paying for classes.
He denied that Mitcham had told him time was of the essence.
But he acknowledged OCS's ...