Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

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

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 11, 2016

TREVOR M., Appellant,

          Appeal 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.

         Olena Kalytiak Davis, Anchorage, for Appellant.

         Joanne M. Grace, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

         Before: Fabe, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Stowers, Chief Justice, not participating.].


          MAASSEN, Justice.


         The Office of Children's Services (OCS) took custody of a young girl due to her

Page 608

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.


         Maya S. is the three-year-old daughter of Sarah S. and Trevor M.[1] Trevor's criminal history includes a number of assault charges and domestic violence restraining orders involving different victims; [2] 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."

         OCS 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.

         For 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.

         In 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).

         Mitcham 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.

         But 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 was disconnected.

         Trevor 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.

         Trevor 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

Page 609

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.

         In late 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.

         In 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.

         At 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.

         Maya's 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 her life.

         Trevor 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.