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Violet C. v. State

Supreme Court of Alaska

March 1, 2019

VIOLET C., Appellant,

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Superior Court Nos. 3PA-15-00170, 3PA-15-00169. Palmer, Kari Kristiansen, Judge.

          Attorney General, Fairbanks, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

          Appearances: Megan R. Webb, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Appellant Violet C; Carolyn Perkins, Salt Lake City, Utah, for Appellant Jack C.; Mary Ann Lundquist, Senior Assistant

          Before: Bolger, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maasen, and Carney, Justices.




         The superior court terminated a mother's and father's parental rights, finding their two children were in need of aid based on abandonment, incarceration, risk of domestic violence, and substance abuse. The court also determined that the Office of Children's Services (OCS) had satisfied its duty to make reasonable efforts to reunify the parents and children. The mother and father separately appealed the court's reasonable-efforts determinations, and the mother also appealed the court's findings that the children were in need of aid based on abandonment and domestic violence. We consolidated the appeals for consideration and decision. Seeing no reversible error, we affirm the superior court's decision to terminate the mother's and father's parental rights.


         Violet C. and Jack C. are the separated biological parents of Maggie and Doug, eight-year-old twins.[1] Jack was in a different state for the entirety of the case and incarcerated for its majority.

         A. Initial Reports And Removal

         In early August 2015 OCS received a report alleging that Violet was addicted to substances and abusing alcohol. An OCS caseworker visited the home, found no safety threats, and left without taking action. The caseworker returned a few weeks later after receiving renewed reports of harm. During this visit Violet's grandmother relayed concerns about Violet leaving the home and returning under the influence; the grandmother reported that Violet bullied her by beating on the door and yelling, and that Violet had once kicked a hole in the door. Violet's grandmother also reported that Violet once "grabbed [Maggie] by the arm and yanked her up and hauled her out" of a bedroom.

         The OCS caseworker observed that Violet had sores on her face and legs, that she presented with jerky movements, and that she continually paced and turned during their conversation. Violet refused to allow OCS to assess the children or create a protective action plan, but she agreed to participate in urinalysis and hair follicle tests, which later yielded positive drug results.

         OCS assumed custody of the twins in late August and filed for their adjudication as children in need of aid shortly thereafter.

         B. OCS's Case Plan And Early Reunification Efforts

         In September Violet notified OCS that she has hearing and mobility impairments; due to her disabilities, she requested transportation funding, patience in communication, and prioritization of in-person and email contact. OCS arranged for transportation services to visitation, parenting classes, treatment, and drug testing. OCS initially provided Violet taxi vouchers through mid-October. Before approving further taxi vouchers, it required documentation of her disabilities, which Violet did not provide until the following March. In the interim OCS arranged for third-party transportation services beginning in December. Violet did not fully utilize these services; testimony detailed multiple occasions when she was unavailable for transportation she had previously arranged.

         OCS's November 2015 case plan required Violet to submit to random urinalysis tests, obtain a substance abuse assessment, follow treatment recommendations, and participate in parenting classes and mental health services. The case plan made no mention of Violet's disabilities or accommodation requests, instead noting that she was "physically able" and "possesse[d] adequate energy."

         Violet inconsistently participated in supervised visitation. Visitation temporarily ceased in January 2016 due to her "excessive absences." She maintained telephonic contact with the twins, and OCS asked their foster parent to identify each voice and ensure they were not on the phone at the same time.

         When OCS formulated Jack's case plan, he had recently been released from incarceration in Florida and relocated to Texas. He expressed an interest in having custody of the children. OCS's case plan required Jack to complete a substance abuse assessment and obtain treatment, participate in parenting classes, and obtain a psychological assessment. OCS worked with local providers to arrange the assessments.

         Jack never notified OCS that he had trouble accessing services, and he later acknowledged that he "did not participate in these services." An OCS caseworker testified that she was unable to begin the process for placement with Jack under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) because he had only recently been released from jail, moved to a new home, and needed to first engage in services.

         After losing contact with Jack, OCS became aware at the adjudication hearing of his reincarceration. OCS often had trouble contacting Jack, unsuccessfully attempting to contact him at the telephone number he provided, through his attorney, and through the jail itself.

         In April 2016 the superior court issued its adjudication order, finding that Maggie and Doug were children in need of aid based on Jack's abandonment and incarceration and Violet's substance abuse. The court found that OCS had provided reasonable efforts to Jack but that OCS had not made reasonable efforts to provide Violet remedial services and allow the children to return to her care from September 2015 through February 2016. The court stated that OCS "viewed [Violet's] documented disabilities with skepticism, required outside verification of her disabilities, formulated a case plan not tailored to her needs, failed to accommodate [her] request for important information to be conveyed in writing, and cut off transportation and service referral funding in response to less-than-perfect performance."

         But the court also found that OCS had provided Violet reasonable efforts since March 2016, "after transportation assistance resumed and [OCS] made better efforts to communicate" with her. The court found that around February 2016 OCS was able to obtain a transportation grant allowing Violet to attend visitation, a drug assessment, mental health appointments, and other services. The court therefore ordered the children placed in OCS's temporary custody.

         C. ...

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