Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
IN THE INTEREST OF: C.Z.N., a Minor, J.A.D., Natural Mother, Appellant,
PHELPS COUNTY JUVENILE OFFICE, Respondent.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PHELPS COUNTY Honorable Mark D.
Calvert, Associate Circuit Judge
WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., J.
("Mother") appeals the judgment terminating her
parental rights to her son, C.Z.N.
("Child"). Finding Mother
has failed to properly raise any issue warranting reversal,
we affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Division of the
Circuit Court of Phelps County (the "trial court").
and Procedural Background
recitation of the relevant facts is in accord with the
principle that we view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the judgment. See J.A.R. v. D.G.R., 426
S.W.3d 624, 626 (Mo. banc 2014). "Appellate courts will
defer to the trial court's credibility assessments. When
the evidence poses two reasonable but different inferences,
this Court is obligated to defer to the trial court's
assessment of the evidence." Id. (internal
quotation and citation omitted).
fact issues upon which no specific findings are made shall be
considered as having been found in accordance with the result
reached."' Id. (quoting Rule
73.01(c)). "[W]e are not free to
credit evidence or inferences that favor the terminated
parent. To the contrary, we must ignore these." In
re Adoption of C.M., 414 S.W.3d 622, 629 (Mo.App. S.D.
2013) (internal quotation and citation omitted). "In
reviewing questions of fact, the reviewing court is to
recognize that the circuit court is free to disbelieve any,
all, or none of the evidence, and it is not the reviewing
appellate court's role to re-evaluate the evidence
through its own perspective." J.A.R., 426
S.W.3d at 627. "The trial court receives deference on
factual issues because it is in a better position not only to
judge the credibility of the witnesses and the persons
directly, but also their sincerity and character and other
trial intangibles which may not be completely revealed by the
record." Id. (internal quotation and citation
omitted). Viewed in this context, the following facts are
pertinent to the current appeal.
record reveals that J.A.D. is the biological mother of Child,
born in April 2014. In April 2014, the Children's
Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services
("Children's Division") received a Newborn
Crisis Assessment indicating that Child had tested positive
for opiates, marijuana, morphine, and oxymorphone at birth.
Mother also had tested positive for marijuana, oxycodone,
opiates, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines at the time of
Child's birth. Mother admitted to using morphine during
her pregnancy that was not prescribed for her.
was removed from Mother's care when he was three weeks
old. The juvenile court assumed jurisdiction over Child,
pursuant to section 211.031.1(1),  upon a finding that Child had been abused
and neglected. Child was initially placed with his paternal
grandparents, but was later moved to a foster home placement.
entered into a written service agreement with the
Children's Division in which she agreed to obtain and
maintain a drug-free lifestyle, maintain regular contact with
the Children's Division, and demonstrate proper parenting
skills. Mother was also to attend and complete parenting
received a drug assessment requiring weekly outpatient drug
counseling for one month. Mother failed to satisfy the
recommendations of the drug assessment. She was also required
to attend a 21-day inpatient drug treatment program, which
she completed on April 6, 2015.
September 23, 2015, a juvenile officer filed a petition for
termination of parental rights, with a second amended
petition being filed on October 22, 2015. The second amended
petition asserted, in relevant part, that Child had been in
foster care for 16 months; Mother had a chemical dependency
that prevented Mother from consistently providing care for
Child and which could not be treated to enable Mother to
consistently provide such care; Mother had committed a severe
act or recurrent acts of physical abuse of Child; and Mother
had failed to provide Child with financial support. The
petition further asserted that Mother had made little
progress in complying with the terms of the written service
termination of parental rights hearing was held on May 12,
2016. Mother testified she had been
randomly tested for drugs since Child came into care, that
only one of the tests was negative, and that the drug test
she had just one week prior to trial had been
positive. Mother stated she had
completed an inpatient drug treatment program, and although
she had tested positive for drugs just days after completing
that program, she did not think she had a drug problem.
Mother admitted she had pending criminal charges for drug
possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, and stealing.
Other than a brief period of informal employment as a
personal care assistant for relatives in exchange for room
and board, Mother admitted she had not been employed in the
24-month period prior to trial, she was not employed at the
time of trial, and that she was completely dependent upon her
family for all of her financial support and maintenance.
Mother also admitted she did not complete parenting classes
and that she had stopped attending counseling at the time of
stated that the drugs Child had tested positive for at birth
were drugs given to her at the hospital. She admitted that
even though she knew smoking marijuana was illegal and
impacted on whether or not Child would be returned to her,
she continued to smoke marijuana to relieve stress. Mother
denied using methamphetamine or heroin, even though she had
tested positive for both.
Bessier ("Bessier"), Child's caseworker,
testified that the written service agreement in effect
required Mother to remain drug free, complete inpatient drug
treatment, submit to random drug screens, refrain from using
illegal substances, and attend outpatient treatment. Mother
was also to keep in contact with the Children's Division,
maintain stable housing with a goal of having her own home,
maintain financial stability with employment, attend mental
health assessment and weekly mental health counseling
appointments, and complete a parenting education program. At
the time of trial, Mother had failed to complete any of the
requirements of the written service agreement except for the
random drug testing and the inpatient drug program. Mother
consistently attended her visits with Child under the
influence of drugs and alcohol. Mother only provided snacks
for the Child at visitation, and what clothing she provided
was too small for Child and reeked of cigarette smoke, to
which Child was allergic. Child remained in foster care, and
had been in foster care since May 6, 2014. Bessier testified
that Child had adjusted well to that placement, had bonded
with the foster family, and had become fully integrated into
of Mother's continued drug use, Bessier could not
recommend that Child be returned to Mother, and that it would
be in the best interest of Child for Mother's parental
rights to be terminated. Child's guardian ad litem also
recommended termination of Mother's parental rights.
16, 2016, the trial court entered its "Judgment
Terminating Parental Rights." The trial court found that
termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best
interest of Child, and that there was clear, cogent and
convincing evidence that grounds existed for termination of
her parental rights pursuant to sections 211.447.5(2)(b) and
211.447.5(3)(a)(b)(d). The trial court specifically found
that due to Mother's continued use of illegal drugs and
misuse of prescription drugs, Child had minimal emotional
ties to Mother, showed Mother's lack of commitment to
Child, and constituted a deliberate act of which Mother
should have known subjected Child to a substantial risk of
physical harm. The trial court also found that Mother failed
to make significant progress toward completion of her written
service agreement causing visitation to be limited and
supervised, and Mother provided only minimal payment for
Child's care ...