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Tusing v. Harrisonburg Rockingham Social Services District

Court of Appeals of Virginia

December 27, 2013



(W. Andrew Harding, on brief), for appellant. Appellant submitting on brief.

(Kim Van Horn Gutterman, Assistant County Attorney; Sheila R. Keesee, Guardian ad litem for the minor child, on brief), for appellee. Appellee and Guardian ad litem submitting on brief.

Present: Judges Petty, Chafin and Senior Judge Annunziata.



Angela Renee Tusing (mother) appeals an order terminating her parental rights to her child, A.T. Mother argues the trial court erred by finding there was sufficient evidence to terminate her parental rights pursuant to Code § 16.1-283(B) and changing the foster care plan goal to adoption where the elements of the statute were not established. Upon reviewing the record and briefs of the parties, we conclude the trial court did not err. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prevailing party below and grant to it all reasonable inferences fairly deducible therefrom. See Logan v. Fairfax Cnty. Dep't of Human Dev., 13 Va.App. 123, 128, 409 S.E.2d 460, 462 (1991).

A.T. was born on April 2, 2012. Mother also had two children who were older than A.T. In 2010, the two older children were adjudicated as abused and neglected by mother and were placed in the custody of a relative.

On July 3, 2012, mother had a scheduled meeting with her probation and parole officer. She arrived late for the meeting and tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamine. Mother left two of her children, including the infant A.T., in her car with a friend during the appointment. A probation officer approached mother's car and saw the two children were alone in the car which had been left with the engine running. The probation officer located mother's friend "across the street" and the friend admitted she had used drugs that morning. The friend said mother was aware that she had used drugs that day. The car also contained a drug smoking device and bottles of urine. Marijuana was located in A.T.'s diaper bag. A probation officer testified that when she questioned mother about the bottles containing urine, mother did not deny she had used "someone else's urine" for drug tests in the past, but she stated she did not do so on that date. A.T. was placed into foster care on July 3, 2012.

Mother pled guilty to two counts of felony child endangerment arising from the July 3, 2012 incident and she was incarcerated until October 2012. When she was released, Harrisonburg Rockingham Social Services District (HRSSD) advised mother that in order to regain custody of A.T., she needed to remain substance free, establish stable housing and employment, maintain contact with HRSSD and improve her parenting skills. In addition, HRSSD offered mother substance abuse counseling, parenting classes, individual and group counseling, and a psychological evaluation. Mother participated in the psychological evaluation, but she failed to complete the other offered services. She also missed numerous scheduled drug screenings.

In January 2013, an HRSSD employee informed mother that if she could demonstrate sobriety and maintain contact with HRSSD for six weeks, she could begin visitation with A.T. However, mother refused to participate in several drug screens that month. On February 1, 2013, HRSSD informed mother she had to complete a hair follicle drug screen by 12:00 p.m. that day. Mother reported for the test in the afternoon, and her hair appeared to be chemically treated. She passed the hair follicle drug screen on that date. However, on February 6, 2013, mother was arrested and charged with methamphetamine possession. Mother also possessed drug paraphernalia and a device that appeared to be used for the storage of urine. At the time of the trial in this case, the drug charges were still pending and mother had not been sentenced for the two felony child endangerment charges.

HRSSD submitted a new foster care plan for A.T. with the goal of adoption. While mother was in jail, substance abuse treatment was available to her, but she failed to participate in the program.

At the time of trial, A.T. had been in foster care for eleven months. A social worker testified the foster family was loving and committed and was meeting the needs of the child. The foster family was interested in adopting A.T. The guardian ad litem testified A.T. was "very responsive to the [foster] family, " and he was "thriving" in their care. The guardian ad litem opined that adoption was in the child's best interests. Mother had not seen A.T. since he was removed from her custody on July 3, 2012.

Prior to the July 3, 2012 incident, mother had several convictions for drug offenses dating back to 2004. HRSSD had been involved with the family since 2009, and they experienced difficulty maintaining contact with mother because she was unavailable by telephone and often cancelled or rescheduled appointments. In 2011 and 2012, HRSSD ...

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