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People in Interest of E.S.

2021 COA 79.  Dependency and Neglect—Visitation—Treatment Plan—Termination of Parental Rights.

June 3, 2021

The juvenile court adjudicated the children dependent and neglected and adopted a treatment plan for father, and it later terminated father’s parental rights under CRS § 19-3-604(1)(c).

On appeal, father argued that the Arapahoe Department of Human Services (department) failed to make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate him because it prohibited him from visiting his children while he had outstanding warrants. In determining whether a parent is unfit under § 19-3-604(1)(c), the juvenile court must consider whether the department made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the parent. Efforts are reasonable when services are provided in accordance with CRS § 19-3-208, which requires, among other things, visitation services for parents with children in out-of-home placement. Absent health and safety concerns, a juvenile court may not approve a treatment plan that does not provide for face-to-face visitation.

Father’s treatment plan required him to participate in visitation once his active warrants were cleared. The caseworker testified that father never visited with the children because he had not resolved his warrants and that a department policy prohibited parents with an outstanding warrant from participating in visitation. Here, to the extent the juvenile court implicitly approved the department’s policy by adopting the treatment plan, it did not make specific findings about whether such a limitation on visitation was needed to protect the children’s health and safety. Further, there is no record evidence that father’s active warrants in and of themselves posed a threat to the children’s health and safety. Accordingly, the juvenile court did not ensure that father was provided with adequate visitation services, and it erred.

Father also argued that his treatment plan was inappropriate because it required him to address domestic violence even though he had no criminal history involving domestic violence. Here, the caseworker testified that the domestic violence component was added based on reports from mother, so even if father did not have a criminal conviction for domestic violence, the record supported the domestic violence component.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with instructions.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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