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People in the Interest of A.A. and E.A.

2020 COA 154. No. 19CA0328. Juvenile Law—Dependency and Neglect—Termination of Parent-Child Legal Relationship—Treatment Plan—Due Process—Visitation Services.

November 5, 2020

The Adams County Human Services Department (Department) filed a petition in dependency or neglect based on concerns that mother and father were using methamphetamine, engaging in domestic violence, and neglecting the children’s basic and special educational needs. The juvenile court adjudicated the children dependent or neglected and approved treatment plans for the parents, and it terminated both parents’ parental rights 18 months later.

On appeal, mother contended that the juvenile court violated her constitutional right to due process and her statutory right to visitation services when it denied her those services for reasons unrelated to the children’s health, safety, or well-being. A child’s health and safety are the paramount concerns in determining whether services, including visitation, are necessary and appropriate. Here, mother’s visitation was suspended entirely pending two weeks of demonstrated sobriety. Because mother never established two consecutive weeks of clean urinalysis tests, the Department did not offer visitation services for her and the children. But there was no showing that such total deprivation was necessary to protect the children. As a result, mother and the children were deprived of the visitation services required by CRS § 19-3-208(2)(h). Further, the record does not support a determination that the Department made reasonable efforts to reunite mother with the children. Thus, the juvenile court erred when it terminated mother’s parental rights.

Father asserted that the Department did not make reasonable efforts to reunify the family or to rehabilitate him. Father met the sobriety requirement and resumed monitored visitation with the children. At a review hearing, the caseworker reported that father was appropriate in visits with both children, but after a later disruptive visit, father’s visits were suspended indefinitely. There was no record evidence that the Department made any referrals for therapy or therapeutic visitation for father and E.A. Therefore, the Department did not provide adequate visitation services for father and E.A., nor did it make reasonable efforts to reunite them. Further, the Department failed to provide any substance abuse treatment referrals to father, and thus did not make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate him. Accordingly, the juvenile court erred when it terminated father’s parent-child legal relationships with the children.

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

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

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