Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge.
Before Rogers, Chief Judge, and Schwelb and Farrell, Associate Judges.
Opinion for the court by Associate Judge Farrell. Dissenting opinion by Chief Judge Rogers.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Farrell
FARRELL, Associate Judge: Appellant challenges an order of the Family Division terminating the natural parental relationship between herself and her two-year-old son, A.W. *fn1 Her primary contention is that, since there was no testimony at the hearing about the actual prospects for adoption of A.W., the record does not support the trial Judge's finding that termination would promote the child's "timely integration into a stable and permanent home," D.C. Code § 16-2353 (b)(1) (1989), which is one factor the court must consider before extinguishing natural parental rights. Because we conclude that the evidence on this and the other statutory factors was sufficient to support a Conclusion, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interest of the child, D.C. Code § 16-2360 (f), we affirm the order of the trial court.
These proceedings began on February 10, 1987, when the District of Columbia filed a neglect petition alleging that A.W. had been abandoned and was a neglected child pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A), (B) and (C). On May 5, 1987, a stipulation was agreed to by the mother and approved by the court. In the stipulation the mother acknowledged that she had a history of drug abuse, including free-basing cocaine; that A.W. had been born suffering from drug withdrawal; that the mother's drug use impaired her ability to plan for and provide care for the child; and that she had failed to maintain a parental relationship with A.W. She further agreed to the commitment of the child to the Department of Human Services (DHS), and she promised to maintain a regular schedule of visits with A.W., secure stable housing and income, and follow through with all referrals, including those for drug counseling.
As the trial court found, however:
[The mother] failed to meet any of those conditions. Instead, for nearly a year until she was incarcerated in April, 1988, her whereabouts were unknown and she had no contact with any of the social workers assigned to the case, or with [A.W.]. Her life had again descended into drug usage, which led to her arrest, incarceration, and total abandonment of [A.W.].
There had been no contact by [the mother] with [A.W.] since he was a newborn baby. She failed to plan for his discharge from the hospital and even after [A.W.] was placed in a foster home and later adjudicated a neglected child, she failed to plan for visits with him or take other steps necessary for her to put herself in a position to care for him. Not until after she was again incarcerated in April, 1988 did she even request to see [A.W.].
Accordingly, on December 31, 1987, counsel appointed to represent the child filed a motion to terminate the parent and child relationship. After hearing testimony by DHS officials recommending termination, and by the mother in support of her desire to be reunited with A.W., the court found by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the best interests of the child. Specifically, the court found that, given the mother's history of criminal conduct, her prior periods of incarceration, her long history of drug abuse, and her behavior, including her conduct after the neglect stipulation was entered into, . . . . there is no likelihood that she would be able to put herself in a position in the near future to be a fit parent for [A.W.] or to provide the continuity and minimal quality of care needed for responsibly parenting the respondent.
The court also made findings with respect to A.W., who was two years old at the time of the hearing:
After [the mother] failed to plan for [A.W.'s] discharge from the hospital, [A.W.] was placed in a foster home in January, 1987. He has been in the same foster home ever since. He has bonded well to the foster parents and to other persons both in the foster home and in the extended family of the foster parents. His health is good. He is developing well emotionally and physically. Given his age and overall health, he is considered very suitable for adoption at this time.
Appellant mounts no serious challenge to these findings by the trial court regarding both her unfitness to be a parent for A.W. in the near future and the child's general suitability for adoption. Rather, her primary challenge is to the ...