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IN RE C.v.

November 12, 1998

IN RE C.V., R.H., APPELLANT. IN RE C.V., B.V., APPELLANT. IN RE M.V., B.V., APPELLANT. IN RE T.V., B.V., APPELLANT.


APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT, FAMILY DIVISION, EVELYN E. QUEEN, J.

Before Wagner, Chief Judge, and Steadman and Farrell, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Farrell, Associate Judge:

In these appeals, we review decisions of the trial court terminating the parental rights of the mother, B.V., with respect to three children, C.V., M.V., and T.V., and of the putative father, R.H., with respect to one child, C.V.

The legal touchstone in any proceeding to terminate parental rights is the best interest of the child, and that interest is controlling. This court may reverse a trial court's determination of where the best interests of the child lie only when the judge has abused his discretion. [719 A2d Page 1247]

In re T.W., 623 A.2d 116 (D.C. 1993) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). With respect to the mother, B.V., essentially for the reasons stated by the trial judge, we sustain the judge's decision that termination was in the best interests of the three children. *fn1 At the same time, we reverse the termination of the parental rights of the putative father, R.H. As to him, the evidence adduced at the termination hearing is insufficient to support "a determination based upon clear and convincing evidence that termination of the parent and child relationship is in the best interest of the child." D.C.Code § 16-2359(f).

I.

The termination hearing was held in December 1995. Neither the mother nor the putative father was present, although both were represented by appointed counsel. The evidence adduced at the hearing consisted of testimony and neglect stipulations entered into in March 1993 as to each child in question. The evidence showed that, upon the birth of the child C.V. in November 1992, the mother (B.V.) did not take custody of the child, who therefore was placed in shelter care at a boarder baby facility. In March 1993, C.V. was adjudicated neglected in that the mother was in a drug treatment program and unable to provide care and shelter for her. In June 1993, the child was placed in the care of a foster mother, with whom she remained at the time of the termination hearing and who had expressed an interest in adopting her. B.V. had never asked for visits with the child and had had no personal contact with her since June 1993. Moreover, the child's medical and emotional needs were being met by the foster mother. As the trial judge found, she was "thriving" in the foster home and had become "well integrated into [it]." By contrast, the mother's involvement with drugs "compromised her ability to parent" C.V. as well as the other children, M.V. and T.V. *fn2

II.

Under the grounds enumerated in D.C.Code § 16-2353, the record provides substantial support for the decision to terminate the mother's parental rights. See D.C.Code § 17-305(a) (1997). However, the same cannot be said with respect to the putative father. *fn3 The testimony at the hearing contains the following single reference to R.H. and nothing more:

Q. [to the Board of Child Care social worker:] Okay. Do you have any information on C's [C.V.'s] father?

A. The only information that I have . . . was a putative name, which was in the file.

Q. And do you recall who was alleged to be the father?

A. As I recall, it was ...


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