Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ( N906-98 and N905-98). (Hon. Ann O'Regan Keary, Trial Judge).
Before Schwelb and Ruiz, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge
Appellant G.B. is the biological mother of two boys, G.L., who was born on September 10, 1996, and T.L., born on October 1, 1997.*fn1 She appeals from an order of the trial court entered on August 6, 2003, barring further visitation by the mother with either child.*fn2 Because we are not satisfied that the trial judge's stated reasons for her order, standing alone, are sufficient to sustain the order, we remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
I. THE TRIAL COURT PROCEEDINGS
On June 15, 1998, the boys, who had been living with both parents, were admitted to D.C. General Hospital as a result of undernourishment and "failure to thrive." They were subsequently placed in shelter care by order of the court. On July 28, 1999, the trial judge found that the children were neglected and committed them to the custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the boys were placed in foster care. On November 17, 2000, the court ordered DHS "to pursue adoptive placement ASAP."
The mother initially agreed that the permanency goal for both children should be adoption. She acknowledged that she had not visited the boys regularly, that she had not participated in therapy, and that she had no viable place in which she and the children could live. On March 9, 2001, however, the mother's attorney filed a motion requesting, inter alia, that the permanent goal in the case be changed from adoption to eventual reunification. In his motion, counsel stated:
1. That the current goal of this case is adoption.
2. That at the time the goal became adoption, the respondents were with a caretaker that all parties thought desired to adopt the children.
3. That at the time the goal was made adoption, the mother and father were not visiting the children on a regular basis, were not actively participating in therapy, and did not have a viable place to live with the children.
4. That as of the date of this motion, the mother is employed, has been approved for section eight housing and has maintained regular contact with her children through visitation.
5. That at this time there is no one ready, willing, and able to adopt these children. Long term preference should always be with a natural parent over a complete stranger.
6. That until the goal of the case is changed, CFSA*fn3 will search for an adoptive home which would disrupt the lives of the children if and when one is found. If the goal was changed, the children could remain in their current placement and gradually be reunified with their mother.
On April 26, 2001, notwithstanding the mother's change of heart, the trial judge reaffirmed that "permanency planning remains adoption," and she ordered DHS to expedite adoptive placement and to submit an ex parte report within 30 days. On July 1, 2003, after an earlier pre-adoptive placement had proved unsuccessful, the boys were placed in a second pre-adoptive home where, so far as we are aware, they continue to reside. ...