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In re C.M.

February 1, 2007

IN RE: C.M.; S.S., APPELLANT.


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (No. TPR710-95) (Hon. Kaye K. Christian, Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nebeker, Senior Judge

Argued October 24, 2006

Before RUIZ and KRAMER, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

Opinion for the court by Senior Judge NEBEKER.

Concurring opinion by Associate Judge RUIZ at p. 18.

Appellant S.S. (hereinafter "the mother"), the mother of C.M. (hereinafter "the child"), challenges the termination of her parental rights of C.M.*fn1 She asserts that the trial court abused its discretion in finding that the termination order was in the best interest of the child because the trial court did not adequately consider the present suitability of the child for adoption. In addition, the mother contends that the trial court erred in concluding that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the termination order in light of the three statutory purposes of the termination of parental rights statute.*fn2 We affirm.

I.

A.

The child, born on October 13, 1992, is the biological child of the mother and F.M. Sr.*fn3 The child lived with his biological parents in the District of Columbia until June 21, 2005, at which time he was removed from their care after being examined at Children's Hospital and found to have a second-degree burn, approximately two to three days old, on his forehead. The injury occurred while he was in the custody and care of his mother. The child was returned home after neglect petitions were filed. He was adjudicated a neglected child pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A) (2001) as a result of a stipulation signed by the mother on November 20, 1995. In this stipulation, the mother admitted that the child suffered a burn while in her care, and that the explanation she gave for the burn was not supported by the medical evidence.

The child was in the care of his mother and father from June 1995 until August 1995, at which time the mother moved to Georgia, where she has remained continuously since she left the District of Columbia. The child remained in the care of his father from August 1995 until May 1997. The child moved several times during that two-year period, as F.M. Sr. struggled to maintain steady employment and a stable residence.*fn4 On June 3, 1997, F.M. Sr. contacted the probation officer assigned to his case and asked that the child and his younger brother, F.M., be removed from his care as he was homeless, unemployed, and unable adequately to care for his children. From June to August 1997, the child lived with the mother in Georgia, but was removed from her home following an allegation that her boyfriend excessively disciplined him.*fn5 The child was committed to the custody of Child and Family Services Agency in the District of Columbia ("Agency") in July 1998, and lived with an aunt until the Fall of 1998. The Agency's placement recommendation regarding the child's permanency was changed from reunification to adoption in 2000. Since leaving his aunt's home, the child has lived in two foster homes, and since October 2002, has resided in institutional settings. He lived at Devereux Children's Center ("Devereux") in the District of Columbia from February 24, 2003 to July 20, 2005. He currently resides at the Barry Robinson Center in Norfolk, Virginia. He has not lived with his mother since August 1997.*fn6

B.

The District of Columbia filed a Motion for Termination of the Parent Child Relationship between the child and the mother pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-2354 (a) on June 29, 2004. An evidentiary hearing pursuant to this motion was held before Magistrate Judge McCabe on August 8, 12, 15, and 16, 2005.*fn7

At the evidentiary hearing, witnesses were called on behalf of the government, M.C. (the foster parent of F.M., petitioning to adopt F.M.), and the mother. Jo-Ella Brooks, of the Family Treatment Court, testified that she was familiar with the child and the mother through her employment. She testified that when the mother moved to Georgia in August 1995, the mother understood that relocation was not in the best interest of the child.*fn8 Ms. Brooks further testified as to the contact maintained between the mother and the child.*fn9

The government called Carlos Astrada, a psychiatrist at Devereux Children's Center, as an expert witness in the field of child psychiatry. Dr. Astrada has known the child since he was first admitted to Devereux on February 24, 2003. Dr. Astrada testified that the child is very troubled, with mild mental retardation, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"), and also suffers from Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) that sometimes manifests itself in auditory hallucinations. In the expert opinion of Dr. Astrada, the child is very hyperactive, impulsive, aggressive, and sometimes acts out in a sexually inappropriate manner. Dr. Astrada further testified that although the child made some progress during his time at Devereux, he requires more residential treatment at this time, and is not a candidate for adoption immediately. However, ...


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