January 17, 2019
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(NEG253-16), (Hon. Carol Ann Dalton, Reviewing Judge), (Hon.
Janet Albert, Trial Judge)
Glassman for appellant.
Primes Okoroma, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A.
Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Loren
L. AliKhan, Solicitor General, and Caroline S. Van Zile,
Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee
District of Columbia.
Thorpe, guardian ad litem for appellee D.T., filed a
statement in lieu of brief.
Thompson, Beckwith, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
opinion by Associate Judge McLeese at page 605-06.
appeal is brought by J.T., the birth mother of now
eleven-year-old D.T., who was removed from J.T.s home in
2016 and adjudicated neglected. A Superior Court magistrate
judge (the Honorable
Janet Albert) initially established reunification with J.T.
as D.T.s permanency goal, but, several months later, changed
D.T.s permanency goal to concurrent goals of reunification
and guardianship, and thereafter to a sole goal of
guardianship. After an evidentiary hearing (which the court
and the parties referred to as a Ta.L.
hearing ), the court subsequently changed
D.T.s permanency goal to adoption. This appeal by J.T.
followed after the reviewing associate judge (the Honorable
Carol Ann Dalton) affirmed that permanency-goal
argues that the record did not permit the Superior Court to
find by a preponderance of the evidence that the District of
Columbia Child and Family Services Agency ("CFSA"
or "the agency") established a reasonable case
plan, made reasonable efforts toward reunification of D.T.
with J.T., and adequately explored kinship placement
alternatives to adoption, or to find that J.T. failed to make
adequate progress toward reunification. For its part,
appellee District of Columbia ("the District")
urges us to hold that the Superior Courts ruling was not a
final, appealable decision and that we therefore lack
jurisdiction over this appeal. The District further argues
that even if this court has jurisdiction, J.T. has forfeited
any claim that CFSA failed to provide adequate reunification
services and that J.T.s claims otherwise fail on the merits.
the reasons that follow, we conclude that we have
jurisdiction over this appeal. We affirm the associate
judges ruling upholding the permanency-goal change to
was removed from J.T.s custody on August 5, 2016, because of
J.T.s drug use (specifically, her "chronic use of PCP
and marijuana," including while D.T. was in her care),
her inadequate supervision of D.T., and her inappropriate
conduct in disciplining D.T. (including using her unshod foot
to "kick push[ ]" him in the face). On September
9, 2016, J.T. stipulated that D.T. was neglected within the
meaning of D.C. Code § 16-2301(9)(A)(ii), (iii) (2019 Supp.).
The court committed D.T. to the custody of CFSA, set a goal
of reunification with J.T., and ordered J.T. to undergo
psychological and psychiatric evaluations (including an
extended psychiatric evaluation by the Department of
Behavioral Health ("DBH")), to comply with all
from those evaluations, and to undergo regular drug testing.
J.T. was allowed supervised visitation with D.T.
April 6, 2017, the trial court added a concurrent goal of
guardianship, reasoning that J.T. "had not engaged in
the [mental health and substance abuse] services identified
to achieve reunification." On August 16, 2017, over the
Districts objection that D.T.s permanency goal should be
changed to adoption, the court changed the goal from
reunification to guardianship with Mr. S. At a permanency
hearing on January 3, 2018, the District again asked the
court to change the permanency goal to
adoption. On February 26, 2018, the court held
an evidentiary hearing to determine whether to order that
goal change. The court heard testimony from CFSA social
worker Daniel Morris and from J.T.
February 27, 2018, Magistrate Judge Albert issued a
"Goal Change Order" that changed the permanency
goal to adoption. She found that the agency had provided J.T.
with a reasonable plan to achieve the goal of reunification
and expended reasonable efforts to help J.T. achieve
reunification, but that J.T. had repeatedly tested positive
for drugs or missed the required weekly drug testing, refused
to participate in an Addiction Prevention and Recovery
Administration ("APRA") assessment or drug
treatment, rejected the agencys offers of assistance in
arranging mental health services, lacked self-awareness about
her drug addiction and mental health issues, was unable to
complete the court-ordered extended mental health evaluations
because of her lack of sobriety, refused to sign waivers to
allow the agency to learn of her treatment plan and progress
when she did begin to receive therapy, did not share with her
therapist information about the neglect case, and had been
unable to progress toward unsupervised visitation with D.T.
because of her unaddressed mental health and substance abuse
thereafter appealed Magistrate Judge Alberts decision.
Associate Judge Carol Ann Dalton affirmed Magistrate ...