CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, M.P.W.R., AN INFANT, & N.R.T., MOTHER APPELLEES
FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE DOLLY W. BERRY, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 15-AD-500534
FOR APPELLANT: Vincent F. Mallon
FOR APPELLEE: Erika L. Saylor
BEFORE: KRAMER, CHIEF JUDGE; ACREE AND JONES, JUDGES.
appeals the Jefferson Circuit Court's Findings of Fact,
Conclusions of Law, and Order terminating his parental rights
over his minor child, M.P.W.R. For reasons more fully
explained below, we AFFIRM.
("Child") was born on February 20, 2015, to M.P.R.
("Father") and N.R.T. ("Mother"). Less
than a month after his birth, Child was removed from parental
custody and placed in temporary custody of the Cabinet for
Health and Family Services (the "Cabinet") due to
him testing positive for amphetamines and his parents'
histories of substance abuse and domestic violence. Father
was present at the removal hearing, and the court ordered him
to have supervised visits with Child, to submit to random
drug screenings, to attend three Alcoholics Anonymous or
Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week, and to complete
individual counseling. Child spent the first four weeks of
his life in intensive care withdrawing from amphetamines.
After leaving the hospital, Child went to live with his
foster parents, with whom he still resides.
of 2015, both Mother and Father stipulated to abuse and
neglect of Child. That same day, the Court reissued its
previous treatment orders to Father, as he had failed to
comply with them. On June 1, 2015, Father appeared in the
Bullitt County Court on previous criminal charges. Father was
drug tested and tested positive for methamphetamines,
buprenorphine, and THC, for which he was held in contempt of
court. Father received a probated ten-year sentence on the
criminal charges. Later in June, Father again appeared in
court for contraband charges. His probated sentence was
revoked. Father has been in custody since June 1, 2015.
December 21, 2015, the Cabinet filed a petition for
involuntary termination of parental rights ("TPR").
Mother voluntarily terminated her parental rights on March
24, 2016. On March 25, 2016, the trial court held a hearing
on the TPR petition. The Child's foster mother and the
Child's social worker, Sara Wilson, testified on behalf
of the Cabinet. Father appeared telephonically and testified
on his own behalf. Ms. Wilson testified that she received the
case file for Child on April 20, 2015. A review of her notes
indicated that the previous investigative worker for the
Cabinet had reached out to Father on March 20, 2015, and
spoke with him about scheduling a meeting to put together a
case plan for Father. While Father indicated interest in
doing so, he did not come to the meeting. The records stated
that the investigative worker attempted to contact Father
three additional times, but received no response. Further,
the records indicated that Father had submitted to drug
screening once, on April 27, 2015. At that time he tested
positive for oxycodone. Ms. Wilson testified that, once she
received the case file, she attempted to contact Father
several times, both via mail and telephone, but was never
able to get in contact with him. In May of 2015, Ms. Wilson
met with Child's paternal grandmother, who expressed
interest in obtaining custody of Child. Child's
grandmother told Ms. Wilson that she had no way to get in
touch with Father. She later decided against pursuing custody
of Child, and the Cabinet's evaluation of her home did
not support placing Child in her custody. Ms. Wilson stated
that in December of 2015, she sent a letter containing a
potential case plan to Father at the Henderson County jail,
where he was being held at that time, and requested that
Father contact her. He did not do so. Additionally, Ms.
Wilson testified that Father has never made child support
payments and has never visited with Child. She stated that,
even if Father were to be released on shock probation, it
would be at least two months before Father could initiate
visits with Child, and several more months before
reunification could be considered.
testified that he was unaware of the requirements for him to
attend counseling and drug screenings, although he
acknowledged that he was present in court on the days those
orders were issued. He stated that he never received the case
plan sent to him by Ms. Wilson. Father vehemently opposed
termination of his rights over Child. He stated that he was
unable to take part in drug counseling programs at this time,
but that he had prepared applications to begin doing so when
able. Father acknowledged that he had never visited with
Child and that he had never sent Child any kind of support,
either before or after being incarcerated; however, Father
contended that the he did not know to whom he should send
support. Father espoused his belief that he would be able to
form a bond with Child, and stated that he had recently
received $8, 000.00 in inheritance, which he intended to use
to obtain a home for himself and Child upon his release.
trial court entered its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of
Law and Order terminating Father's parental rights on
April 5, 2016. This appeal by Father followed.
Standard of Review
courts are afforded a great deal of discretion in determining
whether termination of parental rights is warranted.
M.P.S. v. Cabinet for Human Res., 979 S.W.2d 114,
116 (Ky. App. 1998). Accordingly, appellate courts will not
set aside the trial court's findings of fact unless they
are clearly erroneous. CR52.01. Findings of fact are clearly
erroneous only if there exists no substantial evidence in the
record to support them. Yates v. Wilson, 339 S.W.2d
458 (Ky. 1960). "The standard of proof before the trial
court necessary for the termination of parental rights is
clear and convincing evidence." V.S. v. Commonwealth
of Kentucky, Cabinet for Human Res., 706 S.W.2d 420, 423
(Ky. App. 1986). "Clear and convincing proof does not
necessarily mean uncontradicted proof. It is sufficient ...