In the matter of: IN RE M.V.H. decided on July 21, 2016, by the Court of Appeals, a relative grandmother adoption petition v. a non relative foster parent adoption petition was legally compared and analyzed with the trial court as well as the appellate review all ruling in favor of the foster parent petition.
The case had initiated through a neglect petition against the biological mother who resided in the grandmother’s home (M.V.H.) at time, and alleged and proven neglect of physical injuries to the child (A.H.).
The mother had given her consent to the adoption by the grandmother M.V.H., and although the trial court held that weighty consideration was given to the parental choice of fit custodian – the grandmother, M.V.H. was deemed an unfit custodian.
The trial court did find the grandmother to be loving, employed, lacked mental health issues and provided a stable home – however, because the child’s injuries had occurred in the grandmother’s home, they remained unexplained and unaccounted for, and the court could not guarantee the safety of the child in the home — overall the grandmother was deemed unfit to adopt.
Specifically the Court of Appeals expounded: “the record in this case established with respect to M.V.H. and A.H. The evidence established that A.H. was injured, repeatedly, while at or residing in M.V.H.‟s home.
Magistrate Judge Arthur did not find “credible or believable” M.V.H.’s testimony that A.H. was injured in a fall from her stroller or by her cousin’s bicycle. His finding was supported by Dr. Hinds’ testimony that the incidents as described by M.V.H. could not have been the cause of all of the injuries A.H. sustained.
Magistrate Judge Arthur also heard the testimony of psychologist Dr. Seth King, who evaluated the parenting capacity of M.V.H. and who told the court that M.V.H. lacked insight into the degree of suffering A.H. had endured and expressed no concern about the fact that A.H.’s injuries remain unexplained or about A.H.’s safety.”
In sum, the appellate court held that the evidence showed that the grandmother showed little concern as to the safety of the child when the child was placed in her home and also demonstrated a “lack of commitment” to protect the child from any future potential harm.
Additional, critical evidence which supported the findings of the unfitness was that the grandmother was unable to explain the injuries or cause thereof, had not provided prompt medical attention to the child at the time, or had attended any of the medical appointments.
Also the comparative boding study highlighted the foster parents as the primary attachment figure. The study had revealed that short term the removal of the child from the home would cause significant stress, trauma, and mental health symptoms. Long term, the child would sustain emotional issues, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and conduct problems, etc.
The Court of Appeals also affirmed that the trial court had properly not fully considered parental fitness or the presumption against parental fitness because the biological mother had consented to the grandmother’s adoption petition and in effect had chosen the grandmother to be custodian.
This case is exceptional as relative petitions combined with parental consent can tips the scale against foster parental petitions – however, here the child had suffered significant injuries in the grandmother’s home while the mother resided there and the grandmother or the mother had not sufficiently addressed the cause of these injuries.
Moreover, both the medical evidence as well as the psychological evidence did not favor the grandmother.
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