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People ex rel. C.J.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, First Division

December 14, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of C.J., a Child, and Concerning L.J.G., Respondent-Appellant.

          El Paso County District Court No. 14JV1642 Honorable Linda Billings Vela, Judge

          Amy R. Folsom, County Attorney, Devon Doyle, Assistant County Attorney, Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee

          Anna N. H. Ulrich, Guardian Ad Litem Paula M. Ray, P.C., Paula M. Ray, Denver, Colorado, for Respondent-Appellant

          OPINION

          TAUBMAN JUDGE

          ¶ 1 In this dependency and neglect action, mother, L.J.G., appeals the judgment terminating her parent-child relationship with her daughter, C.J.

         ¶ 2 As the sole issue on appeal, mother contends that the procedures that led the El Paso County Department of Human Services (Department) to recommend against kinship placement violated her rights to due process and assistance of counsel. As a result, she asserts, the trial court improperly determined there was no less drastic alternative to termination of her parental rights.

         ¶ 3 Because we conclude that the Department did not violate mother's right to due process or her right to counsel, we affirm.

         I. Background

         ¶ 4 The Department filed a petition in dependency and neglect in November 2014 after the child was born addicted to methadone and opiates. The hospital released the child when she was two months old. Due to mother's continued substance abuse, the Department placed the child in foster care a month later.

         ¶ 5 A paternal aunt contacted the Department about six months later. She was interested in caring for the child but she was concerned that the placement might be disrupted. Accordingly, she asked the Department to establish the child's paternity by a genetic test so she could know whether the child was her blood relative before moving forward.

         ¶ 6 The Department complied with the aunt's request and found that the child was her blood relative. However, this process took nine months because the Department had been unable to locate the child's father without mother's cooperation, the aunt's test was inconclusive, and the child's grandparents were slow to participate in genetic testing. Thus, the aunt did not begin visits with the child until the child was eighteen months old.

         ¶ 7 Meanwhile, the Department conducted a home study to evaluate the aunt as a placement option for the child. The caseworker's interview with the aunt raised concerns that prompted the caseworker to request administrative review by the Department.[1] Upon review, the Department decided not to recommend placement with the aunt.

          ¶ 8 The Department moved to terminate mother's parental rights in June 2016. At the same time, the Department asked the court to reduce visitation with the aunt.

         ¶ 9 Mother challenged the Department's recommendations. She filed a motion asking the court to increase visitation and to consider the aunt as a permanent placement option for the child.

         ¶ 10 The court held a hearing on mother's motion. Citing the child's emotional needs, her bond with her foster parents, and her lack of attachment with the aunt, the trial court denied mother's ...


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