Evidence of Abuse of Non-Subject-Matter Children Properly Admitted; Cabinet Made Reasonable Efforts at Reunification – Published Opinion from Supreme Court of Ky.

Lady Justice

R.M. v. Cabinet for Health and Fam. Servs., Com.

Harrison Circuit Court

Questions Presented: Termination of Parental Rights. Best Interests of the Child. Reasonable Efforts. Substantial evidence in the case supported trial court judge’s decision to terminate parental rights despite acknowledged cultural barriers and the children’s express wishes to return to their parents. Children were subject of allegations of abuse or neglect based on multiple incidents, the gravity of which the parents seemed not to acknowledge. The Cabinet made reasonable efforts to reunify the family through four years of case planning and services and multiple extensions by the trial court allowed the parents ample opportunity to show progress towards reunification.

From a termination of parental rights action, the parents argued that the improper admission and consideration of relatives’ abuse on other children unfairly prejudiced their case. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that evidence of the abuse was relevant to the degree of risk posed to the children at issue. Although the relatives’ abuse was not directed at the children at issue, the parents kept close company with the relatives, traveling with them in bands throughout the country, possibly putting the children at issue at risk of danger.

The parents also argued that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (“the Cabinet”) failed to prove it made reasonable efforts to reunify the family. The Supreme Court held that there was substantial evidence that the Cabinet made reasonable efforts at reunification. The Cabinet was unable to find the Parents for a significant amount of time because the Parents did not give the Cabinet a reliable method of contact. The Parents did not work their case plans for nearly a year even though the Cabinet communicated the requirements to the Parents’ counsel.

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon

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