S.V. (Mother) v. Alaska, DHSS, OCS

Sabrina V. was the mother of Kaleb D., born 2005. By 2016 Kaleb was living in Wasilla with his father, now deceased. Sabrina had been living outside of Alaska for some years; the parents did not have a court order regarding Kaleb’s custody. Sabrina also had an older daughter, Lizzie, from a previous relationship. Lizzie was committed to the custody of the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) in September 2014 in an earlier child in need of aid (CINA) case. In February 2016, after a successful six-month home visit with Sabrina in Montana, OCS released Lizzie to Sabrina. The Alaska Office of Child Services filed an emergency petition for temporary custody of Kaleb, and to adjudicate him as a child in need of aid. The petition listed Kaleb’s father as the sole caregiver, and claimed to not have current contact information for Sabrina despite her having released Lizzie roughly two months earlier. Sabrina later testified her residence had not changed between her reunification with Lizzie and the initiation of CINA proceedings for Kaleb. At the emergency probable cause hearing an OCS caseworker testified that Kaleb had told OCS he had not seen Sabrina in roughly two years and that she “wasn’t a good mom.” The court granted OCS temporary custody. Sabrina appealed the ultimate termination of her parental rights to Kaleb after it was determined she signed and then attempted to withdraw a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. At the time she signed the relinquishment, her child was living with his paternal grandmother, who hoped to adopt him. When it later became clear that the grandmother would not be able to adopt the child, Sabrina signed a notice of her withdrawal of relinquishment despite a ten-day window for do had passed. Three days later she filed the notice in superior court. That same day, apparently without being aware of the withdrawal notice, the court issued an order terminating the mother’s parental rights. Because, assuming the superior court had discretion to allow the untimely withdrawal, the Alaska Supreme Court found it did not abuse its discretion by declining to do so, so the Court affirmed termination of Sabrina’s parental rights. View "S.V. (Mother) v. Alaska, DHSS, OCS" on Justia Law