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In re Adoption of Minor Child Described In Petition: J.A.G.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 14, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF THE ADOPTION OF THE MINOR CHILD DESCRIBED IN THE PETITION: J.A.G. AND WIFE, S.G. APPELLANTS
v.
C.T. AND B.T. APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/06/2016

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HANCOCK COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. JAMES B. PERSONS TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: OLIVER E. DIAZ JR. DAVID NEIL MCCARTY.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: GAIL D. NICHOLSON.

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. This case stems from a contested adoption suit filed in Hancock County Chancery Court between maternal grandparents, J.A.G.[1] and S.G. ("grandparents"), and foster parents, B.T. and C.T. ("foster parents"). The parental rights of G.L.'s natural parents were terminated by judgment of the Hancock County Chancery Court following an order from Hancock County Youth Court recommending termination and a finding that the minor child's best interest would be served by adoption. Subsequently, the grandparents filed a complaint for adoption, and the foster parents filed a motion for leave to intervene and an intervenor's petition for adoption of G.L. On June 21, 2016, the chancery court granted the foster parents' petition to adopt G.L. The grandparents appeal. After our review of the record, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. G.L., a minor female child, was born to T.G. (mother) and A.H. (father) on June 21, 2012. T.G. and A.H. were living in a FEMA trailer with A.H.'s mother, M.H. (paternal grandmother), in Picayune, Mississippi.

         ¶3. G.L. was removed from this home and placed in a foster home from January 14, 2013, through February 5, 2013, after T.G., A.H., and M.H. were found unconscious from ingesting or taking oxycodone, leaving G.L. alone in the home without supervision. Later in February 2013, G.L. was temporarily placed with her grandparents. G.L. stayed with her grandparents for a while, because no one else in the grandparents' family could take care of G.L.

         ¶4. The foster parents presented testimony that J.A.G. approached B.T. at work regarding taking care of G.L. The grandparents of G.L. and the foster parents were close friends, and the grandparents conceded that they were glad that someone they knew could become foster parents for G.L. In July 2013, G.L. began spending the night with B.T. and C.T. The grandparents testified that during this time, the foster parents expressed interest in becoming G.L.'s foster parents. However, according to the grandparents, permanent reunification of G.L. with her mother was always the plan.

         ¶5. B.T. and C.T. filed a Resource Family Application and completed the steps required by the Department of Human Services ("DHS") to become licensed foster parents. J.A.G. and S.G. testified that they did not become licensed foster parents, because they felt it would be an incentive for their daughter to overcome her drug addiction.

         ¶6. Dana Spiers, who was a family-protection specialist employed with DHS in 2013, testified that S.G. stated that she and her husband were not interested in becoming licensed foster parents, because they had raised other children and did not want to raise any more. She also testified that S.G. stated that her older daughter, living in Louisiana, decided she could not handle raising G.L. Further, Spiers testified that S.G. stated that she knew someone from the community that would adopt G.L., because she could not take care of G.L. on a long-term basis.

         ¶7. Tequila Hall, another family-protection specialist for Hancock County DHS in 2013, testified that S.G. told her that she and her husband were not interested in becoming licensed foster parents, because they found family friends willing to adopt G.L. However, S.G. denied she made these statements, and denied that she did not want to keep G.L. long-term.

         ¶8. Subsequently, G.L. permanently moved in with her foster parents in October 2013. During that time, the grandparents continued to visit G.L. Also during that time, G.L.'s mother, T.G., moved back in with the grandparents, and visitation with G.L. became more difficult. However, T.G. began using drugs again and eventually reentered a rehabilitation center.

         ¶9. In August 2014, the grandparents filed a petition for adoption in the Chancery Court of Pearl River County. They asserted that they obtained a lawyer and filed a petition for adoption of G.L. once they realized that T.G. would not comply with the orders from DHS to reunite with G.L. However, their petition was denied for lack of proper venue.[2] C.T. and J.A.G. testified that they had engaged in a heated exchange after she confronted S.G. regarding their petition for the adoption of G.L. The grandparents testified that their relationship with the foster parents became strained after the confrontation, and they had to obtain an attorney to set visitation schedules.

         ¶10. In November 2014, the grandparents filed a petition for custody, termination of parental rights, and adoption of G.L. in the Chancery Court of Hancock County. In December 2014, the foster parents filed a motion for leave to intervene and an intervenor's petition for adoption. Their amended petition for the adoption of G.L. was filed in July 2015.

         ¶11. T.G. and A.H.'s parental rights were terminated, and Ralph Lee Price III ("Price") was appointed as guardian ad litem ("GAL"). The grandparents and foster parents presented evidence, and the chancellor heard the testimony from Price regarding his recommendations for the adoption of G.L. First, Price recommended that the foster parents' petition for adoption of G.L. be approved. Second, Price recommended that the grandparents and foster parents create a visitation schedule, so that the grandparents could remain in G.L.'s life. Price based his recommendation on his extensive review and investigation of G.L.'s file, which included interviews of both parties and visits to both residences.

         ¶12. Using the Albright[3] factors, the totality of the circumstances, and considering the best interest of G.L., the chancellor granted the foster parents' petition to adopt G.L. The chancellor also strongly recommended that the foster parents allow the grandparents to visit G.L., even though the court was without authority to require the foster parents to permit visitation.

         ¶13. The grandparents contend that the chancellor erred in granting the foster parents' petition for adoption and challenge the chancellor's analysis and application of certain Albright factors. Accordingly, we will only ...


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