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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Steve H. v. State of Alaska, DHSS, OCS (6/14/2019) sp-7374

Steve H. v. State of Alaska, DHSS, OCS (6/14/2019) sp-7374

        Notice:   This op inion  is subj ect  to correction bef ore p ublication  in  the PA CIFI C REPORTER.  

        Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of  the Clerk of  the App ellate Courts, 

        303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, p hone  (907)  264-0608, f ax  (907)  264-0878, email  


STEVE H.,                                        ) 

                                                 )   Supreme Court No. S-17133 

                       Appellant,                ) 

                                                 )   Superior Court No. 3AN-15-00319 CN 

        v.                                       ) 

                                                 )   O P I N I O N 

STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT                      ) 

OF HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES,                     ) 

OFFICE OF CHILDREN 'S SERVICES,                  ) 

                                                 )   No. 7374 - June  14, 2019 

                       Appellee.                 ) 


               Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third 

               Judicial District, Anchorage, Eric A. Aarseth, Judge. 

               Appearances:  J. Adam Bartlett, Anchorage, for Appellant.  

               Erik  Fossum,  Assistant  Attorney  General,  Anchorage,  and 

               Kevin G. Clarkson, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee. 

               Before:  Bolger, Chief Justice, Winfree,  Stowers, Maassen, 

               and Carney, Justices. 

               CARNEY, Justice. 


               A  father  appeals  the  superior  court's  decision  terminating  his  parental 

rights.  He argues that the superior court clearly erred in finding that he abandoned his 

son under the  Child  in Need  of Aid  (CINA)  statutes.   He  also  argues that there was 

insufficient evidence to support termination, claiming that the record does not support 

----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

the superior court's findings that returning his son to his care would risk emotional or 

physical harm and that termination was in his son's best interests.  Because the superior 

court did not clearly err in making these findings, we affirm the superior court's decision. 


        A.      Facts 

                                                                          1                   2 

                Steve H. and Lucy A. are the parents of Donald,  an Indian child  born in 

April  2013.    By  the  time  Donald  was  born,  Steve  and  Lucy  were  no  longer  in  a 

relationship and Steve no longer lived in Anchorage.  Donald lived with Lucy until the 

Office of Children's Services (OCS) assumed emergency custody of him due to alcohol- 

related neglect shortly after he was born.  Although Steve knew that Lucy had substance 

abuse problems, he  left  Donald  in her  care.  When  OCS took  emergency  custody  of 

Donald in June 2013, Steve was "unreachable."  Donald was placed in a foster home.  

                OCS developed an initial case plan for the family.  Steve was directed to 

maintain  housing,  have  consistent  contact  with  Donald,  and  participate  in  parenting 

classes.    OCS  returned  Donald  to  Lucy  in  September  2014  because  she  had  made 

significant progress in her case plan and was actively participating in substance abuse 

treatment.  But Lucy relapsed after about 8 months.  

                In May 2015 OCS received reports that Lucy was drinking while caring for 

Donald, and that Donald was "dirty, hungry[,] and upset."  When OCS contacted Lucy 

about  the reports, her  speech was  slurred, her  eyes were  dilated,  and  she  smelled  of 

alcohol.  Lucy informed the OCS caseworker that she had been drinking but that she was 

        1       Pseudonyms are used to protect the family's privacy. 

        2       Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C.    1903(4) (2012) (defining "Indian 

child"  to mean  "any unmarried person who  is under  age  eighteen  and  is  either  (a)  a 

member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe and is the 

biological child of a member of an Indian tribe"). 

                                                  -2-                                               7374 

----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

sobering up.  She later admitted that she had used cocaine as well.  OCS took emergency 

custody of Donald for the second time.   

               By this time Steve had returned to Anchorage.  Steve acknowledged to OCS 

that he knew Lucy had been  drinking, but  said that he had not informed  OCS  or the 

police because he did not know where she and Donald were.  The day after removing 

Donald from Lucy, OCS held a team decision meeting.  Both parents participated, but 

neither  agreed to allow Donald to be placed with the  other.   OCS was not willing to 

return Donald to Lucy, and wanted to assess the safety of Steve's home before deciding 

whether to place Donald there.  In the meantime Donald was placed with his previous 

foster parent.   

               OCS concluded that  Steve's home was not suitable for Donald.   Steve's 

housemate had a history of involvement with OCS and Steve had a history of substance 

abuse.  Because of this history, OCS asked both Steve and his housemate to submit to 

drug  testing.    Although  he  initially  agreed,  Steve  changed  his  mind  and  refused  to 

provide  a  urine  sample.    Because  this  raised  concerns  that  Steve  might  be  abusing 

substances, OCS suggested a hair follicle sample instead of urinalysis (UA).  Steve again 

refused, this time stating that he could not provide a hair sample because of his religion.  

Without  a test result to rule  out  substance  abuse, OCS was unable to  determine that 

Steve's home was a safe environment for Donald.   

               Throughout the summer of 2015 OCS had difficulty contacting and staying 

in touch with Steve.  Steve later advised OCS that this was because he had been in a car 

accident, which left him "basically out of commission" and recovering from injuries for 

a long time.  After months without any contact, a new OCS caseworker was finally able 

to  meet  with  Steve  in  September  2015.    The  caseworker  assessed  his  home,  and 

determined the home was suitable for Donald despite Steve's unwillingness to participate 

in a drug test.  A trial placement began in October 2015.   

                                              -3-                                           7374 

----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

               It lasted less than a month.  A few weeks after placing Donald with Steve, 

OCS learned that the other children living in the home with Steve and his housemate had 

tested positive for cocaine.  OCS removed all the children, including Donald, from the 

home, but also tried to create a short-term safety plan that would allow Donald to stay 

with Steve.  OCS again asked Steve to participate in drug testing as part of this safety 

plan.    Steve  again  refused  to  participate,  even  after  OCS  offered  to  provide  him 

transportation when he said he had no way of getting to the appointments.  Steve instead 

told OCS "to just go ahead and have [Donald] moved from the home."   

               Steve finally provided a UA in November 2015, which tested negative for 

illegal substances.  But he failed to show up for any of the other  12 UA appointments 

scheduled between November 2015 and March 2016 that OCS required before it would 

consider returning Donald to him.  Steve and his housemate then left Anchorage again, 

blaming OCS's removal of Donald and the other children for causing them to lose their 

housing.   Steve  informed  OCS  that his move was  only  temporary, but he ultimately 

remained on the Kenai Peninsula for the maj ority of 2016 because he found employment.  

               In  the  first  several  months  of  2016  while  Steve  lived  on  the  Kenai 

Peninsula, OCS's contact with him was limited.  The caseworker testified that after Steve 

moved, "he fell out of contact" with OCS.  By August the case was reassigned to a third 

caseworker who also had difficulty contacting Steve.  Because it was not in contact with 

Steve, OCS updated his case plan without his participation in September.  The new case 

plan required  Steve to  contact  OCS  every  other week, meet  in person with the  OCS 

caseworker monthly, regularly communicate and visit with Donald, and participate in 

either a random UA program or hair follicle testing.   

               The caseworker testified that because Steve had advised that he would not 

participate in a hair follicle test for religious reasons, OCS requested that he provide 30 

days of clean UAs in lieu of the hair follicle test.  But Steve provided only 12 clean UAs, 

                                             -4-                                          7374 

----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

claiming his work schedule prevented him from making the random UA appointments.  

A  total  of  55  UAs  were  scheduled  for  him between November  2015  and  December 



                Steve  occasionally  visited  Donald  during  this  time,  but  the  visits  were 

sporadic.  OCS worked with Steve to accommodate his schedule, changing the location 

and time of the visits, but he still missed visits.  

                Steve made little progress maintaining communication with OCS in 2017.  

Steve testified that he had to travel because  of  deaths  in his  family, yet provided no 

timelines for these absences.  He testified that he had to leave Alaska to manage both his 

mother's and grandmother's affairs after their deaths.  But the OCS caseworker stated 

that Steve never told her when he was leaving and never provided contact information 

while he was gone.   

                By  the  time  of  the  termination  trial  in  early  2018,  Steve  was  living  in 

Whittier.  OCS continued struggling to maintain communication with him because he did 

not  provide  updated  contact  information  or  a  current  address.    At  trial  the  OCS 

caseworker testified that she last spoke with Steve in December 2017 to schedule a visit 

with  Donald.   She  stated  that  Steve  visited  Donald  once between  the  trial  dates, but 

missed two other scheduled visits.  She also testified that before they spoke in December, 

it had been roughly six months since she had any contact with Steve.   

        B.      Proceedings 

                OCS petitioned to terminate Steve's and Lucy's parental rights in February 

2017.    Trial  was  held  over  three  days  in  January  and  February  2018.    Three  OCS 

caseworkers and an expert witness testified for OCS.  Steve testified on his own behalf; 

he presented no other witnesses.   

        3       The other 43 scheduled UAs were marked as "no show."  

                                                   -5-                                               7374 

----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

                 At the end of trial, the superior court found Donald to be a child in need of 

aid under AS  47.10.011(10)  (parental  substance  abuse)  due to  Lucy's  conduct.   The 

superior  court  found  Donald  to  be  a  child  in  need  of  aid  under  AS  47.10.011(1) 

(abandonment) with respect to  Steve.   It  found that  Steve had  abandoned  Donald  as 

                                    4                                                                      5 

defined by AS 47.10.013(a),  which constitutes abandonment under AS 47.10.011(1).   

The superior court further found that OCS had made active efforts, and had shown "by 

more than  a preponderance"  of the  evidence that  it was  in Donald's best interests to 

terminate  the  parental  rights  of  both  parents.    Lastly,  the  superior  court  found  that 

returning Donald to either parent would risk substantial mental and physical harm.  The 

court therefore terminated the parental rights of both parents.  

                 Steve now appeals.6 


                 Whether a parent abandoned his or her child is a factual finding that we 


review  for  clear  error.   Whether  "a parent's  continued  custody  of  a  child will likely 

result  in  the  child  suffering  serious  emotional  or  physical  damage"  and  whether 

terminating parental rights is in a child's best interests are also factual findings reviewed 

        4        The  court  found that  Steve:   (1)  left Donald with  someone  else without 

providing for him or communicating with him for three months; (2) made only minimal 

efforts to support or communicate with Donald; (3) failed to regularly visit with Donald 

for at least six months; (4) failed to participate in a plan to reunite him with Donald; and 

(5) was unwilling to provide care, support, or supervise Donald.  AS 47.10.013(a)(1)-(4), 


        5        Duke S. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 

433 P.3d  1127,  1132 (Alaska 2018). 

        6        Lucy is not involved in this appeal. 

        7        Sherman B. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs.,  Off ice of   Children 's 

Servs., 310 P.3d 943, 949 (Alaska 2013). 

                                                    -6-                                                 7374 

----------------------- Page 7-----------------------


for clear error.   "Findings of fact are clearly erroneous if a review of the entire record 

in the light most favorable to the prevailing party below leaves us with a definite and 

firm conviction that a mistake has been made."9 


        A.      The  Superior  Court  Did  Not  Clearly  Err  By  Finding  That  Steve 

                Abandoned Donald. 

                Alaska  Statute 47.10.011(1) states that a court may find a child to be in 

need  of  aid  if  it  finds  by  a  preponderance  of  the  evidence  that  "a  parent  .  .  .  has 

abandoned the child as described in AS 47.10.013."  Alaska Statute 47.10.013(a), in turn, 

"provides specific examples of conduct that will be considered abandonment."10  When 

done "without justifiable cause," such actions or omissions by a parent constitute proof 

of abandonment sufficient to support adjudicating a child in need of aid.11 

                The    superior   court   relied   on     several   of   the   examples   listed   in 

AS 47.10.013(a) to find that Steve abandoned his son.  We recently affirmed that, based 

upon this statute, a "court may find abandonment of a child if a parent . . . has shown a 

conscious disregard of parental responsibilities toward the child by failing to provide 

        8       Thea G. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 

291 P.3d 957, 962 (Alaska 2013). 

        9       Sherman B., 3 10 P.3d at 949 (quoting Pravat P. v. State, Dep 't of  Health 

& Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 249 P.3d 264, 269-70 (Alaska 2011)). 

        10      Duke S., 433 P.3d at 1 132 (quoting G.C. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. 

Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 67 P.3d 648, 651 (Alaska 2003)). 

        11      AS 47.10.013(a); see also Trevor M. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., 

Off ice  of   Children 's  Servs.,  368  P.3d  607,  610  (Alaska  2016)  ("[T]he  various  ways 

abandonment can be shown under AS 47.10.013(a) are listed disjunctively, and a single 

adequately supported finding is therefore enough to establish that [the child] was a child 

in need of aid.");  Duke S., 433 P.3d at 1 132; Dale H. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. 

Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 235 P.3d 203, 2 10 (Alaska 2010). 

                                                   -7-                                               7374 

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reasonable support, maintain regular contact, or provide normal supervision, considering 

the child's age and need for care by an adult."12  Steve's argument that the court was also 

required to find that his conduct satisfied the two-part common-law test we have applied 

in other abandonment cases13 misunderstands termination of parental rights.  Because 

termination of parental rights is based on statute, a court must find that a parent's conduct 

satisfies the statutory criteria before it can order termination.14  A common-law test, by 

definition, is not based  on  statute,  so we therefore  apply the  statutory rule governing 


               The superior court based its conclusion that Steve abandoned Donald under 

AS  47.10.013(a)  primarily  on  two  facts:    Steve's  prolonged  absences  and  failure  to 

regularly visit or communicate with Donald; and his failure to meaningfully participate 

in OCS's case plan, which required him to submit to drug tests, regularly visit Donald, 

and maintain communication with OCS.  These findings were supported by the evidence 

and were not clearly erroneous.  But Steve now argues that his actions, even if true, were 

justified.  He argues that drug testing was unnecessary, and also that he was prevented 

from participating because of his religion and work schedule.  He also argues that he 

failed  to  regularly  visit  or  communicate  with  Donald  because  of  his  "hectic  work 

        12     Duke S., 433 P.3d at 1132 (omission in original) (quoting AS 47.10.013(a)). 

        13     See Sherman B., 310 P.3d at 949-50 ("We have articulated a two-part test 

for reviewing cases of abandonment:  (1)  [t]here must be parental conduct evidencing 

a willful disregard for parental obligations, leading to (2) the destruction of the parent- 

child relationship." (alteration in original) (quoting Sean B. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & 

Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 251 P.3d 330, 335 (Alaska 2011))). 

        14     See AS 47.10.088. 

        15     See AS 47.10.011(1); AS 47.10.013(a). 

                                              -8-                                          7374 

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schedule"  and  deaths  in  the  family  that required him  to be  out  of  state  for  extended 


                Steve claims that drug testing was unnecessary because he "did not have 

a drug problem," he never tested positive for illegal substances, and any allegations of 

substance abuse "were retaliatory in nature."  But the superior court found that requiring 

Steve to participate in drug testing was reasonable.  It concluded that evidence of Steve's 

history of substance abuse, combined with Steve's and his housemate's initial agreement 

and subsequent refusal to submit to drug testing to determine whether their home was 

suitable for Donald, rightfully raised concerns with OCS about potential drug use.  In 

addition,  the  fact  that  the  other  children  in  Steve's  home  tested  positive  for  illegal 

substances  provided  a  basis  to  request  that  the  adults  submit  to  testing  for  those 

substances.  Steve and his housemate's continued refusal to participate in drug testing 

and Steve's invitation to OCS to take Donald into its custody further supported OCS's 

requirement for testing to rule out any abuse of substances by Steve.  These facts support 

the court's finding that it was reasonable for OCS to require Steve to participate in either 

a hair follicle test or provide 30 days of clean UAs; that finding is not clearly erroneous. 

                Steve also argues that his religion and work schedule prevented him from 

participating  in  drug  testing.    But  Steve  provided  no  evidence,  other  than  his  own 

conclusory testimony, to either support the contention about his religion or corroborate 

his work schedule.  And OCS offered evidence to the contrary:  After Donald was first 

removed  from  Steve's  custody  due to  concerns  about illegal  substances in his home, 

Steve claimed he was unable to get transportation to the testing facility.  But when OCS 

offered to provide transportation, he refused.  To simplify the process, OCS offered a 

hair follicle test in lieu of UAs but he refused this because of his religion.  In an effort 

to accommodate his religious obj ection, OCS asked Steve to provide 30 days of clean 

UAs, but he failed to do so.  Neither at the times OCS made its requests nor at trial did 

                                                -9-                                             7374 

----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

Steve ever provide any document or witness to corroborate either his work schedule or 

to support his contention that he was forbidden from providing a hair sample for testing 

for  religious  reasons.    Based  on  these  facts,  the  superior  court  did  not  clearly  err  in 

finding that Steve's failure to participate in his case plan was not justified.   

                 Steve  also  argues  that  the  superior  court  erred by  considering  his  long 

absences and failure to visit or communicate with Donald because they were due to his 

work schedule and travel for deaths in the family.  He claims that many of his absences 

were caused by events that only happen "once in a person's life."  But again, aside from 

his own testimony, Steve provided no evidence of his actual schedule or that it prevented 

him from attending his visits with Donald.  And an OCS caseworker testified that even 

though  she  asked  Steve  to  inform  her  if  and  when  he  would  be  gone,  Steve  never 

provided any information to OCS with his whereabouts or contact information during 

these absences.  And although his absences due to deaths in the family may account for 

some missed visits, they do not excuse his failure to maintain contact with Donald or 

OCS.  As OCS points out, "not a single one of these departures indicates why  [Steve] 

would be unable to communicate with Donald.  They also do not provide any answer for 

why he could not maintain regular and consistent visitation with Donald even when he 

was available."  It was not clear error for the superior court to find that Steve's failure 

to meaningfully maintain contact or communication with Donald and OCS was "without 


justifiable cause."       

                 For these reasons, the superior court did not clearly err in finding that Steve 

abandoned Donald. 

        16       AS 47.10.013(a). 

                                                   -10-                                               7374 

----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

       B.      The  Superior  Court  Did  Not  Err  By  Finding  That  There  Was 

               Sufficient Evidence To Terminate Steve's Parental Rights. 

               1.     Risk of Harm 

               To terminate parental rights to an Indian child, the superior court must find 

"by  evidence  beyond  a  reasonable  doubt,  including  testimony  of  qualified  expert 

witnesses, that the continued custody of the child by the parent . . . is likely to result in 

serious emotional or physical damage to the child."17  This finding "requires proof that 

the parent's conduct is unlikely to change and will likely cause serious harm to the child 

in the future."18  "Although the court must focus on risk of future harm rather than past 

injury, past failures may predict future conduct."19 

               In  arguing  that  the  superior  court  erred  by  finding  that  his  continued 

custody would pose a substantial risk of physical harm to Donald,  Steve relies on the 

mistaken premise that he did not abandon Donald and that it was only Lucy's conduct 

that  led  OCS  to  take  custody.    He  also  wrongly  contends  that  the  superior  court 

improperly relied on his "hectic schedule over the last few years."  He lastly seems to 

argue that the court improperly considered the fact that he placed Donald in Lucy's care, 

despite knowing she abused substances, "[b]ecause OCS also believed that Lucy was a 

responsible caregiver."  But the superior court did not clearly err by finding that Steve 

abandoned Donald.  Likewise, the superior court did not clearly err by finding that Steve 

had not remedied his harmful conduct.  It was therefore not error for the superior court 

       17      25 U.S.C.  1912(f); CINA Rule 18(c)(4); see also AS 47.10.088(a)(2)(B). 

       18      Bob S. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 

400 P.3d 99, 108 (Alaska 2017) (quoting Thea G. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., 

Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 291 P.3d 957, 964 (Alaska 2013)). 

       19      Jon S. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 

2 12 P.3d 756, 767 (Alaska 2009). 

                                              -11-                                          7374 

----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

to conclude that returning Donald to Steve posed a substantial risk of mental or physical 

harm to Donald. 

                First, there is evidence that OCS gave Steve roughly four years to remedy 

his behavior before it pursued termination of parental rights and that he did not remedy 

this conduct.  The OCS caseworker actively tried to coordinate times for Steve to visit 

Donald   that   accommodated   his   work   schedule,   but   Steve   continued   to   miss 

appointments.  There is evidence that Steve failed to provide updates on his travel plans 

and contact information.  Steve testified that he called and left messages with the OCS 

caseworker advising her of his travel plans yet claims she never returned his calls.  But 

it  is  for  the  trial  court,  not  this  court,  to  weigh  the  evidence  and  determine  witness 


                It is undisputed that Steve failed to communicate in any meaningful way 

with OCS or Donald throughout the pendency of the CINA case.  Steve claims this was 

because of his work schedule and deaths in the family, but, as discussed above, these 

excuses could only account for his whereabouts and possibly some missed visits; they 

do not explain why he was unable to maintain communication or contact with his son for 

significant periods of time. 

                The superior court found that based on his harmful conduct throughout the 

pendency of the CINA case, Steve was unlikely to stop his harmful behavior.  The court 

found that this behavior of "stop in, play a little while, disappear again simply [was] not 

adequate to parent" because it meant that he could not "properly feed, supervise, educate, 

provide medical care, [or] provide emotional care to the child" and created the same risk 

as Lucy's substance abuse.   

        20      Dara S. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 

426 P.3d 975, 989 (Alaska 2018). 

                                                 -12-                                             7374 

----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

               We  find no merit in  Steve's  argument that the  superior  court  abused its 

discretion by improperly relying on the fact that he left Donald in Lucy's care, despite 

knowing she abused substances.  He claims the court should not have considered this fact 

because OCS also thought Lucy was a reliable caretaker.  But OCS only placed Donald 

back in Lucy's care after she made significant progress in her case plan.  When Lucy 

relapsed, OCS immediately took custody of Donald.  In contrast, when Donald was born, 

Steve  knew  that  Lucy  abused  substances  yet  chose  to  leave  him  in  her  care.  

Additionally, when Lucy relapsed in 2015 while Donald was in her care, Steve knew she 

abused  alcohol yet purposefully  chose not to  inform  either the police  or  OCS.  Both 

instances show Steve's conscious decision to leave Donald in the care of someone he 

knew to potentially be dangerous and unreliable. 

               Therefore  the  superior  court  did  not  clearly  err  when,  based  upon  the 

evidence, it found that returning Donald to Steve's custody would result in substantial 

risk of harm. 

               2.     Best Interests 

               Before a court may terminate parental rights to an Indian child, it must find 

"by  a preponderance of the  evidence that termination  of parental rights is in the best 

interests of the child."21  Alaska Statute 47.10.088(b) lists several factors that courts may 

consider when  determining whether  terminating  a parent's rights  is  in  a  child's best 

interests, but these factors "are not exclusive and the superior court need not accord a 

particular weight to any given factor."22  "The superior court may [also] consider . . . the 

       21      CINA Rule  18(c)(3); see also AS 47.10.088(c). 

       22      Barbara P. v. State, Dep 't of  Health  & Soc. Servs.,  Off ice of   Children 's 

Servs., 234 P.3d  1245,  1263 (Alaska 2010). 

                                              -13-                                          7374 

----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

 need for permanency, and the offending parent's lack of progress."23 

                The superior court found by clear and convincing evidence that "[Steve] 

 failed to remedy the conduct and conditions . . . that place[d] [Donald] at substantial risk 

 of harm" and that terminating his parental rights was "the only option that is available 

 that could have some reasonable success in terms of providing some stability and hope 

 in [Donald's] future."  

                Steve argues that it was in Donald's best interests to give Steve "more time 

 to work with OCS" instead of terminating his parental rights because "the record shows 

 that Donald had a bond with his father, . . . [t]here were not any credible allegations that 

 Steve abused substances . . . [,] [and] Steve had a simple case plan."  But Steve fails to 

 explain why any of these facts render the superior court's best-interests finding clearly 

 erroneous, and ignores the fact that "[t]he superior court may also consider any other 

f acts relating to the best interest of the child,"24 including the harm caused by a parent's 

 absence and unavailability to parent. 

                Moreover,  "although  the  superior  court  did  not  expressly  mention  the 

 factors listed in AS 47.10.088(b), it did make factual findings relevant to several of these 

 factors."25  As discussed above, there was evidence in the record to support the finding 

 that Steve abandoned Donald and was absent and unavailable.  In its oral findings, the 

 superior  court  also  emphasized  that  Donald  had  experienced  years  of  "chaos"  and 

 upheaval throughout his short life, in large part due to Steve's absence.  This is supported 

        23      Chloe  W.  v.  State, Dep 't  of  Health  &  Soc.  Servs.,  Off ice  of   Children 's 

 Servs., 336 P.3d  1258,  1271 (Alaska 2014) (footnotes omitted). 

        24      Id. (emphasis added). 

        25      Joy B. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 

 382 P.3d  1154,  1167 (Alaska 2016). 

                                                -14-                                             7374 

----------------------- Page 15-----------------------

by the evidence that Donald had been placed in foster care three separate times within 

the first four years of his life.  There was also evidence to support the finding that Steve 

had not remedied his harmful conduct and that his harmful conduct would continue.  The 

superior court therefore found that it was in Donald's best interests to terminate Steve's 

parental rights so he could have stability and permanency.  We have consistently held 

that  it  is  appropriate  to  consider  a  child's  need  for  permanency  and  stability  when 

making a best-interests finding.26 

               Accordingly, the superior court did not clearly err in finding that it was in 

Donald's best interests to terminate Steve's parental rights. 


               The superior court did not clearly err by finding that Steve abandoned his 

son or by terminating his parental rights.  We AFFIRM the superior court's decision. 

        26     See id. at 1166; Casey K. v. State, Dep 't of  Health & Soc. Servs., Off ice of 

Children 's Servs., 311 P.3d 637, 648 (Alaska 2013); Hannah B. v. State, Dep 't of  Health 

& Soc. Servs., Off ice of  Children 's Servs., 289 P.3d 924, 933 (Alaska 2012) ("We have 

repeatedly recognized that the best-interests analysis may include the child's need for 

permanency at the time of the termination trial."). 

                                              -15-                                           7374 

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