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Ex parte Gathers

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

July 3, 2019

Ex Parte: Theresa Ann Gathers, Intervenor, Appellant.
v.
April Bailey and Pierre King, Respondents. South Carolina Department of Social Services, Respondent, In the interest of minors under the age of eighteen. Appellate Case No. 2018-000863

          Submitted June 20, 2019

          Appeal From Charleston County Jocelyn B. Cate, Family Court Judge

          Mary-Patricia Crawford, of Walterboro, for Appellant.

          Jillian D. Ullman, of South Carolina Department of Social Services, of Charleston, for Respondent South Carolina Department of Social Services.

          Melinda Inman Butler, of The Butler Law Firm, of Union, for Respondent April Bailey.

          Pierre King, of North Charleston, pro se.

          Alwyn Taylor Silver, of Silver Law Firm, LLC, of Georgetown, for the Guardian ad Litem.

          PER CURIAM:

         Theresa Ann Gathers (Foster Mother) appeals an order denying her motion to intervene in a Department of Social Services (DSS) removal action. On appeal, Foster Mother argues the family court erred in (1) denying her motion to intervene and (2) issuing an order that was incomplete and unsubstantiated under Rule 26, SCRFC. We reverse and remand for a new permanency planning hearing.[1]

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Child tested positive for cocaine and marijuana at his birth, and he was placed with Foster Mother on September 27, 2016. His older brothers, Sibling 1 and Sibling 2, were placed together in a different home.

         The family court held a merits removal hearing on November 3, 2016; at the hearing, the parties agreed DSS would be relieved of providing services to April Bailey (Mother) due to her extensive history with DSS. The family court scheduled the initial permanency planning hearing for May 11, 2017; Foster Mother did not appear. DSS recommended a permanent plan of termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption. However, this hearing was continued so the court could set a contested hearing. The family court attempted to hold the permanency planning hearing on August 8, 2017; Foster Mother did not attend. The family court relieved Mother's counsel and continued the hearing because the parties did not have an agreement and Mother requested a new attorney. The permanency planning hearing was rescheduled for September 18, 2017, but it was continued because Mother's attorney was in another trial.

         On October 10, 2017, DSS provided Foster Mother notice that it intended to remove Child from her home and place him in an adoptive placement. On October 23, 2017, Foster Mother filed a motion to restrain DSS from removing Child and to intervene in the DSS removal action; the motion indicated Foster Mother had a pending TPR and adoption action. Foster Mother submitted an affidavit averring Child was thriving in her care where he had been for over a year, and Foster Mother and her husband (collectively, Foster Parents) were emotionally attached to Child. DSS filed a return opposing the motion. The hearing on Foster Mother's motion was set for November 30, 2017, but it was continued due to lack of service.

         On January 23, 2018, the family court held the initial permanency planning hearing. In its March 19, 2018 order, it adopted the permanent plan of TPR and adoption concurrent with reunification. The family court acknowledged the children were doing well in their foster homes ...


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