This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


In the Matter of the Welfare of:

S.L.M. Jr., T.A.M., T.J.M., and S.A.M.

Filed February 29, 2000
Davies, Judge

Olmsted County District Court
File No. J39851842

Carl F. Anderson, Rolsch & Anderson Law Offices, P.O. 189, Box 423 Third Ave. S.E., Rochester, MN 55903 (for appellant parents)

Raymond F. Schmitz, Olmsted County Attorney, Geoffrey A. Hjerleid, Assistant County Attorney, Government Center, 151 Fourth St. S.E., Rochester, MN 55904 (for respondent Olmsted County)

Kimball G. Orwoll, Riverside Bldg., Suite 11, 400 South Broadway, Rochester, MN 55904 (for respondent guardian ad litem)

Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence presented to support terminating their parental rights. We affirm.


S.L.M. Jr. (born 4/30/92), T.A.M. (born 9/15/93), T.J.M. (born 10/26/96), and S.A.M. (born 12/24/98) are the biological children of appellant S.M. Sr. (father) and appellant T.M. (mother). The temporary custody of S.L.M. Jr., T.A.M., and T.J.M. was originally taken from appellants in December 1997. A children in need of protection or services (CHIPS) hearing was held in which appellants admitted the allegations in the petition and the court adjudicated the children in need of protection or services.

A domestic-assault incident between appellants resulted in a criminal conviction. This incident also resulted in an amended CHIPS petition filed in January 1998. The court again adjudicated the children to be in need of protection or services.

S.L.M. Jr., T.A.M., and T.J.M. had all been placed in foster care. While in foster care, the older children, S.L.M. Jr. and T.A.M., underwent psychological testing and counseling, which showed that they suffered from reactive attachment disorder.

At the termination hearing, Dr. Lloyd Wells, a licensed child psychologist, provided expert testimony explaining that reactive attachment disorder is a severe disorder that begins early in life, is characterized by the lack of capacity to trust adults in general and caregivers in particular, and is caused by severe neglect, maltreatment, or abuse during the first one to three years of life. He concluded that it would be virtually impossible for the disorder to have developed after the boys were removed from appellants’ home. Adults caring for children suffering from this disorder must have patience and the ability to set appropriate and consistent limits; have the ability to provide a safe, highly structured, and consistent environment; understand the disorder; and seek the necessary services to assist in the treatment of the children.

Appellants were examined by psychologist, Dr. William Friedrich. He diagnosed S.M. Sr. with a mixed-personality disorder and concluded that S.M. Sr. is an individual who is likely to be chronically depressed, to be bitter about life, and to have a sense of self that is inadequate to manage the challenges of day-to-day life. Dr. Friedrich diagnosed T.M. with chronic depression and a mixed-personality disorder and concluded that T.M. is emotionally impoverished and likely would have little nurturing support to give her children.

Appellants were referred to a parenting program in January 1998. After being dismissed from the program in June for poor attendance, they were allowed to re-enter the program, but in October they were again dismissed for poor attendance.

Appellants were also required to obtain necessary shelter for themselves and their children. They were specifically required to rent a home with at least a six-month lease. In March 1999, appellants acquired suitable shelter for the children and signed what purported to be a six-month lease. But the lease gave the landlord an option to terminate the tenancy at any time. The landlord testified that she expected to do so and to move into the property when her present dwelling was sold. The district court determined that this was not a six-month lease, but, in reality, a month-to-month lease.

In December 1998, Olmsted County Social Services filed a petition to terminate appellants’ parental rights. The district court, after a hearing, terminated appellants’ parental rights in August 1999. This appeal follows.


"Parental rights are terminated only for grave and weighty reasons." In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990). We must determine whether the district court addressed the statutory criteria and whether the court’s findings are supported by substantial evidence so that they are not clearly erroneous. Id. Statutory grounds must be established by clear and convincing evidence. In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 397 (Minn. 1996). Throughout the case, the child’s best interests are the paramount consideration. Minn. Stat. §  260C.301, subd. 7 (Supp. 1999)[1]; M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d at 375.

The county’s petition alleged and the district court found that appellants: (1) are palpably unfit to be parents, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) (Supp. 1999); (2) refused to comply with parent-child duties, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) (Supp. 1999); and (3) failed to correct conditions after a child-protection adjudication, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (Supp. 1999).

A parent’s rights may be terminated upon a showing that he or she is "palpably unfit" in that he or she demonstrates "a consistent pattern of specific conduct before the child or * * * specific conditions directly relating to the parent and child relationship" of a duration or nature rendering the parent unfit to parent for the foreseeable future. Id. at subd. 1(b)(4). When considering the termination of parental rights, the court relies "not primarily on past history, but ‘to a great extent upon the projected permanency of the parent’s inability to care for his or her child.’" In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 649 (Minn. 1995) (citing In re Welfare of Solomon, 291 N.W.2d 364, 368 (Minn. 1980)).

The evidence shows appellants failed to: (1) provide the necessary shelter for the children; (2) provide basic parenting supervision and skills; (3) remain free of illegal controlled substances; and (4) address the domestic violence in their relationship. In addition, the expert witnesses testified that appellants would be for the foreseeable future incapable of parenting the children. The district court determined that these conditions rendered appellants "unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the children." The district did not clearly err in concluding, based on the evidence, that appellants were palpably unfit to parent the children. See In re Welfare of M.A., 408 N.W.2d 227, 233 (Minn. App. 1987) (affirming termination of mother’s parental rights where mother lacked maturity and parenting skills and child had serious emotional and behavioral difficulties), review denied (Minn. Sept. 18, 1987); see also In re Welfare of J.D.L., 522 N.W.2d 364, 368 (Minn. App. 1994) (affirming termination of father’s parental rights where father had inadequate parenting skills and psychological evaluation showed he lacked motivation to parent).

Before terminating parental rights on any ground, the district court must also make a finding that the county has used reasonable efforts to provide rehabilitation or reunification services. Minn. Stat. §§ 260.011-012 (1998); see In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 892 (Minn. 1996) (determining sections 260.011-.012 require finding of reasonable efforts under all grounds). The record indicates that the county provided appellants with numerous services including: (1) counseling for domestic violence and substance abuse; (2) parenting classes; (3) parenting assessment; and (4) help with money management issues. The record indicates that the failure of these efforts to rehabilitate appellants was due to the inability of appellants to access these services or to actively participate in them.[2]


[1] We note that Minn. Stat. § 260 was repealed and replaced by section 260C, effective August 1, 1999. Section 260C is intended to clarify and reorganize the laws relating to child protection without substantive changes. We apply section 260C as that was in effect at the time the district court entered its order.

[2] Only one statutory ground is needed to terminate parental rights, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1. In view of our affirmance of the palpable unfitness count, we do not address the court's determination that appellant refused to comply with parent-child duties and failed to correct conditions after a child-protection adjudication.