not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Matter of the Welfare of:
K.L.P. and J.J.P.
Filed April 4, 2000
Reversed and remanded
Stearns County District Court
File No. JX-98-51822
Michael G. Blee, Blee & Reep, P.A., 101 Seventh Avenue South, Suite 110, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for appellant)
Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, Richard J. May, Assistant County Attorney, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for respondent)
Thomas E. Kramer, 1111 North First Street, P.O. Box 1756, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Mary Ann Wessel appeals from the trial court’s order terminating her parental rights to J.J.P. and K.L.P. pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(2), (4), (5), and (8) (neglect of parental duties, unfitness, failure to correct conditions leading to determination that children were in need of protection or services, and neglected and in foster care). Because the evidence is insufficient to support termination of Wessel’s parental rights, we reverse and remand for the adoption of a revised case plan.
Mary Ann Wessel and Robbin Pallin were married and had three children, N.L.P, J.J.P., and K.L.P. This family first came to the attention of Stearns County Social Services in 1992, when the police placed N.L.P. in shelter care. The county returned N.L.P. to Wessel and Pallin and eventually developed a case plan to address concerns about the parents’ abilities to care for their children.
In September 1996, a social worker learned that N.L.P., J.J.P., and K.L.P. were living with Pallin in violation of a court order. The social worker heard Pallin use extremely vulgar language in the presence of the children and observed that Pallin threatened J.J.P. with physical violence. Wessel told the social worker that, because of her fear for her own safety, she could not protect the children from Pallin. She also admitted that she had moved out of the home and had left the children with Pallin.
The county filed Children-in-Need-of-Protection-or-Services (CHIPS) petitions for J.J.P. and K.L.P. on September 19, 1996, removed them from the home, and placed them in foster care. They have remained in foster care since that time. On December 18, 1996, the court adjudged J.J.P. and K.L.P. to be children in need of protection or services.
After a disposition hearing in June, 1997, the county developed identical case plans for J.J.P. and K.L.P. Those plans required:
a. Legal custody of [the children] shall be with Stearns County with placement in foster care;
b. Visitation of [the children] by [their] parents shall be supervised at the YMCA, St. Cloud, Minnesota with [the children’s] * * * Wessel having supervised visitation every other Friday for a two hour period of time ;
* * * *
d. That the parents of [the children] shall abstain from all mood altering chemicals including alcohol;
e. That [the children’s] parents shall submit to blood testing or urinalysis for the presence of mood altering chemicals as requested by Stearns County Social Services;
* * * *
g. That [Wessel] shall enter in, cooperate with and successfully complete the educational support group for women given through the St. Cloud Intervention Program (SCIP) which is a 28 week program for domestic violence;
h. That [Wessel] shall continue her individual counseling with Hope Sampsel at the Child and Family Guidance Center, Inc., St. Cloud, Minnesota;
* * * *
k. That [the children’s] parents shall sign all requested releases and authorizations for Stearns County Social Services regarding educational and health matters * * *;
l. That there shall be no telephone contact by [the children’s] parents with [the children].
Wessel and Pallin visited the children at the YMCA for some time, but when their visitations became sporadic the YMCA suspended visitation. Although Wessel admitted drinking alcohol one time, her alcohol tests were negative. Wessel completed the SCIP program and began counseling with Hope Sampsel. Wessel then quit counseling with Sampsel.
Two months after the adoption of the case plans for J.J.P. and K.L.P., the court held a permanent placement hearing. After that hearing, the court awarded custody of the children to their maternal aunt on the condition that she would be found to be a suitable custodian. Absent that finding, the county was to file petitions for the termination of the parents' rights as to J.J.P. and K.L.P. When it was determined that the children could not be placed with their maternal aunt, the county filed termination petitions on September 23, 1998. The court held a termination hearing in May and June 1999.
Between the filing of the petitions and the termination hearing, visitation was reinstated; Wessel divorced Pallin; Wessel established a relationship with another man and became pregnant by him; and Pallin voluntarily allowed the termination of his parental rights to J.J.P. and K.L.P.
After the termination hearing, the court granted both petitions, terminating Wessel’s rights as to J.J.P. and K.L.P. The court determined that Wessel (1) had neglected her parental duties, (2) was a palpably unfit parent, and (3) had failed to correct the conditions that led to the CHIPS determinations. The court also ruled that the children were neglected and in foster care. The court found that the children have special needs; Wessel and the children had received all relevant services the county has to offer; Wessel is not capable of adequately parenting the children and will not likely acquire that capability in the reasonably near future; Wessel failed to follow the requirements of the case plan; and the children have been in foster care since 1996. Wessel appealed.
“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). On review of a termination order, we
must determine whether the trial court’s findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether those findings are clearly erroneous.
The statutory criteria for termination of parental rights are found in Minn. Stat. § 260.221 (1998). Only one criterion needs to be proven to support termination. In re Welfare of M.H., 595 N.W.2d 223, 227 (Minn. App. 1999). The party bringing the petition for termination must prove one or more of the statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. In re Welfare of J.S., 470 N.W.2d 697, 701 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. July 24, 1991). There is a presumption that the “natural parent is a fit and suitable person to be entrusted with the care of his child” and that it is in the child’s best interests to be in the custody of the parent. In re Welfare of Clausen, 289 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 1980). The child’s best interests are “the paramount consideration in every termination case.” M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d at 375; Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 4.
The supreme court has adopted very stringent standards for reviewing orders terminating parental rights. In re Welfare of A.H., 402 N.W.2d 598, 603 (Minn. App. 1987). Although some deference is given to the trial court’s findings, we exercise great caution in termination proceedings and will closely inquire into the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether the evidence is clear and convincing. Id. (citations omitted). See In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886 (Minn. 1996) (terms “substantial evidence” and “clear and convincing evidence” used interchangeably).
Applying this analysis to the recorded facts, we first note that the trial court’s findings of fact are insufficient to support its termination orders. The court heard considerable testimony from 14 witnesses, and in its findings the court recited or summarized excerpted portions of testimony and made credibility determinations. However, the court failed to apply its findings to the specific statutory criteria, making it difficult for us to determine which facts the court used to support each of the four statutory criteria on which it terminated Wessel’s parental rights. The court made no specific findings with regard to Wessel’s past or present ability to fulfill parental responsibilities, merely concluding that “she cannot adequately parent [the children] in the reasonably near future.” Standing alone, the findings are conclusory and inadequate to facilitate effective appellate review because they do not demonstrate the trial court’s comprehensive consideration of the statutory criteria. See In re Welfare of M.M., 452 N.W.2d 236, 239 (Minn. 1990) (finding trial court’s findings inadequate to facilitate effective appellate review and reversing decision after independent review of the record).
1. Wessel challenges the trial court’s determination that her efforts have failed to correct conditions that led to the CHIPS determinations. Specifically, she challenges the trial court’s findings that (1) the conditions leading to the CHIPS determinations have not been corrected and/or will not be corrected in the reasonably foreseeable future, and (2) the county used reasonable efforts to reunite her with her children. Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b), provides for termination of a parent’s rights if the court finds
that following upon a determination of * * * a child’s need for protection or services, reasonable efforts, under the direction of the court, have failed to correct the conditions leading to the determination. It is presumed that reasonable efforts under this clause have failed upon a showing that:
(i) a child has resided out of the parental home under court order for a cumulative period of more than one year within a five-year period following an adjudication of dependency, neglect, need for protection or services * * *;
(ii) conditions leading to the determination will not be corrected within the reasonably foreseeable future. It is presumed that conditions leading to a child’s out-of-home placement will not be corrected in the reasonably foreseeable future upon a showing that the parent or parents have not substantially complied with the court’s orders and a reasonable case plan, and the conditions which lead to the out-of-home placement have not been corrected; and
(iii) reasonable efforts have been made by the social service agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(5).
It is undisputed that both J.J.P. and K.L.P. had been in foster care for nearly three years at the time of trial. Wessel argues that the trial court failed to take into account that the conditions that led to the CHIPS determinations, namely Pallin’s abusive behavior and Wessel’s inability to protect the children, have been corrected by her divorce from Pallin and the termination of his parental rights to the children. See M.H., 595 N.W.2d at 228 (conditions leading to CHIPS petitions corrected because abusive father now absent from the home and his parental rights terminated). These two events appear to have substantially corrected the conditions that led to the children’s out-of-home placement. The trial court failed to give proper weight to the divorce and the termination of Pallin’s parental rights.
Evidence relating to termination must address conditions that exist at the time of the hearing, and it must appear that the present conditions of neglect will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period. In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980). Most of the testimony at trial was based on conditions existing prior to Wessel’s divorce from Pallin and the termination of Pallin’s parental rights. The court made no findings on the effect of Wessel’s recent divorce or Pallin’s voluntary termination of his parental rights. Most of the witnesses were unable to testify as to Wessel’s ability to parent her children now or in the future, because they either had seen Wessel prior to her divorce or had never actually observed Wessel with J.J.P. or K.L.P. The sole witness who could testify to Wessel’s current and future ability to parent her children, recognizing the special needs of the children, stated that although Wessel was not currently capable of meeting the needs of her children without services, if services were given, Wessel may be able to parent the children within six months to a year. See In re Welfare of M.A. and J.A., 408 N.W.2d 227, 233 (Minn. App. 1987) (“We recognize the need for permanency in children’s lives. However, there is no legal basis for granting termination solely because the child cannot be returned immediately to the parental home.”); see also In re Welfare of D.I., 413 N.W.2d 560, 564 (Minn. App. 1987) (relationship between parent and child should not be severed unless the conditions of neglect will continue for a prolonged and indeterminate period). There was substantial evidence suggesting that Wessel continues to have a good relationship with both J.J.P. and K.L.P. Furthermore, the court’s finding that Wessel’s relationship with the man with whom she resides is “temporary” is unsubstantiated by the evidence. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that Wessel is in a stable relationship.
The trial court also found that Wessel has not substantially complied with the case plan because she discontinued therapy and missed visits with her children; when visitation was cancelled, she never sought reinstatement; she admitted drinking alcohol; and she moved in with another man against the recommendation of her counselor. However, the evidence shows that: (1) Wessel kept most of the scheduled visitations and that those that were missed were often missed because of events beyond her control, such as her illness or that of the children, or lack of transportation; (2) she did not seek reinstatement of visitation when it was cancelled, but there was testimony that she was not informed of her right to seek reinstatement; (3) she entered and completed the SCIP domestic violence program as required, and when she missed a class she made it up in an individual session with the counselor; (4) all of her drug tests were negative; and (5) she moved in with another man after moving out of Pallin’s home, but there is no showing the relationship is not a stable, non-battering relationship that creates no cause for concern for the effect of the relationship on the children. The case plan did not require Wessel to live on her own or to establish herself independently as preconditions to getting her children back. We hold that the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that Wessel failed to substantially comply with the case plan. Neither the court’s findings nor the evidence presented demonstrates that the children cannot live with Wessel now or ever.
Wessel also argues that the county did not use “reasonable efforts” to reunite her with her children. “Reasonable efforts” are defined as the exercise of due diligence by the agency to use appropriate and available services to meet the needs of the child and the child’s family. Minn. Stat. § 260.012(b) (1998). At a minimum, reasonable efforts require the county to provide those services that would assist in alleviating the conditions leading to the determination of dependency. M.A., 408 N.W.2d at 235-36. The social-service agency has the burden of demonstrating that it has made reasonable efforts or that the provision of services or further services is futile. Id. In determining whether reasonable efforts have been made, the trial court must consider whether the services provided were (1) relevant to the safety and protection of the child, (2) adequate to meet the needs of the child and family, (3) culturally appropriate, (4) available and accessible, (5) consistent and timely, and (6) realistic under the circumstances. Minn. Stat. § 260.012(c) (1998). Whether the county has met its duty of reasonable efforts requires consideration of the length of time the county was involved and the quality of the effort. In re Welfare of A.R.G.-B., 551 N.W.2d 256, 263 (Minn. App. 1996).
The court’s finding of reasonable efforts is unsupported by substantial evidence. Both the services provided to Wessel and the case plans addressed reunification of the entire family: mother, father, and the children. Many of the services centered on stabilizing Wessel’s relationship with Pallin. A new case plan was not developed to reunite Wessel with her children after her divorce from Pallin or upon the termination of Pallin’s parental rights. We have observed before:
To measure the adequacy of services, it is necessary to learn whether the services go beyond mere matters of form, such as the scheduling of appointments, so as to include real, genuine help to see that all things are done that might conceivably improve the circumstances of the parent and the relationship of the parent with the child.
In re Welfare of J.A., 377 N.W.2d 69, 73 (Minn. App. 1985). In this case it appears that the services provided to Wessel did not go beyond mere matters of form. We hold that the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that the county used reasonable efforts to reunite Wessel with her children.
The court’s findings that the county has been involved with the family for a number of years and that further services would be futile are also unsupported by substantial evidence. The case plan to reunite Wessel and Pallin with J.J.P. and K.L.P. was developed by the court on June 11, 1997. Yet less than two months later, on August 8, 1997, the court ordered legal custody of J.J.P. and K.L.P. to be awarded to a maternal aunt if found to be a proper and available custodian, or. in the alternative, the county was ordered to file TPR petitions. The court based its order on the parents’ actions since the county became involved with the family, in 1992, regarding their eldest child, N.L.P. In both the orders regarding J.J.P. and K.L.P., the court stated
[t]hat the Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the ordered placement is in the child’s best interest, to-wit: that this child’s sibling [N.L.P.] has been the subject of a CHIPS petition for five (5) years and has been in and out of foster care since that time; that neither of this child’s parents have shown the ability to maintain a stable living condition or continuance of proper parental care for this child or this child’s two siblings * * *.
The court implicitly based its decision to terminate Wessel’s parental rights to J.J.P. and K.L.P. on her failure to comply with the case plan developed years earlier for N.L.P. and not on her failure to comply with the case plans regarding J.J.P. and K.L.P. The county’s involvement in reuniting Wessel with J.J.P. and K.L.P. was less than two months long. We hold that the evidence is insufficient to support a finding that the county met its duty of reasonable efforts with regard to reuniting Wessel with J.J.P. and K.L.P.
The deference we will accord to a court opinion inadequately supported by findings is further diminished by reference to findings contradicted or unsupported by the evidence.
In re Welfare of S.N., 423 N.W.2d 83, 88 (Minn. App. 1988). The trial court found, based on the testimony of Dr. Andrews, Wessel’s therapist, that Wessel cannot adequately parent her children. Dr. Andrews did not so testify; in fact, she testified that she had never observed Wessel with her children and thus had never had the opportunity to judge whether or not she could parent her children. The trial court also found, based on the testimony of Dr. Heidal-Schiltz, that Wessel is not currently capable of meeting the needs of her children. The record shows, however, that Dr. Heidal-Schiltz said:
I believe that [Wessel] is not currently capable of meeting the needs [of the children] without several recommendations being put in place, several services being put in place and without court supervision.
We hold that the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that the provision of further services to Wessel would be futile.
2. Wessel challenges the trial court’s determination that she has neglected her parental duties and that reasonable efforts by the county have failed to correct the conditions that formed the basis of the TPR petitions. Parental rights may be terminated if the trial court finds
that the parent has substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed upon that parent by the parent and child relationship, * * * and reasonable efforts by the social service agency have failed to correct the conditions that formed the basis of the petition.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(2). The trial court supported its finding of neglect on the same grounds as those offered for its finding that the CHIPS problems have not been corrected, namely, Wessel’s failure to comply with the case plan and her inability now or in the reasonably foreseeable future to adequately parent her children.
Wessel argues that it was her inability to protect the children from Pallin’s abuse that led to the TRP petitions, and that problem has been corrected by her divorce from Pallin, the termination of Pallin’s parental rights, and her substantial compliance with the case plan. The conditions leading to the filing of the TPR petitions focused mainly on Pallin. Those portions focusing on Wessel stated: (1) while Wessel’s drug screens have been negative, the social worker had received evidence that Wessel had been drinking, (2) Wessel moved in with a male friend despite her counselor’s recommendation that she establish herself independently, (3) she began an educational support group but her attendance was sporadic, and (4) she quit her individual counseling. As we previously stated, the evidence is insufficient to support a finding that Wessel failed to substantially comply with the case plan.
Again, the trial court failed to adequately account for the fact that Wessel and Pallin are now divorced and Pallin’s parental rights to the children have been terminated. See Chosa, 290 N.W.2d at 769 (evidence relating to termination must address conditions that exist at time of the hearing, and it must appear that present conditions of neglect will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period). Thus, the trial court should have deemed the conditions leading to the filing of the TPR petitions to be corrected.
3. Wessel appeals the trial court’s determination that she is palpably unfit to be a parent, and that she will not be fit to parent her children in the reasonably foreseeable future. Parental rights may be terminated upon a showing
that a parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship because of a consistent pattern of specific conduct before the child or of specific conditions directly relating to the parent and child relationship either of which are determined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders the parent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the ongoing physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4). The burden to show palpable unfitness is onerous. M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d at 376. The county must prove a consistent pattern of specific conduct or specific conditions existing at the time of the hearing that appear will continue for a prolonged, indefinite period and that are permanently detrimental to the welfare of the child. Id. at 377 (emphasis added). The county must prove not only that the parent is not and cannot be rehabilitated in the foreseeable future, but also that the lack of rehabilitation is permanently detrimental to the children’s welfare. Id. at 378. Evidence of a child’s special needs is relevant in determining whether a parent is palpably unfit to parent the child. See M.A., 408 N.W.2d at 233 (evidence of special needs of a child relevant to palpable-unfitness determination).
The trial court found a consistent pattern of specific conduct that renders Wessel palpably unfit to parent her children, but the court failed to specify the nature of that pattern of conduct. Evidence that a child’s special needs are related to the parent’s past physical abuse should be considered when determining whether the parent is unfit. M.A., 408 N.W.2d at 233. However, a finding of parental unfitness cannot be based on the fact that a parent has failed to protect a child from abuse by the other parent when the parent has moved away from the abuser. See, e.g., In re Welfare of B.M., 383 N.W.2d 704, 708 (Minn. App. 1986) (termination of rights based on psychological evaluation of father as dependent personality, not inability to protect children from abuse of mother and older brother, because father no longer residing with either mother or older brother), review denied (Minn. May 22, 1986).
The court found that Wessel cannot adequately parent her children now or in the reasonably foreseeable future. The court based this determination partly on the testimony of Dr. Andrews and partly on “other evidence.” However, contrary to the trial court’s statement, the trial transcript shows that Dr. Andrews did not state that, in her opinion, Wessel will not be able to adequately parent her children. In fact, she testified that she cannot speak to Wessel’s ability to parent her children because she has never observed Wessel with her children. In addition, Dr. Andrews was Wessel’s therapist in early 1997, more than two years before trial, and therefore could not address conditions as they existed at the time of trial. See S.Z., 547 N.W.2d at 893 (evidence must address conditions that exist at time of hearing and trial court must rely, to great extent, not on past history but on projected permanency of parent’s inability to care for child). Also, the trial court failed to state what “other evidence” supports the finding that Wessel will be unable to parent her children in the reasonably foreseeable future. Dr. Heidal-Schiltz testified that, if Wessel were given additional services, it was her opinion that Wessel may be able to adequately parent her children within six months to a year. See In re Forrest, 311 Minn. 11, 18, 246 N.W.2d 854, 857 (1976) (if circumstances show that parent “is, or within a foreseeable time will be, able to provide the type of care” that child requires, parental rights should not be terminated).
The court made findings that, based on testimony at trial, both J.J.P. and K.L.P. need permanency in their lives, as soon as possible. We recognize the need for permanency in children’s lives. However, there is no legal basis for granting termination solely because the children cannot be returned immediately to the parental home. M.A., 408 N.W.2d at 233. We hold that there is not substantial evidence to support a determination that Wessel is palpably unfit to be a parent or that she will be unable to parent her children in the reasonably foreseeable future.
4. Finally, Wessel appeals the trial court’s determination that the children are neglected and in foster care. See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(8). “Neglected and in foster care” is defined as a child
(a) Who has been placed in foster care by court order; and
(b) Whose parents’ circumstances, condition, or conduct are such that the child cannot be returned to them; and
(c) Whose parents, despite the availability of needed rehabilitative services, have failed to make reasonable efforts to adjust their circumstances, condition or conduct, or have willfully failed to meet reasonable expectations with regard to visiting the child or providing financial support for the child.
Minn. Stat. § 260.015, subd. 18 (1998). In determining whether a child is neglected and in foster care, the court must consider several factors, some of which are detailed in the statute. See Minn. Stat. § 260.155, subd. 7(1)-(7) (1998).
Cases brought under the “neglected-and-in-foster-care” provision require particular attention to five circumstances. In re Welfare of M.G., 407 N.W.2d 118, 123 (Minn. App. 1987).
First, do the present conditions prevent the children’s return? Second, how long have the children been in foster care? Third, has there been a failure to make reasonable efforts to correct neglectful conditions? * * * Fourth, has the [county] made reasonable efforts and have the necessary rehabilitative services been available? Fifth, would additional services be effective to bring about lasting parental adjustment and the return of the children to the parent within an ascertainable period of time? Each of these circumstances must be evaluated with a view to determining the best interests of the child.
Id. (citations omitted).
The trial court did not support its conclusion that J.J.P. and K.L.P. are neglected and in foster care with specific reference to these factors. Trial court findings that explicitly track the requirements of the statute are preferred. In re Welfare of M.J.L., 407 N.W.2d 714, 720 (Minn. App. 1987). But see In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 648-49 (Minn. 1995) (no need to specifically address each factor in Minn. Stat. § 260.155, subd. 7, enough that court’s findings demonstrate the existence of many of the factors).
As previously noted, Wessel substantially complied with the case plan requirements and has divorced Pallin, who was a major reason the children were removed from the home. Pallin has no parental rights to the children. The evidence suggests that Wessel is in a stable, non-abusive relationship, which appears to offer a safe environment for the children. The children have been in foster care for three-and-one-half years. Wessel appears to have made reasonable efforts to correct any neglect by substantially complying with the case plan. Numerous services were provided to Wessel, but few were aimed at reuniting her specifically with J.J.P. and K.L.P.; most contemplated reuniting the entire family, including Pallin. No new services were offered after Wessel divorced or after Pallin’s parental rights were terminated. Finally, Dr. Heidal-Schultz testified that Wessel may be able to parent her children within six months to a year if appropriate additional services are provided. The evidence does not support a finding that J.J.P and K.L.P. are neglected.
We do not find the substantial evidence necessary to support termination of Wessel’s parental rights to J.J.P. or K.L.P. on any of the applicable statutory factors. Therefore, we reverse and remand to the trial court for implementation of a new case plan to reflect Wessel’s current circumstances.
Reversed and remanded.
 Although N.L.P is referred to for context, Wessel voluntarily allowed the termination of her parental rights to that child on October 21, 1998.
 Recodified as chapter 260C.301 et seq., effective August 1, 1999. “The legislature intends this act to be a clarification and reorganization of laws relating to juvenile delinquency and child protection in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 257 and 260. The changes that have been made are not intended to alter those laws and shall not be construed by a court or other authority to alter them.” 1999 Minn. Laws ch. 139, art. 4, § 1.