This opinion will be unpublished and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:




Filed August 22, 2000


Harten, Judge


Brown County District Court

File No. J0-98-50383


Linda J. Heine, Somsen, Schade & Franta, PLC, 106-1/2 North Minnesota Street, P.O. Box 38, New Ulm, MN 56073 (for appellants)


James R. Olson, Brown County Attorney, John R. Rodenberg, Assistant County Attorney, 519 Center Street, P.O. Box 428, New Ulm, MN 56073-0428 (for respondent County)


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellants, parents of A.D.P., challenge the termination of their parental rights, arguing that the district court’s findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence and therefore its conclusions of law are clearly erroneous.  Because the evidence supports the findings of fact, which, in turn, sustain the conclusions of law, we affirm.


            On January 20, 1993, A.D.P. was born to appellants Daniel and Sheila Postel.[1]  In March 1996, A.D.P. was adjudicated a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS) and placed in a foster home because (1) he had witnessed domestic abuse between appellants; (2) his environment was injurious and dangerous to his health and development; and (3) he was without proper parental care. 

Sylvia Ashley-Cameron, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist, examined A.D.P. twice in 1996 and diagnosed him as having reactive attachment disorder (RAD), which is a result of (1) persistent disregard of a child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection; (2) persistent disregard of the child’s basic physical needs; and (3) repeated changes of primary caregiver that prevent formation of stable attachments.  At the termination hearing, Ashley-Cameron testified that as a child with RAD gets older, the symptoms become more severe. 

These children end up having major problems in all different areas of their lives.  * * *  The earlier you can change the environment and provide a nurturing, stable, developmentally appropriate environment, the better[.]


Ashley-Cameron also testified that A.D.P. is a very vulnerable child with serious developmental and cognitive delays (i.e., aggressive, uncoordinated, easily frustrated, unattached, inappropriate eating habits, and speech impaired), medical problems (i.e., facial distortions possibly related to fetal alcohol syndrome, ear problems, and club feet), and psychological problems. 

A.D.P. returned to live with appellants in the fall of 1996 but was removed again in January 1998.  Ashley-Cameron, Tracy Schmiesing (A.D.P.’s Early Childhood Special Education teacher), and Lee Johnson (the Postels’ case manager), all testified that A.D.P. improved dramatically when he was placed in foster care, but regressed when he had contact with his parents.  Another licensed psychologist, Lauren LeFavor, Ph.D., A.D.P.’s “play therapist,” testified that A.D.P. suffered from a “lack of adequate care, nurturing, witnessing abuse in the home, and lack of stimulation to help in his development.” 

            Sheila Postel has two controlled substance convictions, one for altering her daughter’s Ritalin prescription.  In 1997, while on probation, she tested positive for marijuana and amphetamines.  Sheila Postel has also been diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder.

            Daniel Postel abused Sheila Postel from 1992 until November 1997, when he was convicted and imprisoned for assaulting a police officer who was investigating a report of domestic abuse.  Daniel Postel has a 21-year history of chemical abuse and has been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder (i.e., violent outbursts).   

On December 2, 1998, respondent Brown County Family Service Center (the county) filed a petition to terminate appellants’ parental rights.  After an eight-day hearing, the district court granted the petition.  This appeal followed.


When a trial court’s findings in a termination case are challenged, appellate courts are limited to determining whether the findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether they are clearly erroneous. 


In re Welfare of D.D.G., 558 N.W.2d 481, 484 (Minn. 1997).  Appellants challenge the termination of their parental rights on two separate grounds. 

1.            Reasonable Efforts toward Family Reunification

            Before terminating parental rights, the district court must find that the county has used reasonable efforts to provide rehabilitation or reunification services.  Minn. Stat. § 260.012 (c) (Supp. 1990).  Appellants argue that the county failed to make reasonable efforts toward reunifying the family, claiming that the county simply did not do enough.  Minn. Stat. § 260.012 defines “reasonable efforts” as

the exercise of due diligence by the responsible social services agency to use appropriate and available services to meet the needs of the child and the child’s family in order to prevent removal of the child from the child’s family; or upon removal, services to eliminate the need for removal and reunite the family.


Minn. Stat. § 260.012 (b) (Supp. 1999).


Here, the district court found that


[t]he services offered and the efforts made by the [county] in this matter were reasonable in an effort to rehabilitate the parents and reunite the family.  In addition to the initial issue of domestic abuse occurring in front of the children, the other serious problems were identified and subsequently addressed.  The services included respite care, day care, foster care, visitation supervision, chemical dependency referrals, Valued Partners Program, Life Work Planning Program, Mom’s Club, Cooperative Rural Opportunity Services Program, People Reaching Out, Kid’s Connection, in-home services, including visitation monitoring and guidance.  In addition * * * [the county provided] needed transportation for * * * medical appointments for [the family], emergency assistance for food, food stamps, Food Shelf, Mental Health Center therapy, adult mental health services, information on reactive attachment disorder, psychological evaluations, parenting problems, parenting education, and overall case management.  


The record supports this finding.  Additionally, the record shows that the county scheduled medical and dental appointments for A.D.P.; enrolled A.D.P. in Head Start; scheduled psychological evaluations for appellants and A.D.P.; coordinated services with appellants’ probation officers; and referred appellants for marriage counseling.  The county also developed reunification plans and assigned caseworkers to implement those plans.   The Postels’ caseworker testified as follows:

Q:  Did you give every service that is available at Brown County Family Service Center to the Postel family?


A:  Yes, we did. 


Q:  Are there any other services available at the Brown County Family Service Center?


A:  No.


Q:  Were all services exhausted? 


A:  All were exhausted. 


Q:  What is the problem?


A:  The inability of Mr. and Mrs. Postel to learn from the services and to utilize the services to properly raise their children. 


The district court’s factual finding that the county made reasonable efforts to reunite this family is supported by substantial evidence, is not clearly erroneous, and addresses the criteria set forth in Minn. Stat. § 260.012 (c) (Supp. 1999). 

2.            Termination of Appellants’ Parental Rights

            The party petitioning for termination must prove one or more of the statutory grounds 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).  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); (3) failed to correct conditions after a child-protection adjudication, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (Supp. 1999); and (4) neglected the child while he was in foster care.  Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(8) (Supp. 1999).            

            Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4), provides 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 * * * 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


Appellants argue that the county failed to establish that they are palpably unfit to be parents.  But the evidence shows that appellants are chemically dependent, abusive, neglectful, and mentally ill.  Ashley-Cameron testified that A.D.P.’s developmental delays and physical and psychological problems were a result of appellants’ disregard for his basic emotional and physical needs.  Additionally, several expert witnesses testified that because appellants continue to battle their own problems with abuse, chemical dependency, mental illness, unemployment, and involvement with the criminal justice system, they are incapable of meeting A.D.P.’s needs for the near future.  Based on the substantial evidence, the district court’s legal conclusion that appellants are palpably unfit to parent A.D.P. is not clearly erroneous and addresses the criteria set forth in Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (Supp. 1999).  See, e.g., In re Welfare of R.M.M., 316 N.W.2d 538 (Minn. 1982) (terminating parental rights of a palpably unfit parent who abused alcohol and was mentally ill); In re Welfare of D.I., 413 N.W.2d 560, 565 (Minn. App. 1987) (parent who was chemically dependent and mentally ill palpably unfit).  Because we affirm the termination of parental rights for palpable unfitness, we need not address the other three grounds.  See Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (only one statutory ground required to terminate parental rights).


[1] Appellants have an older daughter; before the termination hearing, the parties reached an agreement for her permanent placement.