This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the
Welfare of: K.G.L.
Filed February 6, 2001
Roseau County District Court
File No. J50050011
Steven A. Anderson, Law Office of Steven A. Anderson, P.A., 115 Roberts Avenue Northeast, P.O. Box 430, Warroad, MN 56763 (for appellant mother)
Michelle E. Moren, Roseau County Attorney, Roseau County Courthouse, 606 5th Avenue S.W., Room 10, Roseau, MN 56751 (for respondent county)
Michael Lee LaCoursiere, Box 398, 117 Main Avenue, Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Foley, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal in this CHIPS proceeding, appellant mother argues that the district court’s findings of fact are inadequate to support the CHIPS adjudication because it did not (1) address the child’s best interests, (2) consider any alternative dispositions, or (3) establish danger of future harm or abuse of the child. Because the trial court failed to make sufficient findings pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 2 (2000), we remand for further findings.
On January 20, 2000, Deputy Sheriff Steve Roseen of the Roseau County Sheriff’s Department filed a CHIPS petition pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 4(2)(i) (2000), alleging that 14-year-old K.G.L. had been a victim of sexual or physical abuse. After an adjudication hearing, the trial court concluded that clear and convincing evidence established K.G.L. was a child in need of protective services.
At the CHIPS hearing, the county argued that K.G.L. had been the victim of sexual abuse in the past and may be a victim at present. The county’s arguments were based on the fact that K.G.L. had engaged in sexual relations with two older men in 1999. In addition, there was evidence that K.G.L. may have been engaging in sexual relations with 16-year-old T.D.B., the son of appellant’s live-in boyfriend. Because K.G.L. and T.D.B. denied having sexual relations, the investigation was terminated. Without DNA testing, sufficient evidence did not exist to continue the investigation or press charges.
Appellant disputed the county’s arguments and evidence, testifying she had already taken the necessary steps to protect her daughter from further harm. As proof of this, she offered evidence that (1) she had reported and cooperated in the prosecution of the two older men who had sexual relations with K.G.L.; (2) she had complied with all social services requests, including seeking counseling for her daughter; and (3) short of permitting the DNA testing, she had cooperated in the K.G.L.-T.D.B. investigation.
A psychological examination corroborated the appellant’s testimony, concluding that while K.G.L. engaged in negative behavior and was likely to continue to do so, the initiation of a CHIPS petition would be excessive because appellant had generally complied with the county’s recommendations in responding to K.G.L.’s negative behavior. In opposition to the psychological examination and appellant’s testimony, the guardian ad litem recommended that K.G.L. be adjudicated CHIPS because of her continuing propensity to engage in negative behavior, combined with her recent discontinuance of therapy.
A district court has broad discretion in determining the disposition resulting from an adjudication that a child is in need of protection or services. In re Welfare of T.P., 492 N.W.2d 267, 268 (Minn. App. 1992) (citation omitted). When reviewing a disposition, this court must determine whether the trial court made the necessary findings and whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record, taking into account that the burden of proof in the district court is clear and convincing evidence. See Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 2 (2000) (requiring written findings be made); Minn. R. Juv. P. 74.04, subd. 1 (requiring allegations of petition be supported by clear and convincing evidence); In re Welfare of A.R.G.-B., 551 N.W.2d 256, 261 (Minn. App. 1996) (same).
In making its disposition, a court must make
written findings of fact to support the disposition and case plan ordered and shall also set forth in writing the following information:
(a) Why the best interests and safety of the child are served by the disposition and case plan ordered;
(b) What alternative dispositions or services under the case plan were considered by the court and why such dispositions or services were not appropriate in the instant case;
(c) How the court’s disposition complies with the requirements of section 260C.193, subdivision 3 * * *[.]
Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 2.
Appellant argues that the evidence does not support the trial court’s decision finding K.G.L. in need of protective services. Effective appellate review is hampered by the fact that the trial court did not explain why the disposition is in K.G.L.’s best interest or why alternatives were rejected. See In re Welfare of C.K., 426 N.W.2d 842, 849 (Minn. 1988) (particularized findings necessary for meaningful appellate review); In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 401 (Minn. App. 1985) (same).
In its findings of fact, the trial court summarized the reports and testimony of the witnesses without making independent findings. Cf. Dean v. Pelton, 437 N.W.2d 762, 764 (Minn. App. 1989) (recitation of parties’ claims not findings of fact). The following is a summary of the findings of fact made by the trial court: (1) K.G.L. had been the alleged victim of three separate criminal sexual conduct cases, two of which resulted in prosecution and a third terminated because of a lack of cooperation by K.G.L. and her mother; (2) the guardian ad litem recommended that K.G.L. be adjudicated as a child in need of protection and services; and (3) counseling services had been voluntarily terminated because K.G.L. had discontinued attendance. In its conclusions of law, the court stated:
The petitioners have proven by clear and convincing evidence the child is in need of protection [or] services as defined in Minnesota Statute 260C.007 Subd. 4.
Absent from the record are independent findings made by the court with regard to (1) the best interests of the child, (2) alternative dispositions available, (3) whether K.G.L. is presently in danger of harm, or in danger of future harm, and (4) credibility and weight determinations regarding the evidence presented to the court. The trial court did not set forth why the best interests of the child would be served by adjudicating K.G.L. a child in need of protection or services, nor discus any alternative dispositions. See Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 865 (Minn. 1986) (reversible error if record fails to reveal district court actually considered appropriate statutory factors). In addition, the court did not make any findings as to whether or not K.G.L. is in danger of further harm. See In re Welfare of T.L.L., 453 N.W.2d 355, 357 (Minn. App. 1990) (child not in need of protection or services where child not in danger of harm because child’s needs protected and provided for by one parent); In re Welfare of A.S., 375 N.W.2d 596, 598 (Minn. App. 1985) (trial court must make finding of danger of further harm before conclusion that child in need of protection). Finally, the record reveals that appellant and the psychological examiner disputed the county’s assertion that appellant was not adequately meeting K.G.L.’s needs. However, the trial court neither made credibility determinations, nor indicated that contrary evidence was entitled to more weight. See Bowman v. Brooklyn Pet Hosp., 311 Minn. 526, 527 247 N.W.2d 424, 425 (Minn. 1976) (judgment of district court upheld in absence of findings only where facts not seriously disputed). Therefore, the trial court did not make sufficient findings required by Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 2, to facilitate effective appellate review as to whether statutory factors were considered in its decision, nor to demonstrate that by clear and convincing evidence K.G.L. was in need of protective services. Accordingly, we remand for the necessary findings.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.