This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of C.V.: N.V.


Filed June 19, 2001


Toussaint, Chief Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. J89961231



Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Hennepin County Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)


Donna J. Wolfson, Andrew K. Mitchell, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, 1200 Health Services Bldg., 525 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Foley, Judge.* 

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

            In this termination of parental rights proceeding, appellant mother alleges (a) the record does not support termination because the county did not provide reasonable rehabilitative services; (b) the conditions at the time of trial do not support termination; and (c) certain evidentiary errors denied appellant due process of law.  Because the county expended reasonable efforts over a two-year period to rehabilitate mother and the conditions that led to the need for protective services have remained unchanged and are likely to continue into the future, we affirm the termination of appellant’s parental rights.  Further, because appellant did not challenge the alleged evidentiary errors by making a motion for new trial, we will not address those alleged errors on appeal.


            Appellant Cherone Vestal is the mother of N.V. (d.o.b. December 9, 1994). In December 1998, Vestal left her son with a friend and moved to California where she became heavily involved in illicit drugs. In January 1999, Vestal’s friend contacted child protection services and the child was placed in foster care.  N.V. was adjudicated a child in need of protection or services on March 16, 1999.  N.V. was previously adjudicated a child in need of assistance in March of 1997 in Iowa, and N.V. was returned to Vestal’s care.

            In April 1999, Vestal returned to Minnesota, contacted the county child protection authorities, and admitted that she was a “mess” as a result of her use of crystal methamphetamine and cocaine.  Vestal began working with the Hennepin County Department of Children and Family Services and signed a protective services case plan. The case plan required: (1) Rule 25 assessment and compliance with recommendations; (2) random urinary analysis for use of illicit drugs; (3) a psychological evaluation and compliance with recommendations; (4) notification to the county of any changes in address, services, or other pertinent information; (5) regular supervised visitation with her son; (6) acquisition of suitable housing; and (7) parenting assessment and compliance with recommendations.

After Vestal failed to complete the recommended drug programs, failed urine tests, failed to keep the county informed of her whereabouts, failed to regularly maintain visitation appointments, and failed to obtain suitable housing, the county sought the termination of Vestal’s parental rights.  After reviewing the evidence, the district court terminated Vestal’s parental rights citing three statutory basis: (1) Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. (1)(b)(5) (2000), that reasonable efforts had failed to correct the circumstances leading to the need for protection or services; (2) Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. l(b)(4) (2000), that Vestal was palpably unfit to be a parent; and (3) Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. (1)(b)(8), that the child is neglected and in foster care and that it was in the best interests of N.V. to terminate Vestal’s parental rights. 

Vestal did not file a motion for amended findings or a new trial. This appeal followed.



            A court may terminate parental rights only for grave and weighty reasons.  In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990).  On review, an appellate court must consider whether the district court’s “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) (citation omitted).  Although the district court may rely on only one statutory basis to terminate parental rights, that basis must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1 (2000); Minn. R. Juv. P. 74.04, subd. 1.  The paramount consideration in every termination case must be the child's best interests. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 (2000).

            Vestal challenges the district court order terminating her parental rights on its finding that “following the child’s placement out of the home, reasonable efforts, under the direction of the court, have failed to correct the conditions leading to the child’s placement.”  Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (2000).  Under the Juvenile Court Act, the district court must make findings and conclusions on the social service agency’s reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the parents and reunite the family.  Minn. Stat. §§ 260.012(c) (2000), 260C.301, subd. 8(l) (2000). The law defines reasonable efforts as

[T]he 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) (2000).

In determining whether the county made reasonable efforts, the court must consider whether the services 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). Whether efforts are “reasonable” also “requires consideration of the length of time the county has been involved with the family as well as the quality of effort given.”  In re Welfare of M.G., 407 N.W.2d 118, 122 (Minn. App. 1987) (citation omitted).  Where, as here, a motion for new trial is not made, this court’s review is limited to determining whether the court’s findings are clearly erroneous and whether it erred in its conclusions of law.  Tyroll v. Private Label Chems., Inc., 505 N.W.2d 54, 56 (Minn. 1993).

The district court made comprehensive findings detailing the county’s extensive efforts over a two-year period to provide Vestal with counseling and parenting services.  The district court found that the county had made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate Vestal and to reunite the family.  During the county’s two-year involvement, Vestal received (1) two chemical dependency assessments and referrals for treatment to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Eden Women’s Program, Park Avenue Center, Progress Valley, and an AA support program; (2) psychological testing and referrals to the county’s mental health clinic for therapy; (3) supervised visitation; (4) weekly/biweekly therapy sessions for the child; (5) parent‑counselor conferences with child’s counselor; (6) parenting assessments and referrals to parenting classes; (7) referral to Freeport West for housing; and (8) case management services. 

These services were relevant to the child’s safety and protection in light of the documented incidents of neglect attributable to Vestal’s chemical dependency problems.  No evidence suggests that the services provided to, and accepted by, Vestal were not consistent, timely, available, or accessible.  Rather, the record demonstrates that Vestal’s unimproved condition is a result of her failure to avail herself of all of the services made available to her.  For example, Vestal refused to accept the referral for parenting services, opting to select parenting services on her own.  After she failed to obtain parenting services and as this matter proceeded to trial, Vestal eventually acquiesced and arranged parenting services with Reuben Lindh Family Services.

            Further, Vestal failed to complete the majority of the chemical dependency programs offered to her.  Finally, Vestal has moved five times since returning to Minnesota; she did not inform the county of her whereabouts on a regular basis, and because Vestal did not utilize the housing services, she presently resides in a motel and has not acquired stable housing.

            Therefore, the record amply supports the district court’s finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that after the child had been placed in foster care, the county’s reasonable efforts to reunite the family failed to correct the conditions that led to the foster care placement.  See S.Z, 547 N.W.2d at 892 (providing mental health services constituted “reasonable efforts” toward rehabilitating father where such therapy was necessary for reuniting that particular father and child); In re Welfare of A.R.G.‑B., 551 N.W.2d 256, 263 (Minn. App. 1996) (providingservices relating to physical environment of home, parents’ ability to support children, discipline, nutrition, hygiene, medical attention, competent and appropriate babysitters, and mental health of parents, constituted reasonable efforts). 


            Vestal does not challenge the termination of her parental rights on the basis of palpable unfitness and neglect, except to the extent that she claims the record does not support a finding that her parenting deficiencies will continue into the reasonably foreseeable future.  In reviewing a parent’s present and future ability to care for her child, reliance is not to be placed wholly on past history but on projected permanency of a parent’s inability to care for the child as indicated by significant progress in fulfilling the requirementsof an assigned case plan.  S.Z.,547 N.W.2d at 893.  Parental rights can be terminated only upon a finding that the parent’s inability to care for the child is likely to “continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period.”  Id.  (quotation omitted).

            The record contains evidence that Vestal is still unable to function as a responsible parent and that her parenting deficiencies will continue into the reasonably foreseeable future.  Vestal did not regularly keep scheduled visitation appointments with her child; she failed to complete drug rehabilitation and some of her urine samples were positive for drug use; she has failed to successfully complete parenting skills classes; and she has moved five times since returning to Minnesota and is presently living in a motel.  Based on this record, we conclude that the district court’s finding that her condition was of such a nature that it is unlikely that in the reasonably foreseeable future she would be in a position to parent her children was not clearly erroneous.

            Moreover, there is no challenge to the district court’s finding that it was in the best interests of N.V. to terminate Vestal’s parental rights.  Because there is evidence in the record that (1) the county made reasonable efforts to improve Vestal’s ability to parent; (2) Vestal’s parenting ability has remained unchanged since the CHIPS adjudication; (3) Vestal’s parenting deficiencies will continue into the reasonably foreseeable future; and (4) it was in N.V.’s best interests to terminate the parent‑child relationship, the juvenile court did not err in terminating appellant’s parental rights for child neglect, palpable unfitness, and unchanged conditions under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subdivisions 1(b)(4), (5), (8).


            Vestal next argues that the district court improperly admitted certain evidence, which she argues resulted in a deprivation of her due process right to a fair trial. Evidentiary rulings are subject to appellate review only if there has been a motion for a new trial in which such matters have been assigned as error.  In re Welfare of S. G., 390 N.W.2d 336, 340 (Minn. App. 1986); see In re Welfare of D.D.G., 558 N.W.2d 481, 485 (Minn. 1997) (stating that the gravity of termination proceedings is generally not enough to get past established appellate rules).

            Here, Vestal made appropriate objections at trial but no motion for a new trial was brought.  Thus, we will not address the claimed evidentiary errors.


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.