This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Children of: E.S., Parent.
Filed November 27, 2001
Hennepin County District Court
File Nos. J1-99-065864 and J0-00-055057
Leonardo Castro, 4th District Public Defender, David P. Murrin, Assistant Public Defender, 317-Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Julie K. Harris, Sr. Assistant County Attorney, 525 Portland Avenue, 12th Floor, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district courtís order terminating her parental rights to two infant children, M.T. and E.A.† Appellant argues that the district court erred by admitting several documents in evidence under the business-records exception to the hearsay rule.† Appellant also argues that the evidence does not support the district courtís termination of her parental rights as to E.A.† We affirm.
Appellant E.S. gave birth to M.T. in 1999.† A short time later, respondent Hennepin County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) filed a petition alleging that M.T. was a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS).† M.T. was adjudicated CHIPS, and DCFS later filed a petition to terminate E.S.ís parental rights to M.T.† While that petition was pending, E.S. gave birth to her second child, E.A., in 2000.† DCFS filed an amended petition, seeking termination of E.S.ís parental rights to both children.†
At trial, DCFS submitted its evidence through documents, most of which were admitted without objection by E.S.† The district court made detailed findings terminating E.S.ís parental rights to both children.† E.S.ís motion for a new trial was denied, and this appeal followed.
††††††††††† Absent erroneous interpretation of the law, the district court has discretion to decide whether to admit evidence.† Kroning v. State Farm Auto. Ins. Co., 567 N.W.2d 42, 45-46 (Minn. 1997).† If evidence is improperly admitted, a new trial will be granted only when there has been prejudicial error.† Id. at 46 (quotation omitted).† ďAn evidentiary error is prejudicial if the error might reasonably have changed the result of the trial.Ē† Cloverdale Foods of Minn., Inc. v. Pioneer Snacks, 580 N.W.2d 46, 51 (Minn. App. 1998).
††††††††††† E.S. argues that many documents admitted in evidence by the district court under the business-records exception to the hearsay rule contained both hearsay within hearsay and improper opinion testimony.† But E.S. refers us to just four of those documents and her description of them is general.† Of those four documents, only exhibit 12 was both objected to at trial and referred to in the motion for a new trial.† The other three were either not objected to at trial or not referred to in the motion for a new trial.
††††††††††† To preserve an objection to the admission of evidence, a party must make that objection at trial and repeat that objection in a motion for a new trial.† Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200, 202 (Minn. 1986).† A party may not raise an objection for the first time in a motion for a new trial, and an appellate court may not review evidentiary rulings if the rulings were not argued as error in a motion for a new trial.† Id. at 201.† Accordingly, E.S. has only preserved for appellate review her objection to exhibit 12.
††††††††††† Exhibit 12 is the caseworkerís activity log.† It is one of 49 exhibits the district court received into evidence and used to support detailed findings and subfindings.† We need not address E.S.ís specific evidentiary objections to exhibit 12 because, even if the district court had erred by admitting it in evidence, the error would be harmless.† Exhibit 12 is cumulative of evidence provided in other exhibits, and the district courtís findings were amply supported by those other exhibits.† See In re Welfare of S.R.A., 527 N.W.2d 835, 838 (Minn. App. 1995) (refusing to reverse termination for harmless error), review denied (Minn. Mar. 29, 1995).
††††††††††† E.S. also argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the district courtís decision to terminate her parental rights as to E.A., who was less than three months old at the time of termination.† E.S. argues that she had made some progress on her case plan in those three months and should have been allowed more time to develop parenting skills for E.A.
On review of the district courtís findings terminating parental rights, this court determines ďwhether the findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether they are clearly erroneous.Ē† In re Welfare of D.D.G., 558 N.W.2d 481, 484 (Minn. 1997) (citation omitted).† When terminating E.S.ís parental rights to E.A., the district court was required to consider the conditions at the time of trial, the conditions that led to the out-of-home placement, and E.S.ís prospective ability to care for E.A.† See Minn. Stat. ß 260C.301 (2000)(providing that the district court must examine conditions leading to the out-of-home placement); In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980) (stating that the district court must consider conditions existing at the time of trial); In re Welfare of M.P., 542 N.W.2d 71, 76-77 (Minn. App. 1996) (stating that the district court must consider each childís interests).
††††††††††† The district court concluded that E.S.ís parental rights should be terminated for both children on four independent grounds: (1) she did not comply with the duties imposed upon her by the parent-child relationship; (2) she was palpably unfit; (3) she failed to correct the conditions that led to the CHIPS adjudication; and (4) E.A. was neglected and in foster care.† Minn. Stat. ß 260C.301, subds. 1(b)(2), 1(b)(4), 1(b)(5), 1(b)(8).† While only one of these statutory grounds is required for terminating parental rights, the district courtís paramount consideration is the best interests of the children.† Minn. Stat. ß 260C.301, subd. 7.† The court also concluded that terminating E.S.ís parental rights was in E.A.ís best interests.†
Non-compliance with the Duties Imposed by the Parent-Child Relationship
The court found that E.S. had a history of problems maintaining shelter, holding a job, and visiting her children regularly.† After DCFS made reasonable efforts to correct the conditions leading to E.A.ís out-of-home placement, E.S. did not take steps to secure housing or financial stability.† Further, she did not complete a psychological evaluation, did not seek treatment for her mental illness, and refused to take medication for her condition.† Because there was substantial evidence that E.S. refused or neglected to comply with her parental duties, these findings were not clearly erroneous.
The district court determined that E.S. was palpably unfit to care for E.A.ís ongoing physical, mental, or emotional needs.† When a parentís rights to one child are involuntarily terminated, it is presumed that the parent is palpably unfit to care for another child.† Id., subd. 1(b)(4).† Because the district court terminated E.S.ís rights to M.T., it is presumed that E.S. is likewise palpably unfit to care for E.A.† In addition, the district court found that E.S. had a history of mental illness, which caused her to be hospitalized many times.† Although mental illness alone is not a sufficient basis for terminating parental rights, the nature of E.S.ís condition supports the decision to terminate her rights.† See In re the Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886 (Minn. 1996) (citation omitted) (stating that mental illness alone is insufficient to support termination of parental rights).† The district court found that the nature of her condition contributed to her difficulty maintaining shelter, that her insight and judgment seemed to be severely impaired, and that she had even considered killing M.T.† Shortly after E.A. was born, E.S. threatened suicide.† These findings were not clearly erroneous.
Failure to Correct Conditions
The district court found that while DCFS made reasonable efforts to assist E.S. in correcting the conditions that led to the CHIPS adjudication as to E.A., the conditions were not corrected.† The district courtís findings were not clearly erroneous.
Child Neglected and in Foster Care
The district court found that E.A. was in foster care since the day after she was born and that E.A.ís out-of-home placement was appropriate and was still necessary.† The court also found that E.S. did not substantially comply with her case plan, refused mental-health services, refused medication for her aggressive behavior, and did not secure housing or a job.† Because there was substantial evidence that E.A. was neglected and in foster care, the district courtís findings were not clearly erroneous.
The district court found that E.A.ís interests would best be met by terminating E.S.ís parental rights because E.S. was unable to care for E.A. and termination would provide E.A. with stability.†
E.S. does not seriously contest the courtís findings, but essentially argues that the district court should have deferred the termination decision for E.A. to allow E.S. more time to rehabilitate herself.† E.S. argues that she had started complying with the case plan and was making some progress.† But the district court was required to look at whether E.S. made significant progress in following her case plan.† See In re Welfare of M.H., 595 N.W.2d 223, 227 (Minn. App. 1999).† Some progress alone is insufficient.† See In re Welfare B.M., 383 N.W.2d 704, 708 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. May 22, 1986).† The district court found that E.S. did not substantially comply with her case plan.† While she took some steps to visit E.A., she did not secure housing or a job, she failed to complete the required psychological evaluation and parenting assessment and she refused mental-health services and medication.† The district courtís decision to terminate E.S.ís parental rights to E.A. was well supported by evidence and findings that met all four of the statutory criteria and established that termination was in the best interests of the children.†