This opinion will be unpublished and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:
R.L.M. and B.V.M.
Filed March 12, 2002
Ramsey County District Court
File No. J999551620
Dale C. Nathan, Nathan & Associates, 1230 Eagan Industrial Road, Suite 150, Eagan, MN 55121-1286 (for appellant)
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Ann E. Ploetz, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 560, St. Paul, MN 55102; and
Angela L. Potts, 46 East Fourth Street, Suite 506, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Karen Garvin, 101 East Fifth Street, Suite 1808, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant mother challenges the district court’s termination of her parental rights, arguing that (1) the county did not make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate her and to reunite her with her children; (2) the record does not support the district court’s finding that she would not be fit to parent her children within the reasonably foreseeable future; and (3) she substantially complied with her case plan. She also contends that the district court should have considered the results of a polygraph test. Because the district court’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous, we affirm.
Appellant P.A.G. is the mother of R.L.M., age nine, and B.V.M., age six. In April 1999, the Ramsey County Community Human Services Department (the county) filed a petition alleging that the children were in need of protection or services (CHIPS). The petition followed the county’s finding of educational neglect of R.L.M. in September 1998, the family’s homelessness in November 1998, the subsequent foster-home placement of the children, and child-protection workers’ concerns about appellant’s drug abuse and poor parenting skills.
Six days before the CHIPS petition was filed, appellant agreed to a case plan that required her to (1) submit to biweekly random urinalyses (UAs); (2) cooperate with all service providers; (3) find suitable housing and maintain a clean environment; (4) keep the county informed of her whereabouts at all times; (5) abide by foster-home rules; (6) attend family therapy; (7) complete a parenting assessment and a psychological evaluation and follow any recommendations that result; (8) participate in the Wilder parenting program; and (9) abstain from all illegal drugs.
In August 1999, the district court adjudicated R.L.M. and B.V.M. as CHIPS on the grounds that (1) the children lived in substandard housing and needed ongoing therapy and (2) appellant’s compliance with the case plan was “more miss than hit.” The district court found that appellant submitted to only one UA and that she did not cooperate with service providers, keep the county informed of her location, obtain a parenting assessment or a psychological evaluation, or find permanent housing.
Following the adjudication, appellant’s compliance with her case plan continued to be minimal. At the time of a review hearing in February 2000, she had not obtained permanent housing or completed a parenting assessment or a psychological evaluation. She had been discharged from the Wilder parenting program because she did not maintain contact with the program worker, and two of the three UAs that she submitted to tested positive for drugs. Her case plan was later revised to condition family therapy on the approval of R.L.M. and B.V.M.’s therapist and to add a requirement that appellant complete a Rule 25 chemical assessment and follow its recommendations.
In April 2000, the county filed a petition under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (2000) to terminate appellant’s parental rights. After eight days of trial, which were scattered between October 2, 2000, and March 8, 2001, the district court terminated appellant’s parental rights on four statutory grounds, concluding that there was clear and convincing evidence that (1) she did not comply with the duties imposed on her by the parent-and-child relationship; (2) she was palpably unfit to parent; (3) the county’s reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions that led to the children’s out-of-home placement; and (4) the children were neglected and in foster care. See Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), (4), (5), (8). This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
The district court may terminate parental rights only if it is proved by clear and convincing evidence that at least one statutory ground for termination exists. See In re Welfare of J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 724 (Minn. 1998); see also Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (2000) (providing statutory grounds for termination). When reviewing a district court’s findings in a termination proceeding, this court is “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) (citation omitted).
Appellant argues that the district court erred by terminating her parental rights because the county did not make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate her and to reunite her with her children. In a proceeding to terminate parental rights on any statutory ground, the responsible social-service agency must show that it made reasonable efforts to “meet the needs of the child and the child’s family in order to * * * eliminate the need for removal and reunite the family.” Minn. Stat. § 260.012(b) (2000). In determining whether reasonable efforts have been made, a court must consider whether services to the child and family 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) (2000). Additional considerations include the length of time that the county has been involved with the family and the quality of effort given. In re Welfare of D.T.J., 554 N.W.2d 104, 108 (Minn. App. 1996).
The district court made comprehensive findings on the county’s extensive efforts to provide appellant with services that would address her drug abuse, poor parenting skills, and lack of stable housing. During the county’s two-and-a-half year involvement, appellant received (1) a chemical-use assessment and recommendations that she participate in an outpatient chemical-dependency program and AA; (2) biweekly UAs; (3) psychological evaluations and parenting-skills assessments; (4) an opportunity to participate in the Wilder parenting program; (5) opportunities to participate in family therapy with R.L.M. and B.V.M.; (6) referrals to four individual therapists; (7) referrals to the county’s Section 8 housing office; (8) enrollment in a rental-history improvement program; and (9) assistance with storage fees and potential rental deposits. The district court found that the county made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate appellant and to reunite her with her children.
Appellant challenges this finding on four grounds, arguing that the county did not make adequate efforts to help her find suitable housing, attend family therapy and a parenting program, obtain transportation to her therapist, and establish a trial placement of her children with her. But no evidence suggests that the services provided to appellant were not consistent, timely, accessible, or adequate. Rather, the record shows that appellant’s unimproved condition is a result of her failure to accept, in a timely manner, all of the services made available to her.
First, appellant attended her first appointment with the Section 8 housing office but did not make any further appointments. She attended the rental-history improvement program, which provides an opportunity for a person with negative rental history to work with landlords, but lived temporarily with friends for about a year. After moving five times, appellant now lives at her boyfriend’s house and has no lease. Although appellant and her boyfriend testified that they would maintain their relationship, the guardian ad litem questioned its stability, testifying that since she became involved with the case in July 1999, appellant has dated four men, one of whom she was engaged to marry.
Second, appellant was aware that her initial April 1999 case plan required her to participate in family therapy. She refused to do so. The case plan was revised in March 2000 to condition appellant’s participation on the approval of R.L.M. and B.V.M.’s therapist, who informed appellant that individual therapy was a prerequisite to family therapy. Appellant rejected multiple referrals to individual therapists. She began individual therapy with her own therapist in October 2000, six months after the county petitioned for termination of parental rights. By the end of the trial, appellant had not made substantial progress in her individual therapy. Appellant did not maintain contact with the Wilder parenting program, and the parenting support group that she chose to attend did not include child participation.
Third, the county arranged for appellant to meet with three individual therapists who had offices in St. Paul, where appellant lives, to alleviate transportation difficulties and to facilitate completion of her therapy. Instead, appellant chose a therapist located in Brooklyn Center and did not tell the county that she had transportation problems. Appellant’s case manager testified that, if she had, the county could have provided cab services or bus passes.
Finally, the children’s therapist testified that R.L.M. and B.V.M. had made progress in therapy until early 2001, when their visitations with appellant became unsupervised and longer. The children’s health deteriorated; R.L.M. displayed a lack of responsibility, interest, and appropriate boundaries, and B.V.M. “shut down.” The county’s refusal to provide a trial placement of the children with appellant was justified under the circumstances.
We conclude that the record amply supports the district court’s findings that the county provided reasonable efforts to rehabilitate appellant and to reunite her with her children. Appellant does not otherwise challenge the district court’s termination of her parental rights on the grounds that she did not comply with the duties imposed on her by the parent-and-child relationship and that the children were neglected and in foster care. See Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), (8). We therefore do not reach appellant’s arguments that the record does not support the district court’s finding that she would not be fit to parent her children in the reasonably foreseeable future and that she substantially complied with her case plan. See id., subd. 1(b)(4) (providing that parental rights may be terminated when parent is palpably unfit to parent), (5) (providing that parental rights may be terminated when reasonable efforts have failed to correct the conditions leading to child’s out-of-home placement; presumption of failure exists when parent has not substantially complied with case plan); In re Welfare of R.M.M., 316 N.W.2d 538, 541 (Minn. 1982) (stating that a court “need find the existence of only one of the statutory conditions in order to terminate parental rights”).
Appellant contends that the district court should have considered the results of a polygraph test, which, allegedly, support her claims that a county worker made a racist statement and that she did not use drugs in August 2000. Polygraph results are not admissible in Minnesota civil actions because there is insufficient evidence of their reliability. State v. Anderson, 379 N.W.2d 70, 79 (Minn. 1985). Appellant argues, however, that even though polygraph results are not admissible, the district court should have “considered” the results here. We find this argument to be without merit.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.