This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Child of: A. R.,
Filed July 23, 2002
Hennepin County District Court
File No. JX-01-053424
Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender; David P. Murrin, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant)
Amy J. Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney; Donna J. Wolfson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000, Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Kimary Knutson, 1900 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (for guardian ad litem Jacqueline Fredericks)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
R. A. RANDALL, Judge
In this termination of parental rights appeal, appellant-mother challenges the district court's termination of her parental rights, arguing that the record lacks substantial evidence to support the district court's determinations that (a) appellant refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) (Supp. 2001); (b) appellant failed to correct the conditions leading to the CHIPS determination under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (Supp. 2001); and (c) that termination of her parental rights is in her child's best interests. We affirm.
Appellant is the mother of two children who have been in continuous out of home placement since July 31, 2000. On September 22, 2000, appellant admitted the allegations in a CHIPS petition that alleged the children were in need of protection or services because domestic abuse created an injurious environment for them. The district court found that the children had special needs. The resulting case plan required appellant to acquire stable housing and employment, to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation, to participate in counseling with her older child, and to employ parenting techniques learned in psychological counseling.
While appellant made progress on some aspects of her case plan, she was unable to secure permanent housing or employment, and the county petitioned to terminate appellant’s parental rights.
Before trial, appellant stipulated that termination of her parental rights was in the best interests of her younger child, and the district court transferred custody of that child to the child's natural father. At trial regarding the older child, appellant stipulated to a record including her psychological report and reports from other case professionals. By order of November 19, 2001, the district court terminated appellant's parental rights to her older child. For reasons that are not clear on this record, the district court issued a second order two days later again terminating appellant's parental rights to the older child. The second order did not state that it was amending the first order or otherwise refer to it. Appellant appealed both orders.
D E C I S I O N
The statutory criteria for termination of parental rights are found in Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (Supp. 2001). There is a presumption the "natural parent is a fit and suitable person to be entrusted with the care of his child" and that it is in the child's best interests to be in the natural parent's custody. In re Welfare of Clausen, 289 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 1980) (citation omitted). The child's best interests are "the paramount consideration in every termination case." In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990) (citations omitted); see Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7. Here, the district court ruled that it was in the older child's best interests to terminate appellant’s parental rights under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) and (5) because appellant refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship and because she failed to correct the conditions leading to the CHIPS determination, respectively. Appellant argues that the record does not support these determinations.
On appeal in termination proceedings, appellate courts inquire into the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether it is clear and convincing. In re Welfare of J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 724 (Minn. 1998). The district court found that appellant (a) "has not processed the content nor integrated the information [presented to her in therapy] into her daily living"; (b) has not established stable employment or secure housing; and (c) has not learned the appropriate parenting skills and positive parenting choices required of her by the special needs of her older child. Accordingly, the court ordered that
[g]iven the age of the child, mother's failure to work a case plan, the inability of the Department to locate relatives, and the child's need for stability and permanency, a Termination of mother's parental rights is in the best interests of the child.
Appellant argues that she complied with the "essential" elements of her case plan and that her compliance with those "essential" items should precludes a finding that termination was supported by substantial evidence. We disagree.
The district court's findings address the requisite statutory criteria and are supported by substantial evidence. First, the district court's finding that appellant has, "substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed on her by the parent and child relationship" under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 subd. 1(b)(2) is supported by the documentary portion of the record, which shows (a) appellant has cognitive deficiencies that significantly decrease her ability to function as an effective parent; (b) these cognitive deficiencies have impacted the child who suffers from numerous psychological difficulties; and (c) the child fears being returned to appellant's custody because appellant would start "wupping me again."
On this record, while appellant is correct that she has made some progress in her case plan, it is equally clear that, in the words of the district court, appellant has "not processed the content nor integrated the information from therapy and parenting classes into her daily living." This aspect of the district court's ruling is consistent with the report from Family Support Services, which states that appellant, while completing parenting classes, was either unable to employ the parenting method or altered the parenting method rendering it ineffective and that appellant's cognitive deficiencies made her unable to understand what she had done incorrectly.
Appellant also argues that even if two statutory criteria are met, the findings of the district court and the reports of the professionals who supported termination did not sufficiently establish that termination was in the best interests of the child. We disagree.
"[A] child's best interests may preclude terminating parental rights even where one or more of the statutory prerequisites for termination are present." In re Welfare of M.P., 542 N.W.2d 71, 74-75 (Minn. App. 1996). Accordingly, the district court must address whether termination is in the child's bests interests and, if so, explain its rationale in reaching this conclusion. Id.
Here, the record contains substantial evidence to support the district court's conclusion that termination is in the best interests of the child. The experts involved in the termination proceedings submitted, and the court received as evidence, multiple
reports strongly indicating that termination was in the best interest of the child. Appellant's psychological report stated:
In light of these cognitive deficits and the unfortunate history of very poor parenting [appellant] experienced when she was a child, the prognosis of [appellant] becoming a competent parent is at best guarded even though she has expressed a willingness to participate in psychotherapy and other programs to improve her parenting behavior.
These statements are buttressed by the child's own reluctance toward reunification based on his fear that he might be "wupped" again. Taking into account the totality of the record, including the psychologist's reports, and the child’s age, special needs, and need for permanency, we conclude the district court did not clearly err in determining that termination of appellant's parental rights was in the child's best interests.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art VI, § 10.
 In the interest of judicial economy, we will examine the merits of the decision to terminate mother's parental rights as if the decision was made in a single order including the contents of both of the district court orders.
 The experts represented the fields of psychology, neuropsychology, parental instruction, and family support services.