This opinion will be unpublished and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 Welfare of: A.C.
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 231743
Leonardo Castro, Hennepin County Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant mother)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
Stephen M. Goldfarb, Goldfarb & Associates, P.A., 4600 West 29th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55411 (for respondent guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*
Mother appeals the district court’s judgment terminating her parental rights, arguing that evidence does not support the finding that termination was appropriate and in the child’s best interests. Because the district court’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous, we affirm.
A.C. was born to appellant Gerica Franklin on September 8, 2000, when mother was herself a minor. Mother, currently 18 years of age, has a history of juvenile delinquency and out-of-home placements. The record also reveals that mother was a victim of physical and sexual abuse. Because mother was not married when A.C. was born and there is no father of record, mother is the sole custodian under Minn. Stat. § 257.541 (2000).
Upon birth, mother tested positive for marijuana, although A.C.’s toxicology screen was negative. Prior to giving birth, it appears that mother was living with her 29-year-old boyfriend, Abrian Carpenter, who has a criminal history. After A.C. was born, mother was placed in custody at the juvenile detention center due to an outstanding warrant for a probation violation on another matter. The county filed a petition for Children in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) on September 13, 2000, on behalf of A.C., alleging that A.C. was without proper parental care due to (a) the mother’s immaturity; (b) mother’s inability or unwillingness to provide necessary food, clothing, or shelter; and (c) an injurious or dangerous environment that exposed A.C. to criminal activity. See Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 6 (2000) (defining who is a child in need of protective services).
Pursuant to the CHIPS petition and because no suitable relatives were identified, A.C. was placed in a non-relative foster home. Mother was granted supervised visitation and ordered to complete a parenting assessment and psychological evaluation.
Mother’s psychological assessment revealed that her intellectual skills were within the borderline to low-average range of cognitive functioning. However, the evaluator concluded that mother had the intelligence necessary to learn how to follow a daily routine with a child. In addition, mother was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Mother’s treatment plan recommended that mother engage in group psychotherapy, a parenting program, and educational courses.
Mother’s parenting assessment was completed by the Parent Support Project, a program designed to address the special parenting and assessment needs for parents with cognitive limitations. The assessment revealed that mother had the intellectual capacity to learn the parenting skills required to care for A.C. and recommended that mother be provided with housing resources, individual and family therapy, and a parenting program for teens. Further assessment of mother’s drug and alcohol history was also recommended and completed.
Based upon the evaluations and mother’s juvenile delinquency, mother’s case plan required that she submit to random urinalyses, meet biweekly with the Child and Family Services Department (CFSD), attend A.C.’s medical appointments, and adhere to program guidelines at Juvenile Horizons. Juvenile Horizons is a residential treatment program that provides assistance to young women with infants. The program was selected to address mother’s needs arising from her delinquency adjudication and to provide parenting skills so that she could eventually be reunited with A.C. Mother entered the program in October 2000.
An early progress report indicates that mother initially did well at Juvenile Horizons. The report states that mother followed the rules and did a “good job of parenting” A.C., though initially A.C. was there only twice a week for 2.5 hours each time. The court subsequently authorized weekend visits for mother with A.C. in November. However, mother’s progress deteriorated thereafter.
A February 2001 progress report indicates that mother returned late six times from home visits without notifying staff and was absent from the program five times within a three-month period. Examples of mother’s disruptive behavior included (a) cutting the screen window and surreptitiously leaving; (b) returning late from medical appointments; (c) being detained at the juvenile detention center after going to see her boyfriend, with whom she was to have no contact. Visits between mother and A.C. were temporarily suspended in December due to mother’s habitual “runs” from the program.
Mother also exhibited defiant behavior, including throwing chairs, swearing, yelling, and making racial remarks toward Juvenile Horizons’ staff. While at Hennepin County Medical Center, mother threw a cup at the medical staff, threatened to hit and kill them, and made derogatory racial remarks. She also became verbally abusive when the Juvenile Horizons’ staff members confronted her about her violations of a no-contact order with Abrian Carpenter. The report does state that mother attended school and daycare consistently while at Juvenile Horizons, but overall the report indicates that mother exhibited aggressive behavior when asked to do things she would rather not do.
The February 2001 progress report also indicates that mother’s parenting skills were often inappropriate. For example, at two months of age, mother began feeding A.C. bananas and other solid foods and at five months, began feeding her peanut butter cups. Mother was also heard telling A.C. that she was a brat and to “shut up.” Additionally, mother expressed frustration when A.C. could not sit up on her own at three and four months of age. While the report also indicates that mother was frequently gentle and loving toward A.C., the majority of the time mother was inappropriate, raising profound and “serious concern[s] for [A.C.’s] well-being.”
Mother was formally discharged from the program after returning late on February 16, 2001. When asked about her whereabouts, mother became very aggressive and uncontrollable. The police were eventually called, though mother left before the officers arrived. The Juvenile Horizons’ discharge report states that mother “appears to be an extremely emotionally disturbed young woman” who “is impulsive and continues to place herself at risk for serious harm.” The report recommended that mother be referred to a residential treatment program to receive intensive therapeutic services.
On February 28, 2001, mother contacted her social worker, stating that she was in Chicago, but would not provide an address or phone number where she could be reached. On March 23, 2001, the county filed a petition seeking to terminate mother’s parental rights.
Mother’s next contact with her social worker was on May 30th, when she met with Josephine Nwoke in Minneapolis to discuss her case plan. Nwoke suggested a referral to an agency other than Juvenile Horizons, but mother refused, wanting to live on her own in Eveleth, Minnesota. Nwoke informed mother that, because she was a minor, she would need to be under the supervision of an agency or adult person. Mother verbally agreed to participate in parenting programs, stating she would be in Minneapolis for two months, but gave Nwoke the wrong phone number.
Nwoke provided mother with urinalysis report cards at the meeting, but mother declined to submit to a urinalysis that day because she recently used marijuana and did not want a positive result. The record indicates that mother never submitted any urinalysis reports at any time, despite the requirement of her case plan.
Following the meeting, Nwoke made a referral to the Reuben Lindh agency to provide mother with appropriate parenting education and supervised visits with A.C. The Reuben Lindh agency made several attempts to meet with mother but due to mother’s unstable housing and her move to Eveleth, Minnesota, no meeting ever materialized. As a result, on July 24, 2001, Reuben Lindh terminated mother’s case file.
At some point in the summer of 2001, mother was incarcerated at the juvenile detention center in Duluth, Minnesota, for approximately a month and a half. While there, mother participated in counseling to address her sexual victimization history.
On August 2, 2001, mother contacted Nwoke from the detention center requesting bus fare so she could attend her trial and contest the termination of her parental rights. Although bus fare was provided, mother failed to attend the trial, stating through her attorney that she was unable to obtain a ride. Because mother had actual notice, the district court proceeded to trial despite mother’s absence, but granted a continuance so mother could testify at a later date.
The court heard testimony from mother’s social worker (Nwoke), and A.C.’s social worker and guardian ad litem. All three testified that it was in the best interests of A.C. to terminate mother’s parental rights. There was also testimony that A.C. has special needs, though the record is unclear as to what those needs were.
On September 24, 2001, mother appeared in court and testified that she left Juvenile Horizons because she “was the only girl there without my child” and that she did not know it would be more difficult to get her daughter back if she quit the program. Mother testified that the programs offered to her were not helpful and that she did not submit any urinalysis reports because she had no identification. Mother also testified that she wanted her daughter back and “would do anything that is necessary,” including working a case plan. When mother testified, she had not seen A.C. in four months.
The district court entered an order terminating mother’s parental rights on October 24, 2001. Mother appeals.
The statutory criteria for terminating parental rights are found in Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (2000). A district court may terminate parental rights if the petitioning party proves by clear-and-convincing evidence that at least one of the statutory grounds for termination exists. In re Welfare of D.D.K., 376 N.W.2d 717, 720 (Minn. App. 1985). The court must also find that termination would be in the child’s best interests. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 (2000); In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (Minn. 1996).
When a [district] court’s findings in a termination case are challenged, appellate courts are 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). This court closely inquires into the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether the evidence is clear and convincing. In re Welfare of J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 724 (Minn. 1998); In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d at 893. The evidence supporting termination
must relate to conditions that exist at the time of termination, and it must appear that the conditions giving rise to the termination will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period.
In re Welfare of P.R.L., 622 N.W.2d 538, 543 (Minn. 2001) (citation omitted). “Considerable deference is due to the district court’s decision because a district court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses.” In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1996) (citation omitted).
A. Statutory Criteria
Here, the district court terminated mother’s parental rights pursuant to four statutory grounds: (1) under section 260C.301, subdivision 1(b)(2), because mother “substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties” imposed by the parent-child relationship; (2) under section 260C.301, subdivision 1(b)(5), because mother failed to correct the conditions leading to A.C.’s placement out of the home; (3) under section 260.C301, subdivision 1(b)(8), because A.C. was neglected and placed in foster care; and (4) under section 260C.301, subdivision 1(b)(7), because the father is not known, has not registered with the adoption registry, and is not entitled to notice. Only the first three statutory grounds are relevant to mother’s appeal. We review these three grounds taking into consideration mother’s claim that the evidence to terminate was insufficient.
Mother argues that there is insufficient evidence to support termination of her parental rights because (1) although she did a number of things wrong, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) should have looked into alternative programs and therapeutic services in northern Minnesota where mother moved; (2) she wants to be A.C.’s parent; (3) she completed two components of her case plan, namely a psychological and a parenting assessment; (4) she participated in therapy with a counselor at the juvenile detention center in Duluth and worked through her issues of sexual victimization; (5) the case plan was unreasonable; (6) she could have parented A.C. within the foreseeable future; and (7) the evidence does not support a finding that it is in A.C.’s best interests to terminate mother’s parental rights.
1. Failure to Comply with the Duties Imposed by the Parent-Child Relationship
Mother argues that there is insufficient evidence to support the court’s finding that she refused or neglected to comply with her parental duties. Parental rights may be terminated if the district court finds
that the parent has substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed upon that parent by the parent and child relationship, * * * and either reasonable efforts by the social services agency have failed to correct the conditions that formed the basis of the petition or reasonable efforts would be futile and therefore unreasonable.
Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) (2000).
As evidence of mother’s refusal or neglect to comply with her parental duties, the court documented mother’s failure to continue in treatment at Juvenile Horizons, her discharge from the program due to her own repetitive behavior of absenting the program, her minimal contacts with her social worker after running from the program, her failure to engage in parenting or visitation at Reubin Lindh, her failure to appear for her trial despite receipt of bus fare, her lack of responsibility for the consequences of her behavior, her continued juvenile delinquency behavior, and her failure to maintain regular visitation with A.C. The court specifically found that mother’s sporadic contacts with her social workers were insufficient to constitute either efforts to contact her child or efforts to develop her case plan. These findings are ample evidence of mother’s ambivalent commitment to parenting A.C.
In support of its findings, the court relied upon the progress reports offered into evidence, the testimony of the two child protection social workers, as well as mother’s own testimony, and specifically found the Juvenile Horizons’ discharge summary to be a credible assessment of mother’s condition at the time she left Juvenile Horizons as well as at the time of trial. See In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d at 396 (stating that appellate courts give considerable deference to the district court on issues of credibility because of its superior position to assess such issues).
Mother argues that the court erred in terminating her rights because she could parent A.C. within the foreseeable future. Mother testified that she would care for A.C. by obtaining vouchers from unnamed charitable organizations for clothes, a bed, and a stroller. She also testified that she would work her case plan and visit A.C. regularly in the future.
The court found that mother’s testimony of her intent to work to regain custody of her daughter was contradicted by her pattern of minimal contact with her social worker, and her repeated failure to engage in the parenting programs offered to her. The court also found that mother’s intent to rely on charitable organizations to meet A.C.’s needs was unrealistic. The court concluded that because mother was “unable and unwilling to place the needs of [A.C.] beyond or even at the level of her own needs and desires,” she is currently unable to function as a parent to A.C., and her habitual pattern of failing to follow through indicates she will be unable to do so in the foreseeable future.
A parent’s history can be a useful basis for projecting the parent’s likely conduct for the reasonably foreseeable future. In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 649 (Minn. 1995). Mother’s repeated inability to follow through with the services offered her, or even to stay in contact with her social worker, amply support a projection that she is not likely to change. See id., 535 N.W.2d at 648-50(affirming termination based on neglect when mother repeatedly refused services, attended visitation only sporadically, and exhibited volatile and aggressive manner in child’s presence).
As part of its analysis, the court acknowledged mother’s deep feelings toward A.C., but concluded that those feelings were insufficient to justify postponing terminating her parental rights in light of the services offered, and her failure to complete or participate fully in them. The court found the services offered to be appropriate and sufficient given mother’s immaturity and the significant challenges presented by her history.
Because there is ample evidence in the record to show that (a) mother substantially and repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with her parental duties; (b) reasonable efforts were made by the social services agency to correct the conditions that led to the out-of-home placement; and (c) mother is not amenable to change in the foreseeable future, the court’s findings and conclusions are not clearly erroneous.
2. Failure to Correct the Conditions Leading to the Child’s Placement
Parental rights may be terminated when
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).
A presumption exists that reasonable efforts have failed when (1) the child has resided out of the parental home under court order for six months, unless the parent has maintained regular contact with the child and is complying with the case plan; (2) a court-approved case plan has been filed; (3) conditions leading to the out-of-home placement have not been corrected; and (4) reasonable efforts have been made by the social services agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family. Id. It is presumed that the offending conditions have not been corrected upon a showing that the parent has not “substantially complied” with the court’s orders or the case plan. Id. “Reasonable efforts” at rehabilitation consist of services that “go beyond mere matters of form so as to include real, genuine assistance.” In re Welfare of H.K., 455 N.W.2d 529, 532 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. July 6, 1990).
Here, A.C. has been in foster care for over six months. The court’s finding that mother failed to maintain regular contact with A.C. is supported by the record: mother left Juvenile Horizons, moved from the metropolitan area where A.C. lived, failed to establish visitation via the Reuben Lindh agency when she was in the Minneapolis area, and failed to contact her social worker to make other visitation arrangements.
The record also supports the court’s finding that mother failed to comply with her court-ordered (and approved) case plan. Mother’s argument that her case plan was unreasonable because she had no home, no car, and no employment is unconvincing. Juvenile Horizons is a residential program, therefore food and shelter were provided. Transportation to medical appointments was provided. The program also provided mother with the opportunity to address her parenting skills, therapy, and high school educational needs. Because mother did not substantially comply with her case plan, the offending conditions are presumed not to have been corrected. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5)(iii) (2000).
Mother argues that because she completed two components of her case plan requirements, there is insufficient evidence to terminate her parental rights. While it is true that mother completed the parenting assessment and the psychological evaluation required by her case plan, she failed to follow through on what those assessments recommended. The assessments are only the starting point; they do not lead to the correction of the conditions that led to the out-of-home placement unless mother participates in the programs to correct the existing deficiencies that will enable her to appropriately parent A.C. Moreover, the record is devoid of any report that mother’s parenting skills had improved. See In re Welfare of Children of Coats, 633 N.W.2d 505, 511 (Minn. 2001) (upholding default judgment terminating mother’s parental rights where mother attended hearings but did not undertake the “hard work necessary to correct the conditions resulting in the children’s out-of-home placement”). Indeed, the Juvenile Horizons report indicated that over time, the staff grew more concerned with mother’s ability to parent A.C.
Mother points to her therapeutic relationship with a counselor at the juvenile detention center in Duluth as evidence that she has worked through her issues of sexual victimization. While laudable, mother presented no evidence that the counselor was aware of mother’s case plan or whether the therapy addressed the impact her history of sexual victimization would have on her ability to parent A.C. And even if mother had shown improvement, it would not be enough to overcome the conclusion that mother’s past conduct makes her future performance as a parent uncertain. See In re the Welfare of Maas, 355 N.W.2d 480, 483 (Minn. App. 1984) (stating that poor track record establishes prospect that parent will not improve in future).
The record contains substantial evidence that reasonable efforts were made by the county to rehabilitate and reunite mother with A.C. but that mother generally rebuffed the county’s efforts and services, thereby precluding the correction of the conditions they were designed to meet. Thus, we conclude that the district court’s findings on this statutory factor are not clearly erroneous.
3. Neglect of A.C. and Foster Care
Section 260C.301, subdivision 1(b)(8), allows termination when the child is “neglected and in foster care,” meaning a child
(a) Who has been placed in foster care by court order; and
(b) Whose parents’ circumstances, condition, or conduct are such that the child cannot be returned to them; and
(c) Whose parents, despite the availability of needed rehabilitative services, have failed to make reasonable efforts to adjust their circumstances, condition or conduct, or have willfully failed to meet reasonable expectations with regard to visiting the child or providing financial support for the child.
Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 18 (2000).
These conditions have been met. First, it is undisputed that A.C. was placed in foster care by court order. Second, the record supports the court’s finding as to mother’s circumstances. Mother’s repeated failure to engage in parenting programs, her history of juvenile delinquency, including arrests and incarceration, interfere with her ability to provide proper parental care to A.C. The record contains no evidence that mother has corrected any of the conditions that led to the out-of-home placement of A.C. such that A.C. could be returned to her. Third, the district court record contains numerous instances of mother’s refusal to adjust her circumstances and conduct—or even to learn how to appropriately care for A.C. As previously noted, social services made several attempts to give mother the opportunity to educate and rehabilitate herself, yet she refused to follow through. Moreover, mother failed to maintain or even to seek regular visitation with A.C., even when she was not incarcerated. We therefore conclude that the district court did not err in finding these statutory criteria were met by clear and convincing evidence.
B. Best-Interests Test
Mother also argues that the county failed to prove by clear-and-convincing evidence that termination was in A.C. best interests. Even if one or more of the statutory criteria for termination are met, parental rights cannot be terminated unless it is in a child’s best interests to do so. In re Welfare of M.P., 542 N.W.2d 71, 74 (Minn. App. 1996). Three factors determine the best interests of the child: (1) the child’s interest in maintaining the parent-child relationship; (2) the parent’s interest in maintaining the parent-child relationship; and (3) any competing interests of the child. In re Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Minn. App. 1992). Competing interests include such things as a stable environment, health considerations, and the child’s preferences. Id. “During this balancing process, the interests of the parent and child are not necessarily given equal weight.” Id. (Citation omitted).
Mother argues that the best-interests analysis by the court considered only that termination would permit permanent placement or adoption by the current foster parent. The record does not support mother’s argument; the court clearly considered many factors in making its determination that it was in A.C.’s best interests that mother’s parental rights be terminated.
The district court found that A.C. needed and was entitled to permanent placement, and that despite mother’s expressed desire to have custody of A.C., the child’s interests would be best served by terminating parental rights and allowing her to be placed permanently in an adoptive home. The court heard testimony that the foster parents were interested in adopting A.C. and that A.C. had formed an attachment to her foster parents. But regardless of the testimony relating to the adoptability of A.C., the record reveals that the district court did not unduly emphasize this testimony in rendering its decision.
The court considered mother’s interest in parenting A.C., but found that mother was unwilling or unable to comply with the case plan and to correct the conditions that led to A.C.’s foster placement in the reasonably foreseeable future. The court considered mother’s testimony that she would now be willing to complete a parenting program. The social worker testified that a program comparable to Juvenile Horizons would run six months to a year in length. Given mother’s negative track record and A.C.’s need for permanency, the court determined that it was not in A.C.’s best interests to wait another year to see if mother would be successful.
Where the conditions of neglect and dependency will continue for an indefinite, prolonged period of time, the child’s immediate need for a stable and permanent home may outweigh the mother’s desire to provide a future home. In re Welfare of Udstuen, 349 N.W.2d 300, 304-05 (Minn. App. 1984). Moreover, Minnesota statutes require a permanency determination within six months for children under the age of eight (unless mother is in substantial compliance with her case plan). Minn. Stat. §§ 260C.201, subd. 11a (Supp. 2001); 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5)(i) (2000).
In making its determination, the district court noted that both A.C.’s social worker and guardian ad litem testified that termination was in A.C.’s best interests and specifically found their testimony to be credible. The court also reviewed mother’s history of juvenile delinquency, anger management, aggressive behavior, and the relatively few steps that mother had taken by the time of the hearing to address these problems. The court balanced mother’s desire to be a parent to A.C. against A.C.’s immediate needs and reasonably concluded that mother’s parental rights should be terminated. Because there is substantial evidence in the record to show that it is in A.C.’s best interests to terminate mother’s parental rights, we conclude that the district court did not err in so doing.
C. Evidentiary Errors
Mother also argues that the district court erred in admitting hearsay and opinion evidence without foundation from the two social workers and from the guardian ad litem. These individuals each testified that termination was in A.C.’s best interests because mother did not have the skills necessary to care for A.C.’s special needs, either at the time of trial or in the foreseeable future.
Mother concedes that these alleged evidentiary errors were not preserved by objection at trial. A failure to preserve objections at the trial level generally waives those issues on review. Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988). This rule applies to cases concerning the termination of parental rights. In re Welfare of Children of Coats, 633 N.W.2d 505, 512 (Minn. 2001). Mother also concedes that they were not the subject of her new trial motion.
[T]he general rule [is] that matters such as trial procedure [and] 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.
Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200, 201 (Minn. 1986). Mother asks this court to address the evidentiary rulings in the interests of justice. We will do so. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.04 (stating this court has discretion to address any issue as justice requires).
A decision on the sufficiency of the foundation for evidence is within the sound discretion of the district court and will only be reversed upon an abuse of that discretion. McKay’s Family Dodge v. Hardrives, Inc., 480 N.W.2d 141, 147 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Mar. 26, 1992). Here, the court had statutory authority to consider the testimony:
Before * * * terminating parental rights, * * * the court may consider any report or recommendation made by the responsible social services agency, * * *, guardian ad litem, * * *, or other authorized advocate for the child or child’s family, * * *, or any other information deemed material by the court.
Minn. Stat. § 260C.193, subd. 2 (Supp. 2001). Further, Minn. R. Evid. 701 provides that lay witness opinion testimony is admissible if it is rationally based on the witness’s perception and helpful to the determination of a fact in issue.
The social workers who testified at the termination hearing were employed by DCFS and Hennepin County, and their recommendations (as well as the guardian ad litem’s recommendations) represented those of the “responsible social services agency” under Minn. Stat. § 260C.193, subd. 2. Thus, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting their testimony.
Mother also argues that the court erroneously admitted reports from Reuben Lindh and Juvenile Horizons offered by DCFS without any foundation that they were business records. These exhibits were admitted into evidence without objection. Because Minn. Stat. § 260C.193, subd. 2, provides the district court with statutory authority to consider such reports, the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting them into evidence.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 Minnesota statutes require permanency hearings within six months following the child’s out-of-home placement when the child is under eight years of age. See Minn. Stat. §§ 260C.201, subd. 11a (Supp. 2001); 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5)(i) (2000). The court may continue the matter for an additional six months only if mother is complying with her case plan and the child would benefit from reunification. Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11a (c)(ii) (Supp. 2001).
 A letter from the counselor mother worked with was the subject of mother’s new trial motion. The district court declined to admit the letter as “newly discovered evidence” because mother knew of the letter, its contents, and the identity of the author at the time of trial. Mother does not appeal the district court’s determination. Because the letter was not admitted into evidence, it is not a part of the record on appeal. “An appellate court may not base its decision on matters outside the record on appeal” and may consider only matters “produced and received in evidence below.” Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582-83 (Minn. 1988).