This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).







In the Matter of the Welfare of:



Filed March 18, 2003

Reversed and remanded

Stoneburner, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. J20254755


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael K. Walz, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent State)


Leonardo Castro, Fourth District Public Defender, David P. Murrin, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 200, 317 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant M.A.T.)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



            M.A.T. was adjudicated delinquent after she admitted committing misdemeanor domestic assault and was committed to the Hennepin County Home School ten-month Female Offender Program.  M.A.T. challenges the disposition because the juvenile court failed to make required written findings and because other less-restrictive alternatives were available.  Because the juvenile court failed to make required written findings, we reverse and remand.



            M.A.T. is a 17-year-old girl with a long history of mental-health and behavioral problems.  She was charged with fifth-degree domestic assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 1.  M.A.T. admitted to the misdemeanor charge of fifth-degree assault and was placed in a group home pending disposition. 

            M.A.T. was evaluated by a licensed psychologist, who recommended that she continue to reside in a group home setting that could provide “considerable structure and supervision.”  The psychologist concluded that it was not clinically advisable for appellant to live with her mother at the time of disposition.  A pre-sentence investigation report recommended, and the probation officer supervisor concurred, that appellant be placed at St. Croix camp with a mental-health follow-up, possibly at a residential treatment center.  But at the disposition hearing, the probation officer changed his recommendation to placement in the Female Offender Program at the Hennepin County Home School.  The state joined in this recommendation based on M.A.T’s poor performance at the group home.  M.A.T.’s mother advocated for a program that would provide school and more safety than the group home had provided.  Although the record reflects that a lengthy in-chambers discussion occurred prior to the disposition hearing, there is no record of this discussion.  The juvenile court’s disposition order briefly discusses the recommendations of the probation officer, state, M.A.T., and M.A.T.’s mother, but there is only one finding in the order:

* * * that a commitment to the County Home School eight (8) month Female Offender Program is the least restrictive means of returning [M.A.T.] to law-abiding behavior at this time.


            M.A.T. was adjudicated delinquent and committed to the Hennepin County Home School for the Female Offender Program.[1]  This appeal followed.


            A district court ordering out-of-home placement is required to make findings of fact that show: (1) why public safety is served by the disposition; (2) why the best interests of the child are served by the disposition; (3) what alternative dispositions were proposed to the court and why such recommendations were not ordered; (4) why the child’s present custody is not acceptable; and (5) how the correctional placement meets the child’s needs.  Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05 subd. 2(a);  In re Welfare of C.A.W., 579 N.W.2d 494, 497-98 (Minn. App. 1998).  Written findings are essential to meaningful appellate review.  In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 401 (Minn. App. 1985).  Findings are also required to show that the district court considered vital standards and to enable the parties to understand the court’s decision.  Id. at 400-01. 

This court has repeatedly emphasized the importance of findings, holding that inadequate juvenile-disposition findings constitute reversible error.  See In re Welfare of J.S.S., 610 N.W.2d 364, 368 (Minn. App. 2000) (reversing for failure to make sufficient statutorily required written findings of fact); C.A.W., 579 N.W.2d at 499 (reversing where district court’s findings did not address the factors necessary to justify out-of-home placement); In re Welfare of M.A.C.,455 N.W.2d 494, 499 (Minn. App. 1990) (explaining that the failure to make statutorily required written findings warrants reversal); L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d at 400-01 (holding insufficient findings are an independent basis for reversal).

            Although the lengthy in-chambers discussion prior to disposition implies that the district court seriously considered the necessary factors, neither the record nor the written order reflects such consideration.  A recitation of the parties’ positions does not satisfy the requirements of written findings to support a disposition.  The single written finding is conclusory and does not discuss public safety, appellant’s best interests, or alternative dispositions and why they were not ordered. 

This court is troubled by the number of cases, such as this one, in which the juvenile court has, by implication, apparently considered the relevant factors and alternatives, but has failed to make written findings required by statute and rule to support a juvenile disposition. We urge the juvenile court and parties to juvenile proceedings to place disposition discussions and oral findings on the record and to, at a minimum, transcribe and incorporate findings made on the record into the disposition orders. The statute, rule, and case law leave us no alternative in this case but to reverse and remand for disposition in accordance with law.

            Reversed and remanded.


[1] When the district court was later informed that the Female Offender Program is a ten-month program, the order was amended to reflect the actual length of the program.