This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of Shannon Meyer.
Blue Earth County District Court
File No. J50150768
Kenneth R. White, Law Office of Kenneth R. White, 325 South Broad Street, Suite 203, Mankato, MN 56001 (for appellant Shannon Meyer)
Ross E. Arneson, Blue Earth County Attorney, Mark A. Lindahl, Assistant County Attorney, P.O. Box 3129, 410 South Fifth Street Mankato, MN 56002-3129 (for respondent Blue Earth County)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge, Minge, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*
In this termination of parental rights proceeding, appellant mother argues that (a) the findings the district court made are not supported by the record; (b) the district court’s findings do not support its conclusions that mother failed to abide by the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship, that she was a palpably unfit parent, and that she failed to correct the conditions leading to the children’s out-of-home placement; and (c) the county did not make “reasonable efforts” to reunite her with her children. Because the record supports the district court’s determination that appellant is palpably unfit, we affirm the termination of her parental rights.
Appellant Shannon Meyer is the mother of five children. Appellant’s three older children do not live with her; they were placed in the custody of relatives in 1995 and 1999. The children involved in this case are her two youngest children, T.J.N. and B.L.M. T.J.N. is four years old, and B.L.M. is 19 months old.
In December 2000, Blue Earth County Child Protection started receiving reports that appellant was physically abusing and neglecting T.J.N. and B.L.M. In December 2001, a CHIPS petition was filed. The petition stated that when detectives went to appellant’s home, they noticed that the house was dirty with rotting food on the counters and on the floor. The detectives also reported that the children were “lethargic and unresponsive.” The petition alleged that upon the removal of the children from the home, it was discovered that T.J.N. had an ear infection and strep throat that had progressed to the early stages of scarlet fever. T.J.N. also had a rash in his genital area that was peeling and had been there for a long period of time.
At a December 9, 2001 hearing, one paragraph of the CHIPS petition was dismissed, and appellant admitted to the rest of the allegations in the CHIPS petition. On January 17, 2002, appellant signed a case plan for each child. The two plans were identical and had four major areas of concern to be addressed. In addition, each of the four areas of concern listed specific tasks to be accomplished in the furtherance of the goal.
After concluding appellant had not met the majority of the goals in her case plan, the county filed a petition seeking to terminate appellant’s parental rights. After a trial, the district court terminated appellant’s parental rights in October 2002.
“Parental rights are terminated only for grave and weighty reasons.” In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted). The child’s best interests are the “paramount consideration in every termination case.” Id.; Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 (2002). There is a presumption that the natural parent is suitable to be entrusted with the care of his or her child and that it is in the child’s best interests to be in the natural parent’s care. In re Welfare of Clausen, 289 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 1980). The party petitioning for termination must prove at least one of the statutory grounds by clear and convincing evidence. In re Welfare of J.S., 470 N.W.2d 697, 701 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. July 24, 1991).
Reviewing courts determine whether the district court’s termination findings address the statutory criteria, are supported by substantial evidence, or are clearly erroneous. In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980). Although some deference is given to the trial court’s findings, appellate courts exercise great caution and “closely inquire into the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether the evidence is clear and convincing.” In re Welfare of A.H., 402 N.W.2d 598, 603 (Minn. App. 1987) (quotation omitted). However, this court does not overturn a district court’s findings of fact unless those findings are clearly erroneous in light of the requirement for clear and convincing evidence. See In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 648 (Minn. 1995).
Appellant argues that the evidence does not support the district court’s findings and that the district court’s findings do not support its conclusions, including the conclusion that she is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship.
Minnesota law provides that parental rights may be terminated upon a showing
that a parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship because of a consistent pattern of specific conduct before the child or of specific conditions directly relating to the parent and child relationship either of which are determined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders the parent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the ongoing physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child. It is presumed that a parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship upon a showing that the parent’s parental rights to one or more other children were involuntarily terminated or that the parent’s custodial rights to another child have been involuntarily transferred to a relative under section 260C.201, subdivision 11, paragraph (e), clause (1), or a similar law of another jurisdiction.
Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) (2002).
The burden is on the county to prove a consistent pattern of specific conduct or specific conditions existing at the time of the hearingthat will continue for a prolonged, indefinite period and that are permanently detrimental to the welfare of the child. M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d at 377. The county must prove not only that the parent is not and cannot be rehabilitated in the foreseeable future, but also that the lack of rehabilitation is permanently detrimental to the children’s welfare. Id. at 378.
The district court did not make clear findings addressing the statutory criteria on whether appellant is palpably unfit to be a parent. Absent such findings, we would normally conclude that the district court’s conclusion was deficient and remand. See, e.g., In re Welfare of M.M., 452 N.W.2d 236, 239 (Minn. 1990). But the record in this case is replete with evidence that appellant has a history of severe problems in parenting her children, that conditions existing at the time of the hearing will continue for a prolonged, indefinite period, and that those conditions are permanently detrimental to the welfare of the children. Cf. In re Welfare of D.J.N., 568 N.W.2d 170 (Minn. App. 1989) (refusing to reverse termination of parental rights for harmless error).
Telling evidence of appellant’s history of unfitness is her loss of custody of her three older children. Pursuant to a 1995 Kanabec County order and a 1999 Ramsey County order, these children are in the custody of relatives. In those cases, relatives petitioned the court for custody. Respondent argues that this constituted involuntary placement of those children such that appellant should be presumed to be palpably unfit under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4). Although those proceedings indicate appellant had failed in her responsibility as a parent, the record in this case does not indicate that the 1995 and 1999 custody determinations were involuntary or made pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11(d)(1) (Supp. 2001). Thus, we simply view the circumstances of those cases as evidence that appellant is unable to meet the needs of her children.
The record establishes that appellant has engaged in a pattern of conduct where she places her own needs before the needs of her children. One example of this behavior is appellant punching herself in the stomach in an attempt to induce labor even after her doctor told her there was no medical reason to induce labor at 36 weeks. Another example is that although appellant’s son has difficulty communicating and relies on sign language, in the words of the guardian ad litem, appellant was not “following through with the skills being taught to help [her son] communicate his wants and needs. Usually [he] runs and yells.” In a parenting assessment completed in December 2001 and January 2002, Dr. Susan Siegfried, a consulting psychologist, concluded that “it is unlikely even with intervention [that appellant] will change.” Dr. Siegfried went on to note her belief that it was unlikely that appellant would change regarding her ability or inability to care for her children. The testimony from the hearing in this proceeding establishes that the conditions noted by Dr. Siegfried continued to exist at the time of the hearing. Kathy Kopka, appellant’s case manager from Blue Earth County social services, testified at the termination hearing, giving several examples of how appellant was failing to meet her needs or the needs of her children and concluded that appellant cannot, now or in the future, meet such needs.
Sylvia Kubicek, the guardian ad litem, submitted a report from April 2002 noting the reunification efforts by the county and stating that “the missing component seems to be [appellant’s] inability or unwillingness to make the necessary changes needed for successful parenting.” In May 2002, Kubicek noted that appellant
does not seem to realize that some of the decisions she has made in her personal life really do impact her children. She still seems unwilling or unable to make the choices that are in her children’s best interests.
In August 2002, Kubicek recommended termination of appellant’s parental rights. Kubicek’s testimony at the termination hearing was consistent with her earlier reports; she gave examples of appellant’s behavior and concluded that appellant is not capable of parenting her children.
Our review of the record leads us to conclude that the district court had ample basis for concluding that there is clear and convincing evidence that appellant is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship. Since the record clearly and convincingly supports the district court’s determination that appellant’s parental rights to T.J.N. and B.L.M. should be terminated on the ground that she is palpably unfit, we do not consider other grounds for termination of such rights.
Appellant also challenges the district court’s determination that the county provided reasonable reunification efforts. Appellant’s argument is based on the county’s alleged failure to provide reasonable efforts to help her improve the condition of her home and the county’s alleged failure to provide reasonable efforts to help her obtain appropriate mental health care and treatment. Because the district court found that appellant improved the condition of her home enough to meet that portion of the case plan, appellant’s argument in that regard is moot. Thus, we only address appellant’s argument that the county did not provide reasonable efforts to help her improve her mental health.
“Reasonable efforts” are defined as the exercise of due diligence by the agency to use appropriate and available services to meet the needs of the child and the child’s family. Minn. Stat. § 260.012(b) (2002). At a minimum, reasonable efforts require the county “to provide those services that would assist in alleviating the conditions leading to the determination of dependency.” In re Welfare of M.A. and J.A., 408 N.W.2d 227, 235-36 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Sept. 18, 1987). The social-service agency has the burden of demonstrating that it has made reasonable efforts or that the provision of services would be futile. Id. Whether the county has met its duty of reasonable efforts requires consideration of the length of time the county was involved and the quality of the effort. In re Welfare of A.R.G.-B., 551 N.W.2d 256, 263 (Minn. App. 1996).
In this case, the county’s involvement goes back to December 2000, when it initially received reports that appellant was abusing her children. The county attempted to assist appellant in identifying her mental health issues and seeking therapy for those issues. These efforts were unavailing. Although the specific type of therapy recommended to appellant was not available in appellant’s area, the county provided appellant with names of therapists who could provide equivalent therapy and prompted her to contact the therapists who could help her. However, appellant failed to follow through with the therapy. We conclude that the district court’s determination that the county made reasonable efforts is supported by clear and convincing evidence.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) (2002) actually references Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11(e)(1). But Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11 was amended in 2001. The content of paragraph (e) was moved to paragraph (d) of subdivision 11. The reference in Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) was not changed to reflect the amendment. Mindful of Minn. Stat. §§ 645.16, .17 (2002), we conclude that the intent of the legislature is for Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) to reference Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11(d)(1), and we analyze this case accordingly.