This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A03-674

 

In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of

J.S. and D.L.P.

 

Filed January 27, 2004

Affirmed

Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge

 

St. Louis District Court

File No. J3-02-651088

 

 

 

Mark C. Jennings, 509 Board of Trade Building, 301 West First Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (for appellant J.S.)

 

Joanne Vavrosky, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney, 403 Government Service Center, 320 West Second Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (for St. Louis County)

 

Lawrence B. Stauber, Jr., 1011 East Central Entrance, Duluth, MN 55811 (for D.L.P.)

 

E. J. Anderson-Dahl, 313 Missabe Building, 227 West First Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (guardian ad litem)

 

            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Schumacher, Judge.

 

 

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

 

GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge

 

On appeal from a termination-of-parental-rights proceeding, appellant J.S. argues that the record lacks clear and convincing evidence that (a) J.S. is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship; (b) reasonable efforts have failed to correct the conditions leading to the child’s placement; and (c) the child is neglected and in foster care.  Because the record shows clear and convincing evidence that supports the district court’s findings, we affirm.

FACTS

Appellant J.S. gave birth to I.T. on November 23, 2001.  J.S. has a history of mental illness, including diagnoses of opposition-defiant disorder, psychotic disorder, dysthymic disorder, conduct disorder, and major depressive disorder.  J.S. and the father of I.T. have a documented history of a violent relationship that includes mutual orders for protection (OFP) against each other. 

J.S.’s history of housing arrangements includes eviction from her apartment, living with I.T.’s father at times when an OFP was in place, and living with her father against whom J.S.’s mother has an OFP in place.  J.S.’s employment is inconsistent and she is frequently unemployed, including at the time of the TPR hearing. 

A CHIPS petition concerning I.T. was filed on February 19, 2002.  I.T. has been in out-of-home placement since February 14, 2002.  I.T.’s father filed a petition to voluntarily terminate his parental rights, and a decision on his petition was pending at the time of the order terminating J.S.’s parental rights. 

On April 4, 2003, the district court ordered that J.S.’s parental rights be terminated on three different statutory grounds.  After the order for termination, an appeal was filed with this court on June 9, 2003.  This court dismissed the appeal as untimely.  On review, the supreme court ordered the appeal reinstated and remanded to this court.  This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

 

J.S. argues that the district court erred in terminating her parental rights under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) (parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent–child relationship); 1(b)(5) (reasonable efforts have failed to correct conditions leading to child’s out-of-home placement); and 1(b)(8) (2002) (child is neglected and in foster care) because the evidence is not clear and convincing and it is not in the best interests of the child to terminate her mother’s parental rights.

On review of a district court’s findings in a termination-of-parental-rights 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).  Findings are clearly erroneous if the reviewing court is “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.”  Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987).  The “paramount consideration” in every termination case is the child’s best interests.  Minn. Stat. § 260.301, subd. (7) (2002).  However, the best interests of a child may not be the sole basis for termination.  In re Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Minn. App. 1992). 

            The district court terminated J.S.’s rights under three different provisions of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (2002).  A district court may terminate parental rights if it finds at least one of the nine statutory criteria for termination exists.  Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (2002).  Because the district court may terminate parental rights if its findings satisfy only one of the nine statutory provisions that permit termination, we review only the district court’s determinations under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4).

Statutory Grounds for Termination

a.         “Palpably Unfit”

            Under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4), the district court may terminate all rights of a parent if it finds

[t]hat 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. 

 

Chronic mental illness that results in conduct detrimental to a child is a proper basis for a finding of palpable unfitness under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4).  In re Welfare of S.Z., 536 N.W.2d 37, 39 (Minn. App. 1995), aff’d, 547 N.W.2d 886 (Minn. 1996). 

The evidence in the record includes a social worker’s report, a psychological evaluation, information from the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and J.S.’s testimony.  The district court made extensive findings that address the statutory criteria of Minn. Stat. §260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4), including that J.S. (1) has a long history of mental illness, including diagnoses of opposition-defiant disorder, psychotic disorder, dysthymic disorder, conduct disorder, and elements of major depressive disorder; (2) filed multiple petitions for and was granted orders for protection from I.T.’s father for herself and I.T., but that she continues to associate and, at times, live with I.T.’s father in violation of the OFPs; (3) continues to fail to secure proper housing for herself and I.T.; and (4) continues to fail to secure employment, specifically holding no job longer than three months and not being employed since August 2002.

The record shows that J.S. underwent two psychological evaluations conducted by Dr. Carolyn Phelps, most recently on June 6, 2002.  Dr. Phelps’s report states that J.S. answered the questions on the MMPI and the MCMI-III test in such a manner as “to place herself in an unrealistically virtuous light,” and her answers

are defensive, lack insight, exhibit little awareness regarding the impact of their behavior on others, deny the existence of psychological problems, and exhibit a poor tolerance for stress and pressure.  In fact, this profile describes [J.S.] exquisitely, [and she] continues to portray an overinflated image of herself, does not acknowledge even normal levels of distress, and does not consider herself responsible for any consequences she incurs.  Most remarkably was the similarity of this profile to the October 2000 test administration, yielding no meaningful change over time.

 

Dr. Phelps concluded that J.S.’s “oppositional behavior; overappraisal of herself; failure to accept personal responsibility; failure to accept appropriate feedback; and failure to place her child’s needs ahead of her own, together are such that she is no more likely to provide safe, adequate and appropriate care for [I.T.] now than when he was initially removed from her care.”

            Additionally, the social worker’s report of November 22, 2002, states that J.S. (1) “continues to have difficulties and continues to place herself in a deeper hole,” (2) was successfully sued by a landlord for $2,439 and that “[t]his makes it very difficult for [J.S.] to find housing,” and (3) was “oppositional,” “currently does not work,” and “had difficulties being responsible and being on time for visits with [I.T.]”

            The record also shows the following OFP history: on March 21, 2001, J.S. filed for a protective order against I.T.’s father, but failed to appear for the hearing; on April 23, 2001, she filed again and this time an OFP was granted; on December 17, 2001, she filed to amend the OFP to allow couples’ counseling, but the motion was dismissed when she did not appear for the hearing; on March 1, 2002, she re-filed the motion and the motion was granted; on May 3, 2002, she filed a motion to amend the OFP so as to restore it to a full OFP, alleging I.T.’s father had assaulted her.  This motion was dismissed when she failed to appear for the hearing; she again filed the motion and the full OFP was reinstated on May 21, 2002. 

On April 30, 2002, I.T.’s father filed for an OFP against J.S. and his petition was granted.  Although not clear on this record, it appears that at the time of the TPR hearing the OFPs both against and in protection of J.S. remained in effect.  On December 30, 2002, J.S. filed an OFP on behalf of I.T., although I.T. was in the custody of social services in a placement approved by the district court.

            J.S. concedes in her brief that she (1) “is still exploring options as to housing resources”; (2) has a judgment against her with respect to her lease agreement; (3) was evicted, but contends that the “judgment against her is a mistake”; and (4) moved in with her father while her mother has a protective order against her father that is “renewed every year because there was abuse, a lot of verbal and physical abuse.”  

J.S. also concedes in her brief that she left “her job at McDonalds’ because a co-worker was having an affair with [I.T.’s father] and he would drop her off at work” and that she left “the job at Subway because [I.T.’s father] walked by a couple of times when she was working.”  She contends in her brief that she testified that she left these jobs “for safety reasons.”  J.S. also asserts that she testified that “her only source of income is MFIP and that if she wasn’t pregnant she would have no income.” 

There is substantial evidence in the record of J.S.’s mental illness, inability to find and keep a suitable place to live and raise a child, and inability to find and keep a job.  Thus, we conclude that the district court’s findings are not clearly erroneous.

Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4), provides that a finding of palpable unfitness is sufficient to terminate parental rights.  Chronic mental illness that results in conduct detrimental to a child is a proper basis for a finding of palpable unfitness under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4).  S.Z., 536 N.W.2d at 39.  Because J.S.’s mental health and behaviors with respect to her housing, orders for protection, and employment would endanger I.T. and place the child at an extremely high risk of neglect or abuse, the findings address the statutory criteria and the district court’s conclusion that J.S. is palpably unfit is not erroneous.

Because only one statutory basis must exist to support termination; and because the findings are not clearly erroneous and adequately address the statutory criteria of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301(b)(4), we conclude that the district court did not err in terminating J.S.’s parental rights to I.T. and affirm.  In addition, J.S. makes no legal argument challenging the district court’s best-interests-of-the-child analysis, and the findings appear to adequately address the other grounds for termination under the provisions of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5), (8).

            Affirmed.