This opinion will be unpublished and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
In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Ramsey County Court
File No. J4-01-552482
George Rapaich, 325 Cedar Street, Suite 300, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant S.S.)
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Heather McCleery, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 560, St. Paul, MN 55102; and
Margaret L. Gustafson, Baker Court, Suite 305, 821 Raymond Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55114 (for Ramsey County)
Paul Bergstrom, 25 West Seventh Street, St. Paul, 55102 (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Schumacher, Judge.
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
On appeal from a termination of parental rights proceeding, appellant S.S. argues that the record lacks clear and convincing evidence to support the district court’s findings that (a) she refused to abide by the duties of the parent-child relationship; (b) she is a palpably unfit parent; (c) reasonable efforts to correct the reasons for the child’s out-of-home placement have failed; and (d) 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.
Appellant S.S. gave birth to M.A.S. on September 11, 2001. M.A.S. was born with the genetic condition known as Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and is mentally retarded. M.A.S. also has a congenital heart defect. S.S. has also been diagnosed as having mild mental retardation. Before the birth of M.A.S., S.S. gave birth to another child, S.S.A., who also has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.
M.A. is the biological father of both M.A.S. and S.S.A., and his parental rights to both children have been involuntarily terminated. S.S. voluntarily terminated her rights to S.S.A. on May 8, 2002.
On October 15, 2001, M.A.S. was placed in foster care because S.S. was living with M.A.S. in a van. On March 7, 2002, Ramsey County Community Human Service Department (RCCHSD) filed a Termination of Parental Rights petition and a case plan was established providing specific requirements for S.S. to follow. On August 6, 2002, M.A.S. was adjudicated CHIPS. At the TPR trial, the district court ordered the termination of S.S.’s parental rights to M.A.S. under four different provisions of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (2002), as discussed below. S.S. appealed.
D E C I S I O N
S.S. argues that the facts are insufficient to “clearly mandate” the termination of her rights to M.A.S. under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) (refusing or neglecting to comply with parental duties); 1(b)(4) (parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship); 1(b)(5) (reasonable efforts have failed); 1(b)(8) (2002) (child is neglected and in foster care), the provisions upon which the district court relied.
On review of a district court’s findings in a termination of parental rights case, 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 NW.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987). The “paramount consideration” in every termination case is the child’s best interests. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. (7) (2002). However, the best interests of a child may not be the sole basis for termination. The petitioner must show sufficient evidence that specific statutory grounds exist for termination. In re Welfare of Solomon, 291 N.W.2d 364, 367 n.4 (1980).
The district court terminated S.S.’s parental rights under four different provisions of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (2002), and S.S. challenges the district court on all four grounds. A district court may terminate parental rights if it finds that at least one of the nine statutory criteria for termination exists. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b); In re Children of Vasquez, 658 N.W.2d 249, 253 (Minn. App. 2003). Because the district court need make appropriate findings under only one of the nine statutory provisions, we review only the district court’s determinations under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2).
Statutory Grounds for Termination
a. “Refusing or Neglecting to Comply with Parental Duties” Provision
Under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), the district court may terminate all rights of a parent if it 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, including but not limited to providing the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, and other care and control necessary for the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and development, if the parent is physically and financially able, 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.
The record supports the court’s extensive findings that S.S. has substantially, continuously, or repeatedly neglected her parental duties. The court specifically found that (1) M.A.S. has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome and a congenital heart defect, which requires care and supervision by a pediatric cardiologist, and that “[t]hese health issues mean that [M.A.S.] needs to live in a safe and stable home environment under the care of attentive, able, consistent, observant care providers who can monitor his condition and progress, and keep him on schedule with appointments with his physicians . . . and therapists”; (2) M.A.S.’s “need for extraordinary care is likely to increase over time because of the health issues”; (3) that S.S. was diagnosed with Mild Mental Retardation”; (4) S.S.’s psychological evaluation shows “she was unaware of the reason [M.A.S.] was removed from her care. She showed no comprehension of her parenting deficits . . . [and] that she saw the removal of [M.A.S.] from her care as ‘some kind of plot’ against her,” and that she “seems unaware or unable to acknowledge her own intellectual limitations”; (5) S.S.
missed many appointments and was late for others: in December, 2001, she failed two appointments scheduled by RCCHSD for psychological evaluation at UCare; on May 16, 2002, she was 20 minutes late for an appointment, … [o]n June 18, 2002, she failed to attend an appointment she scheduled for herself at Model cities for therapy; and she failed to appear for at least five visits scheduled by RCCHSD for [S.S.] to spend time with her son[;]
(6) during a supervised visit with M.A.S., S.S. wrote on the chalkboard “God will get you people for this”; (7) during several visits with her son, “[S.S.] failed to pay attention to [M.A.S.] during his feedings”; (8) S.S. “attended approximately 80% of the [Family Strengths Program] sessions but displayed inconsistent involvement and was reluctant to be verbally involved in group sessions”; (9) “[S.S.] lives in a one-bedroom apartment with [M.A.], the father of [M.A.S.]” and that “[t]his residential arrangement is not a safe or stable one for [M.A.S.]” as the parental rights of M.A. to M.A.S. were terminated involuntarily after trial; (10) “[S.S.] has shown no interest in moving out of the apartment that she shares with [M.A.] nor does she show any interest in ending her relationship with him . . . . [and that S.S.] fails to understand why [M.A.S.] should not live with or be around M.A.; (11) “[S.S.] was involved with Project Remand for diversion for the charge of offering a forged check” and will face felony charges if she does not complete community service and pay a fine, and “[a]t the time of trial, [S.S. had] not completed her community service nor paid the fine”; and (12) that “[S.S.] is not employed at present” and “she relies upon [M.A.] to assist her to meet her financial needs.”
The record also shows that S.S. did not follow the recommendations of Dr. Frayda Rosen based on her parenting/psychological evaluation. Specifically Dr. Rosen stated (1) she “did not feel that [S.S.] really understood what we were trying to say and basically denied a lot of these things and became angry”; (2) she does not believe that “[S.S.] was able to parent her child independently at [the] time or the reasonably foreseeable future”; (3) she maintained her opinion “despite reports that the actual interactions between [M.A.S.] and his mother has actually improved in the last few months”; (4) S.S. failed to make sufficient progress in her parenting skills so that M.A.S. could be returned to reside with her; and (5) S.S. fails to understand that M.A.S. is delayed in development. In addition, the social worker testified that (1) part of the case plan was that S.S. needed to maintain and obtain appropriate and stable housing for herself and M.A.S. and that S.S. has “been homeless approximately from the time [M.A.S.] was born until a year later”; (2) the current living arrangement is not a safe and stable place for S.S. or M.A.S. in part because “[S.S.] has called . . . stating that she was afraid, and there had been some physical confrontations” causing her to ask for someone to “pick her up and take her out of the home”; and (3) S.S. has not take any active steps to remove herself from this relationship.
b. Reasonable Efforts
The record supports the district court’s findings and conclusion that RCCHSD made reasonable efforts to correct the conditions at issue when
[n]umerous appropriate and available services have been offered and/or provided to [S.S.], over the three (3) years that the RCCHSD has been involved with the family. These services include the following: various housing agencies, including Project Hope, Dayton’s Bluff Housing Program, Tenancy Advocacy Program, Harbor Lights Shelter, Mary Hall Shelter, referrals to Ramsey County Mental Health Center, the Ramsey County Adult Protection Division, the services of a Public Health Nurse, a plethora of doctors and hospital appointments to address the many medical needs of the child, the REM Parenting Program, Model Cities Family of Strength Program and financial assistance, including bus passes. Even after the services provided to [S.S.], the conditions leading to the CHIPS adjudication have not been corrected.
Because the findings address the statutory criteria and are supported by substantial evidence and thus are not clearly erroneous, we affirm the district court’s order terminating S.S.’s parental rights.