This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In re the Matter of the Children of:


R.R.H. and R.A.L., Parents.


Filed September 7, 2004


Harten, Judge


Otter Tail County District Court

File No. J9-03-50432


Allen Haugrud, Svingen, Hagstrom, Karkela, Cline & Dirks, P.L.L.P., 125 South Mill Street, P.O. Box 697, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0697 (for appellant R.R.H.)


David J. Hauser, Otter Tail County Attorney, Kurt A. Mortenson, Assistant County Attorney, 121 West Junius, #320, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for respondent Otter Tail County Department of Human Services)


Mark S. Stolpman, Stolpman Law Office, 125 Lincoln Avenue West, P.O. Box 131, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0131 (for respondent R.A.L.)


Gretchen Bigwood, 618 Ann Street North, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (pro se guardian ad litem)


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Appellant challenges the findings on which the termination of her parental rights was based.  Because those findings are not clearly erroneous, we affirm. 



            Appellant R.R.H. and R.A.L. are the parents of R.L., born in 1997, and R.G., born in 1999.[1]  Respondent Otter Tail County’s Department of Human Services (DHS) became involved with them in the summer of 2002 when a complaint was filed relating to the cleanliness of appellant’s home and the number and types of pets it contained.  An assessment indicated that R.G., then 2, had been bitten by a rat, mouse, or snake and that R.L., then 5, had been sexually abused by a friend of her parents.

            DHS recommended case management services, psychological evaluations of appellant and R.A.L., and no contact between the children and the alleged perpetrator of sexual abuse.  When the perpetrator was discovered inside the home where appellant had permitted him to come and hide while the children were also in the home, an amended CHIPS petition was filed and the children were placed in emergency foster care.           Appellant and R.A.L. agreed that the children were CHIPS and would be in out-of-home placement for six months, until March 2003.  Appellant had two goals set for her during this period: keeping the children safe and meeting their physical, emotional, social, medical, and educational needs. 

            From September to November 2002, appellant spoke frequently with the case manager about what needed to be done to meet the goals, but by December 2002 appellant had not improved in her handling of the children during visitation.  Appellant lied to the children’s foster mother, telling her that R.G. had Lyme’s disease and cancer.  The record reveals that appellant has a history of lying to service providers, to her counselor, and to the case manager, making it difficult to work with her. 

            In November 2002, appellant completed a parental capacity evaluation with a licensed psychologist.  He found that (1) she falls in or below the seriously learning-disabled range in intelligence; (2) she would have difficulty maintaining behavioral stability; (3) she would have difficulty coping with the stress of being a parent; (4) her children and life situation were likely to overwhelm her; (5) she has significant problems dealing with anger and impulse control; (6) she is frequently physically and verbally aggressive; (7) she has paranoid tendencies; and (8) that her personality disorders are unlikely to improve with either counseling or medication.  The district court explicitly found the psychologist’s findings to be credible and adopted them as findings of fact.      

 On 6 December 2002, the children moved from emergency foster care to a concurrent planning foster home, where they were at the time of trial.  Their visitations were then conducted at Positive Connections, which rates parents in four areas as good, okay, or poor.  Appellant generally received “poor” ratings.  Appellant was unable to control the children, to interfere when they were aggressive or did dangerous things, or to alter behavior such as R.L.’s spitting.  Although appellant was unable to control the behavior of R.G. during visitation, she believed she was disciplining him appropriately. 

Both the district court in its findings and appellant in her brief state:  “[Appellant] does not believe she needs to alter her parenting style and interaction with the children. [Appellant] is not receptive to learning improved parenting methods.  [Appellant] wants to parent the children her own way and has not demonstrated improvement in her

parenting of the children.”

In May 2003, a counselor who had worked with appellant “off and on” for eight years reported that, although she had addressed appellant’s lying, there had been no progress, and her therapy had not been productive and was contraindicated.  In September 2003, a year after the children had been removed from the parental home, their guardian ad litem noted that appellant had not improved even to the point where unsupervised visitation could be considered.  Among her concerns was appellant’s tendency to associate with people who could be harmful to the children—appellant had protected the alleged sexual abuse perpetrator by hiding him from law enforcement and listed his name as a possible provider of foster care for the children, and she continued to be involved with men who would not be safe to have around children. The guardian ad litem recommended that appellant’s parental rights be terminated.

Following a three-day trial, the district court terminated appellant’s parental rights.[2]  She challenges three findings supporting the termination: that she failed to improve her parenting skills, that reasonable efforts were provided to correct the conditions leading to the out-of-home placement, and that termination was in the children’s best interests.

 D E C I S I O N


            “[O]n appeal in a termination of parental rights case, while we carefully review the record, we will not overturn the trial court’s findings of fact unless those findings are clearly erroneous.”  In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 648 (Minn. 1995). 

1.         Failure to Comply With Parental Duties

            The district court found “clear and convincing evidence to terminate the parental rights of . . . appellant] under Minnesota Statute [§] 260C.301, Subd. 1(b)(2) [(2002)].”  That statute provides that parental rights may be terminated if the 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, 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[.]


Id.  Appellant claims that the district court believed other witnesses and “discredited [her] testimony in its entirety.”  But on review, “[c]onsiderable 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).  The district court was not the first to find that appellant lacks credibility; several professionals who worked with her came to the same conclusion. 

            Appellant claims that she cooperated with the professionals.  To some extent, this was true, but the statute requires parents not merely to cooperate with professionals but to comply “with the duties imposed . . . by the parent child relationship.”  Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2).  Appellant does not assert that she has done or is able to do this; she concedes that she did not meet the goals set for her in parenting.  Moreover, in light of her own admission that she does not think she has a problem with parenting and wants to parent her own way, she is not likely to meet those goals.[3]

            The district court did not err in finding that appellant’s failure to comply with the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship provides a basis for terminating her parental rights.

2.         Reasonable Efforts Fail to Correct Conditions

            Minn Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b), provides as a reason for terminating parental rights

            (5) that 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.  It is presumed that reasonable efforts under this clause have failed upon a showing that:


              (i) a child has resided out of the parental home under court order for a cumulative period of 12 months within the preceding 22 months. . . .


                        (ii) the court has approved the out-of-home placement plan required under section 260C.212 and filed with the court under section 260C.178:


                        (iii) conditions leading to the out-of-home placement have not been corrected. . . . 


                        (iv) reasonable efforts have been made by the social services agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family.


            Appellant concedes that “the [county’s] efforts to date may be viewed as reasonable” but argues that other efforts, specifically having her live with the children in foster care, could be made if she had more time.  But because there is no available facility providing foster care for parents and children living together, it is not a viable option. 

Appellant also concedes that “one cannot guarantee that reunification [of herself and the children] would occur in the near future.”  Appellant’s children have already been in foster care for two years, and appellant’s lack of interest in changing her parenting style or improving her parenting skills does not support the probability of reunification occurring even in the foreseeable future.  Moreover, appellant does not assert that she could or that she wants to live independently with her children; she wants to reunite with “protective supervision.” 

Appellant says “[a]dditional, appropriate services could and should be provided,” but she does not identify what those services are or why they would be more effective than the services provided during the past two years, or explain why more time would enable her to achieve what has not been achieved since her children were placed in foster care.   Appellant’s arguments themselves support a point made by the guardian ad litem:  “[Appellant] continues to have a difficult time putting the children’s needs ahead of her own.”

The district court did not err in finding that reasonable efforts for reuniting appellant with her children have already been made.

3.         Best Interests of Children 

            Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 provides that “[i]n any proceeding under this section [on terminating parental rights], the best interests of the child must be the paramount consideration . . . .  Where the interests of parent and child conflict, the interests of the child are paramount.”  Appellant claims the district court failed to consider that “[i]t is not in the children’s best interests to lose their natural mother.”  But appellant offers no support for this claim, which implies that termination of parental rights can never be in a child’s best interests. 

            The district court issued 25 pages of findings concerning appellant’s parenting and concluded that there is clear and convincing evidence that terminating appellant’s parental rights is in her children’s best interests.  Those findings are not clearly erroneous, and there is no basis to overturn the district court’s conclusion of law.




[1] R.L. was appellant’s second child; her parental rights to the first child have already been terminated, and that child has been adopted.

[2] The district court also terminated R.A.L.’s parental rights to R.L. and R.G.  R.A.L. appealed, and this court issued an order consolidating the appeals. R.A.L. then voluntarily withdrew his appeal.

[3] She argues that her intellectual limitations entitle her to more time to meet goals, but the psychologist who evaluated her parenting capacity noted that this limitation itself will not change and appellant’s psychological problems are unlikely to respond to treatment.