This opinion will be unpublished and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
Children of M.A.M. and J.D.M.
Filed December 29, 2004
Ramsey County District Court
File No. J9-02-553721
Robert J. Lawton, 1100 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for appellant J.D.M.)
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Angela L. Potts, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 560, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent Ramsey County Community Human Services Department)
Patrick D. McGee, 1086 Otto Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55116 (for respondent M.A.M.)
Paul W. Bergstrom, 25 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for guardian ad litem)
Janeen E. Rosas, 350 St. Peter Street, #300, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for children)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant father argues that the record does not support the district court’s order placing his children in long-term foster care. Because we find that the district court’s order is supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.
Appellant J.D.M. (father) and his wife, M.A.M. (mother), have four children: 17-year-old G.M., 16-year-old J.M., 14-year-old R.M., and 11-year-old O.M. In the spring of 2001, father and mother separated, and father moved to Arkansas; he returned to Minnesota in November 2002. Father provided no financial support for the children while he was in Arkansas, and, during that year and a half, he visited the children only a few times.
In November 2001, G.M.’s school nurse noticed that G.M. had an abscessed tooth. Ramsey County was notified and conducted an investigation into possible child neglect. After a child-protection assessment determined that the children were chronically neglected, they were placed temporarily with a maternal aunt in August 2002.
In a September 2002 order, the district court adjudicated the children as children in need of protection and services (CHIPS) and placed their temporary legal custody with respondent Ramsey County Community Human Services Department (the county). The county subsequently petitioned for the children to be placed in long-term foster care with their aunt. In March 2003, the district court held a hearing on the petition, at which the aunt testified that: (1) none of the children knew how to bathe themselves; (2) the girls did not use sanitary napkins and menstruated into their clothes; (3) J.M. has ADHD, requires speech therapy, and needs constant supervision because he has made inappropriate sexual advances to seven-year-old girls and is too trusting of adult strangers; (4) O.M. was allowed to defecate and urinate in his pants without diapers, was obese, and ate with his hands and would not use utensils; and (5) R.M. had bad inner-ear infections that went untreated. The aunt further testified that the children have special needs that their caregiver must be able to address.
Mother testified that (1) the children had truancy problems when they lived with her, (2) it was in the children’s best interests to remain in long-term foster care, (3) the children would be “happy with their daddy,” and (4) father would need “a little help” if he received custody of the children. Father testified that (1) he is capable of taking care of the children; (2) he did not know about his case plan, which requires, inter alia, that he have a psychological evaluation and a parenting evaluation; (3) he did not know about the children’s educational or medical needs; and (4) he had several personal health issues, including seizure problems.
The children’s guardian ad litem recommended that the children should be in long-term foster care with the aunt. In their amicus brief, the children represent that they want to live with father.
In April 2003, the district court ordered that the children be placed in long-term foster care with their maternal aunt. This appeal follows.
Father argues that the district court’s order placing the children in long-term foster care is not supported by sufficient evidence. He claims that the district court relied on erroneous findings and also ignored evidence that did not support its order. A county must prove the allegations of the petition for permanent placement by clear and convincing evidence. In re Welfare of A.R.G.-B., 551 N.W.2d 256, 261 (Minn. App. 1996); see also Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11(c), (d)(1) (2002) (describing placement with a relative as a permanent-placement option). A reviewing court determines whether the district court’s findings address the applicable statutory criteria and are supported by substantial evidence or whether they are clearly erroneous. A.R.G.-B., 551 N.W.2d at 261.
Father claims that the district court made erroneous findings regarding father, but the only finding that he points to is a determination that father was never an active parent. We agree with father that this finding is not supported by substantial evidence; the record shows that father was the children’s primary caregiver for the 13 years before he left for Arkansas.
Father also claims that the district court ignored facts that did not support its order, particularly that father had “a history of caring for and providing for his children” before he left for Arkansas and that the children “want to live with their father.” The district court made no findings regarding the nature of father’s parenting activities before he left for Arkansas in the spring of 2001 or regarding the children’s custody preferences. But father cites no authority that requires the district court to make such findings. Further, the district court did find, inter alia, in more than seven pages of findings, (1) that father left the children in the spring of 2001; (2) that father failed to provide any financial support after he left; (3) that father failed to give the children physical, medical, psychological, or educational assistance after he left; and (4) that father is unable to provide the basic structure and support that the children need. The findings address the statutory criteria and are supported by substantial evidence. We find that the district court’s findings support its order and that the finding that father was never an active parent to the children is harmless error.