This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In the Matter of the Child of:

C.A.B., Parent.


Filed February 1, 2005

Crippen, Judge


Itasca County District Court

File No. JX-04-50209


Steven K. Marden, 2136 Ford Parkway, St. Paul, MN 55116 (for appellant C.A.B.)


John J. Muhar, Itasca County Attorney, Michael J. Haig, Assistant County Attorney, 123 Northeast Fourth Street, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for respondent)


Pauline Hancock, P.O. Box 904, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (guardian ad litem)


            Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant C.A.B., the mother of a three-year-old child, challenges the termination of her parental rights, questioning the district court’s ultimate findings as to (1) whether she is an unfit parent; (2) whether she failed to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement; and (3) whether termination of her parental rights is in the child’s best interests.  We affirm.


            Appellant’s daughter was born in November 2001.  The child and her parents lived with appellant’s mother during the time injuries to the child occurred.  In October 2002, the child was taken to the hospital with two large, reddened and raised welts on her left buttock where the skin was slightly broken.  The child was taken to the hospital again the next month with a large amount of bruising over the bridge of her nose, extending to the right side of her face and eye area, and bleeding in one nostril.  The parents were unable to provide a likely explanation for either set of injuries.

Following an emergency protective-care hearing in December 2002, the district court placed the child in temporary foster care.  The parents disputed the count’s petition to determine that the child was in need of protection or services.[1] 

In February 2003, based on a settlement agreement of the parties, the district court dismissed the claims that alleged that the parents were responsible for the child’s injuries but found that the child was in need of protection and services in that her behavior, condition, or environment were injurious or dangerous to herself.  The court reunified the child with her parents, subject to certain protective conditions.  One condition required that the parents “immediately provide phone notice to the case worker, whether day time or night time, of any injury or bruise sustained by the child of any type.”  The district court stated that reunification had to proceed “only on a guarded basis” because the parents did not admit inflicting trauma on the child but non-accidental injury could not be ruled out.

            Following a guardian ad litem’s visit on March 14, 2003, and subsequent visits by social workers and a child protection investigator, they learned that the child’s leg was fractured in two places.  Appellant repeatedly speculated and her husband agreed that the child might have caught her foot in her walker; neither parent described a specific incident.  Although the parents were under a court-imposed duty to immediately report injuries, neither parent did so, and when visited neither mentioned or demonstrated the problem the child was having when standing; at some point after the guardian’s visit, the parents took initiative to make a medical appointment, which occurred on March 18, 2003.  Following diagnosis of the fractures, the child was placed in emergency foster care on a peace officer hold. 

            The district court conducted a contested hearing in May 2003 and concluded that the child was in need of protection and services and that both parents were in constructive civil contempt of court for failing to report the child’s leg injury.[2]  The court continued the out-of-home placement for the child and ordered the parents to undergo parenting and psychological assessments and to comply with numerous other requirements. 

            In July 2003, the district court approved an updated case plan and ordered its implementation, calling for the child and her parents to live together in a family foster home under close supervision.  Shortly after the placement, the child’s father was removed from the home when he admitted that he had slammed the child into her walker in anger and that he may have broken her leg.  The district court later terminated the father’s parental rights, and the child and appellant continued living together in the foster home.  The court updated appellant’s case plan to include an expectation that appellant demonstrate the ability to financially support the child and to secure safe housing for herself and the child.  Appellant completed the foster home program and moved into an apartment in November 2003, but returned to her mother’s home less than a month later.  Meanwhile, the district court continued the child’s out-of-home placement.

            An April 2004 petition to terminate appellant’s parental rights asserted that this remedy was in the child’s best interests because appellant is an unfit parent and reasonable efforts had failed to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement.[3]  Following a contested evidentiary hearing three months later, the district court found that “reunification of [the child] with [appellant] cannot be achieved consistent with [the child’s] safety now or in the foreseeable future.”  The court also found that appellant’s “ability to assure the safety of [the child] is significantly impaired” in that appellant “either refuses to, or is unable to meet minimal safety related parenting expectations concerning [the child].”  The court stated that the child’s “right to be free from further maltreatment is fundamental to protecting her best interests.” 

            The district court terminated appellant’s parental rights based on her unfitness and failure to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement.  In doing so, the court made findings that appellant lacked the emotional and cognitive capacity to parent the child.  Appellant contends that the primary problem in the child’s care history results from the child’s father and that the record indicates appellant’s desire to separate from the father.  More importantly, appellant disputes that the record reflects her parenting incapacity, other than in getting employment or finding independent housing. 


The district court makes “ultimate” findings, such as a finding on the best interests of the child, by weighing statutory criteria in light of the found basic facts.  See Maxfield v. Maxfield, 452 N.W.2d 219, 221 (Minn. 1990) (addressing ultimate findings in context of dissolution proceeding).  If the underlying findings of fact made by the district court are undisputed or not clearly erroneous, and if there is no supportable assertion that the district court misapplied the relevant law in weighing the relevant statutory criteria, the district court’s ultimate findings must be affirmed in the absence of a demonstrated abuse of the court’s discretion.  Id. 

            An appellate court reviews a termination of parental rights to determine whether the trial court misapplied the law and whether it’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous.  In re Welfare of W.L.P., 678 N.W.2d 703, 709 (Minn. App. 2004).  We examine the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether the evidence is clear and convincing.  Id.  We defer to the district court’s findings but exercise great caution in proceedings to terminate parental rights.  Id.  Indeed, parental rights are to be terminated only for grave and weighty reasons.  Id.    

In this case, appellant attacks the district court’s ultimate findings that she is palpably unfit to parent, that she failed to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement, and that termination of appellant’s parental rights was in the best interests of the child.  Although the court made over 100 detailed findings of fact, appellant limited her challenge to the three ultimate findings. 

            The district court made over 15 specific findings indicating that appellant’s emotional and cognitive deficits impair her ability to raise the child.  The court found that appellant knew about the child’s leg injury as early as March 14, 2003, but did not disclose the injury during the second home visit that day and never reported it to her case worker.  Even after two serious injuries to the child in October and November of 2002, appellant was unable to protect the child and claimed not to know the cause of the injury in March 2003.  According to the court, appellant posited various theories on the cause of the child’s leg injury, including “the possibility [that the child] self inflicted the fractures by pushing herself in her walker, or by propelling herself in her walker, and with her leg extended running into a wall or another object.”           

The court also found that appellant has an emotional problem in deferring to the child’s father and putting his interests ahead of the child’s safety and welfare.  The court noted that appellant defended the child’s father even after he admitted to slamming the child into her walker.  The court highlighted testimony that indicated that appellant seemed more concerned about what was going to happen to the child’s father than about the child’s maltreatment.

The court found that appellant failed to demonstrate how she would handle the parenting and support of the child on her own, and that she was very dependent on her mother for her own necessities, including financial and housing needs.  The court also found that appellant’s extended placement in the foster home program failed to hasten her progress, and that her level of dependency on others, including her mother, was hardly different than when the case plan was adopted.  Appellant was provided numerous services in an effort to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement, and she does not claim that these efforts were inadequate.   

Given the district court’s particular findings, none of which appellant challenged, taken with the evidence that sustains them, the court did not err in its resulting decision that appellant is an unfit parent and that appellant failed to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement. 

The district court’s finding that termination of appellant’s parental rights was in the child’s best interests, like the other ultimate findings discussed above, is also adequately supported by the numerous particular findings on appellant’s deficits and her inability to take care of the child.  The court’s best interests finding is further supported by evidence that the child’s foster parents have the capacity and commitment to adopt the child upon termination of appellant’s parental rights.

Appellant criticizes the district court for not placing the child in the custody of appellant’s mother, but she provides no substantive argument on this issue and does not address the fact that the injuries occurred while the child lived with appellant’s mother.  The court found appellant’s mother to be resentful toward protective interventions made on behalf of the child and found that she was defensive of appellant and the child’s father, allowing the father to stay at her house after he was removed from the foster home.  The court also found that appellant’s mother became angry and denied the truth of the matter when told that the child’s father admitted to injuring the child’s leg. 

The district court’s ultimate findings are supported by its particular findings and by the evidence.  As a result, we affirm the court’s termination of appellant’s parental rights based on her unfitness to parent, her failure to correct the conditions leading to the child’s out-of-home placement, and the best interests of the child. 


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] The county attorney contended that the child was in need of protection or services within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subds. 6(2)(i) (a victim of physical or sexual abuse), 6(8) (a child without proper parental care because of the emotional, mental, or physical disability or state of immaturity of the child’s parent, guardian, or other custodian), and 6(9) (as one whose behavior, condition, or environment is such as to be injurious or dangerous to the child or others) (2002).

[2] The court decided that the child was in need of protection and services pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subds. 6(2)(i) (as a victim of physical abuse), and 6(2)(iii) (as one who resides with or would reside with a perpetrator of child abuse). 

[3] See Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subds. 1(b)(4) (palpable unfitness), and 1(b)(5) (failure to correct the conditions leading to the child’s placement) (2002).  A district court may involuntarily terminate parental rights if any one of nine statutory factors is met.  Id. at subd. 1(b).  The primary consideration in the termination of parental rights is the best interests of the child.  Id. at subd. 7.