This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Children of:
K.M.B. and T.R.B., Parents.
Filed May 24, 2005
Otter Tail County District Court
File Nos. J0-04-50389 & J7-04-50390
Allen R. Haugrud, Svingen, Athens, Russell, Hagstrom, Haugrud & Karkela, 125 South Mill Street, P.O. Box 697, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0697 (for appellant father T.R.B.)
Kurt A. Mortenson, Otter Tail County Attorney’s Office, 121 West Junius, Suite 320, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for respondent Otter Tail County Department of Human Services)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Appellants K.M.B. and T.R.B. are the parents of M.E.B.,
born January 5, 2003, and
Because the district court’s termination order is supported by clear and convincing evidence and because termination is in the children’s best interests, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
This court will affirm the district court’s order
terminating parental rights if at least one statutory ground for termination is
supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record and if termination is
in the child’s best interests. In re
Welfare of Children of R.W., 678 N.W.2d 49, 55 (
The district court found that termination was justified under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(6) (2004), which states that the parent-child relationship may be terminated if “a child has experienced egregious harm in the parent’s care which is of a nature, duration, or chronicity that indicates a lack of regard for the child’s well-being, such that a reasonable person would believe it contrary to the best interest of the child or of any child to be in the parent’s care[.]” “Egregious harm” is defined as “the infliction of bodily harm to a child” and includes “substantial bodily harm . . . as defined in section 609.02, subdivision 7a[.]” Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 14(2) (2004). “Substantial bodily harm” includes fractures. Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subd. 7a (2004).
“The listed instances of ‘egregious harm’ focus on
conduct demonstrating the parent’s grossly inadequate ability to provide
parental care to any child.” In re
Welfare of A.L.F., 579 N.W.2d 152, 155 (Minn. App. 1998) (emphasis in
original), review denied (
Here, four-month-old M.B. had two healing rib fractures
and a possible third rib fracture, as well as bruises and other trauma that showed
the injuries had occurred over a period of time. Expert testimony indicated that these
injuries would be very painful, causing a child to cry or fuss while being
cared for. While the rib fractures
required x-rays for diagnosis, the bruises, pinch-marks, and scratches were
plainly visible. Despite the child’s
obvious distress, appellants delayed seeking medical care and showed little
interest in the child’s injuries. Both
appellants admitted that they had been the child’s sole caretakers during the
time the injuries occurred, and neither offered an explanation for M.B.’s
injuries, except to blame them on 16-month-old M.E.B. One expert opined that it was possible that
M.E.B. could have injured his brother and another opined that it was possible that
the injuries were incurred in a fall, but the experts agreed that the injuries
were consistent with blunt force trauma.
The pediatric abuse expert testified that M.E.B. could not have injured
This court must defer to the district court’s assessment
of the credibility of witnesses and the relative weight to be assigned to their
testimony. In re Welfare of R.T.B.,
492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (
In addition to finding a statutory condition for
termination, the district court “must consider a child’s best interests and
explain its rationale in its findings and conclusions.” In re Tanghe, 672 N.W.2d 623, 626 (
Here, the district court weighed appellants’ interests in maintaining their parent-child relationships and the psychological and emotional limitations of the parents, who either abused or failed to protect their younger child from abuse, against the grave harm done to a vulnerable child less than four months old. Having considered the children’s needs in light of their young age and vulnerability, the district court concluded that it was in their best interests to have a more secure and safe environment.
The natural parent is presumed to be a suitable guardian
for his or her child, but “parental rights are not absolute.”