This opinion will be unpublished and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
Matter of the Welfare of the Children of:
A.J.R.V. and A.J.V., Sr., Parents.
Filed March 7, 2006
Washington County District Court
File No. 82-2027OY
Hawley, Walling, Berg, & Debele, P.A.,
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from the order terminating her parental rights to her four children, appellant-mother argues that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that she is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship and that she was denied her constitutional rights. We affirm.
Appellant-mother A.J.R.V. and father A.J.V., Sr., are the parents of four minor children: A.J.V., Jr., born July 27, 1998; A.M.V., born March 18, 2001; A.J.V., born September 5, 2002; and A.J.L.V., born November 27, 2003. The children currently reside in a foster home.
An August 12, 2003 case plan required mother to: maintain a safe, sanitary, and drug-free home; comply with the recommendations of her chemical-dependency evaluations; complete inpatient treatment; abstain from using all mood-altering chemicals; submit to random urine analysis (UA); and complete a psychological evaluation and follow all recommendations. Also, both parents were required to search for employment, improve their parenting ability, attend doctor appointments for the children and follow the recommended care, complete a parenting assessment and follow recommendations, and attend all prenatal medical appointments.
Mother gave birth to A.J.L.V. on November 27, 2003. Mother was maintaining her sobriety and consistently attending visitations with her three children in foster care. Mother attempted to comply with her case plan, but after she failed to attend an intensive parenting program and continued to test positive for illegal substances, on August 16, 2004, the county filed a petition to terminate mother’s parental rights. Following a two-day trial, the court issued its order denying the petition. The children remained in foster care, and mother was granted supervised visits.
Mother completed a rule-25 chemical-dependency assessment on December 27, 2004, was found to be chemically dependent, and was recommended for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (ADAP) 10/84 outpatient treatment, which requires ten days of inpatient treatment followed by 84 hours of outpatient treatment. After missing two scheduled intake appointments, mother failed to enter the program.
Mother’s UA results for December 16 and 30, 2004, and January 4, 2005, which were all days of supervised visits, and for January 26, 2005, were positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine, and following a February 8, 2005 CHIPS-petition review hearing, the court suspended mother’s supervised visits until she completed her primary chemical-dependency treatment and provided UAs that tested negative for illegal substances.
On February 14, 2005, mother completed a rule-25 updated chemical-dependency assessment, which was necessary because mother did not enter treatment within ten days after the previous assessment. At the assessment, mother admitted using methamphetamine two to three times a week. Mother requested the ADAP 10/84 program and was authorized to enter treatment on February 22, 2005; however, she cancelled her intake appointment on March 3, 2005.
UA results for March 9 and 17 and April 12, 2005, were all positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine. The social worker assigned to mother continued throughout March to help mother enter treatment. Mother completed another rule-25 updated chemical-dependency assessment on April 7, 2005. The chemical-dependency assessor recommended inpatient treatment with a half-way house or board and lodging, but mother again requested the ADAP. On April 12, 2005, mother informed the court that she was scheduled for treatment and agreed to call and check in. The chemical-dependency inpatient counselor testified that mother entered the ten-day inpatient phase of the ADAP 10/84 program, but she was discharged at the staff’s request before completing the program because she was not committed to the treatment process.
On April 12, 2005, the county filed a second petition to terminate mother’s parental rights alleging four statutory grounds: Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd., 1(b)(2) (2004) (refused or neglected to comply with duties of parent-child relationship); Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd., 1(b)(4) (2004) (palpably unfit); Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd., 1(b)(5) (2004) (reasonable efforts failed); and Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd., 1(b)(8) (2004) (children are neglected and in foster care).
giving specimens for a UA in May 2005 and tested positive for marijuana and
methamphetamine on June 10, 2005. On May
31, 2005, mother completed another rule-25 updated chemical-dependency
assessment, and the chemical-dependency counselor recommended 28 days of
residential inpatient treatment at
The district court terminated mother’s parental rights. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
argues that the county failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that
her parental rights should be terminated under any of the statutory bases
asserted in the petition. On appeal in a
termination proceeding, “appellate courts are 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 (
3. Mother argues for the first time on appeal that she was denied her constitutional right to equal protection. Mother contends that it is well settled that parental rights may not be terminated based on a parent’s mental illness without proof that the mental illness prevents the parent from meeting the needs of the child. Therefore, mother argues, because chemical dependency is no less a disease than mental illness, equal protection requires that her parental rights not be terminated solely because she is chemically dependent and that there must be proof that her disease prevents her from being able to adequately parent her children.
Mother also argues for the first time on appeal that she was denied due process of law when the district court applied the presumption under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (2004), that reasonable efforts have failed to correct the conditions leading to a child’s placement out of the home when (A) a parent has been diagnosed by a professional as chemically dependent; (B) a case plan has required the parent to participate in a chemical-dependency treatment program; (C) an appropriate treatment program was offered to the parent; (D) the parent two or more times failed to successfully complete treatment or two or more times refused to participate in a treatment program; and (E) the parent continues to abuse chemicals.
Mother argues that the district court’s reliance on this presumption denied her due process of law because the issue of whether she failed to successfully complete treatment was left solely to the discretion of the treatment programs, and the presumption shifted onto her the burden of proving that reasonable efforts had not failed when she had never received a hearing to determine whether she had failed to successfully complete treatment.
“Even in the
context of termination of parental rights, failure to raise constitutional
issues in the district court precludes the issues from being raised on appeal.” In re
Welfare of M.H., 595 N.W.2d 223, 229 (Minn. App. 1999) (citing In re Welfare of C.L.L., 310 N.W.2d 555,
best-interests analysis in proceedings to terminate parental rights requires
the district court to balance the child’s interest in preserving the
parent-child relationship, the parent’s interest in preserving the parent-child
relationship, and any competing interests of the child. In re
Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (
Mother argues that the best-interests analysis conducted by the district court did not address whether the children need to maintain a connection with mother and simply noted the strengths of the foster home. Mother contends that “[t]he fact that the trial court focused exclusively on the foster home in its best interests analysis demonstrates that it assumed the children should not be with their parents and the court simply assessed the best placement options for them outside of their parent’s home.” But the district court’s best-interests analysis did not focus exclusively on the foster home. The district court found
The three older children have been subject to neglect in the home of the parents due to [the parents’] lengthy chemical dependency use. The children have all experienced multiple moves. The three older children all exhibit symptoms of attachment issues caused by their parent’s neglect. During supervised visits, it is necessary for Barbara Chase, family service worker, to assist [mother], who is unable to care for all of the children. During the last visit with both parents, [A.J.V., Jr.] engaged in a temper tantrum the entire visit. [A.J.V.] is very independent of his parents, and sought to have all his needs met by Ms. Chase. [A.M.V.], after greeting her parents, was looking out the window, awaiting the return of her foster care provider. [A.J.L.V.], who was learning to walk, paid no attention to her parents. The [foster parents] are aware of the children’s history and are willing to participate in any services the children may need and have requested in-home therapy.
This finding demonstrates that in determining whether to terminate mother’s parental rights, the district court examined the relationship between mother and the children and did not simply assume that the children should not be with mother. Mother cites no authority for her claim that the district court’s best-interests analysis must specifically address whether the children need to maintain a connection with mother.
 A.J.V., Sr. voluntarily terminated his parental rights and is not a party to this appeal.