This opinion will be unpublished and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 Child of D.B., Parent.
Filed March 7, 2006
Reversed and remanded
Steele County District Court
File No. J5-02-50415
Bethene M. Koch, Assistant Third District Public Defender,
Christine A. Long, Assistant Steele County Attorney, 303
Julie A. Nelson,
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Wright, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
Appellant child (D.B.) challenges the district court order directing Steele County Human Services to determine the permanent long-term, foster-care placement of appellant and concluding that the placement need not be reviewed by the court. Because the district court is required to review and make findings before determining the long-term, foster-care placement of D.B., we reverse and remand.
was born on September 15, 1988, and is the oldest of four siblings born to D.B.
(father) and their mother. D.B. and her siblings resided with their
father until October 2002, when Steele County Human Services (SCHS) filed a
child-in-need-of-protection-and-services (CHIPS) petition. In November 2002, the district court granted
the CHIPS petition, adjudicating all four children in need of protection and
ordered that the care and custody of D.B. and her siblings remain with
SCHS. The district court also ordered
that father participate in an anger-management plan, attend a support group,
and maintain sobriety. D.B. was
temporarily placed in foster care with her younger sister pending permanent
placement by the district court. SCHS
moved for permanent placement of D.B.
Following the hearing in October 2003, the district court issued findings
of fact, conclusions of law, and an order for permanent placement, directing
that D.B. permanently be placed in foster care with her maternal uncle in
D.B. then moved for extended unsupervised visitation with her father; and the GAL responded expressing concerns regarding this extended visitation. Following the hearing, the district court ordered that D.B. remain in the custody of SCHS, that placement remain with her uncle in North Carolina, and granted D.B.’s motion for unsupervised visitation with her father for the Christmas break. When D.B.’s foster-care placement with her uncle had “failed,” the district court conducted a review hearing on the permanent placement of D.B. Following the hearing, the district court ordered that the custody of D.B. remain with SCHS for placement with father on a temporary basis.
The GAL then requested review of temporary placement with father, alleging that D.B. was not being adequately supervised and was having inappropriate contact with her younger sister. D.B. wrote a letter to the district court opposing changing placement and expressing her wishes to remain with her father. After a hearing, the district court issued an order in August 2005, directing SCHS to supervise contact between D.B. and her sister, to investigate permanent placement options and potential foster homes for D.B., and then to report back to the court.
SCHS completed its review, and submitted a letter recommending that D.B. continue in permanent long-term foster care with the county. Following a hearing, the district court ordered that: (1) SCHS retain custody of D.B. for placement in long-term foster care; and that (2) SCHS “shall pursue finding another permanent long-term foster care placement for [D.B.], said placement need not be reviewed by the Court. Steele County Human Services has the authority acting as legal guardian of the Child to make the placement.” The district court based its order on Minn. Stat. § 260C.212, subd. 6 (2004), which provides that if a child is removed from permanent placement within one year of the placement, the child must be returned to the placement facility preceding the permanent placement, or a hearing must be held within ten days after the child is removed.
The district court issued an order appointing an attorney for D.B. in order that she could appeal the August 30, 2005 placement order. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
D.B. raises two issues on appeal. First, D.B. contends that the district court erred in failing to review and make findings whether her continued placement in long-term foster care is in her best interests. On appeal from a permanent placement order, a reviewing court must determine whether the district court’s “findings address the statutory criteria and are supported by substantial evidence, or whether they are clearly erroneous.” In re Welfare of A.R.G.-B., 551 N.W.2d 256, 261 (Minn. App. 1996) (quotation omitted).
crux of this appeal is whether the district court is required by statute to
determine the best interests of D.B. in ordering her permanent placement in
foster care with SCHS. One of two
statutes may apply. First, the district
court could have ordered a new placement under Minn. Stat. § 260C.201,
subd. 11(d)(3) (long-term foster care according to certain conditions). Alternatively, Minn. Stat. § 260C.201,
subd. 11(j) (Supp. 2005), provides that, “[a]n order for permanent legal and
physical custody of a child may be modified under sections 518.18 and
518.185. The social services agency is a
party to the proceeding and must receive notice.”
The district court based its order on Minn. Stat. § 260C.212, subd. 6 (2004), which provides that, if the child is removed from permanent placement within one year of that placement, the child must be returned to the placement facility the child occupied before entering such placement. Because the child was originally placed with SCHS in October 2003, we do not believe that this statute applies. The issue before the district court required review of D.B.’s permanent placement in long-term foster care with SCHS; and determining physical custody of D.B. Both issues require an analysis of the best interests of D.B., supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Here, the district court
erred in concluding that, as legal guardian, SCHS has the authority to make the
determinations of permanent placement and physical custody without review by
the court. We conclude that
Second, D.B. contends that she has the right to petition for modification of permanent placement under Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11(j) (Supp. 2005). Respondent argues that D.B. lacks standing because that subdivision identifies the parent, and not the child, as the one who can bring the petition.
it is not necessary for us to resolve the statutory interpretation issue raised
by the parties. The issues of D.B.’s permanent
placement and physical custody require a determination of the best interests of
D.B. In such a proceeding, the parties
should include D.B.’s GAL and any other person, including a child, designated
as a party if that person is deemed by the court to be important to a
resolution that is in the best interests of the child. Minn. R. Juv. Prot. P. 21.01, subd. 1(a),
(g) (parties to a protection proceeding); 2.01 (k)(4) (protection proceeding
includes out-of-home placement of a child).
A child is deemed a party to a proceeding when the district court
appoints counsel for the child. In re Welfare of J.B., Jr., 623 N.W.2d
640, 642 (Minn. App. 2001), overruled
on other grounds by In re Welfare of
J.R., Jr., 655 N.W.2d 1, 3, n.1 (
We reverse and remand to the district court to determine whether continued permanent placement in foster care with SCHS is in the best interests of D.B. and to determine physical custody in accordance with D.B.’s best interests. The district court may, but is not required to, conduct an evidentiary hearing.
Reversed and remanded.
 Father and D.B.’s guardian ad litem (GAL) participated in the proceedings generating this appeal, but did not file briefs with this court. D.B.’s mother did not participate in the prior proceeding and did not file a brief on appeal.
brief explanation of the statutory date cited herein is warranted. The district
court did not identify the year of the statutes in question. Minn. Stat. §
260C.201, subd. 11, was amended and re-organized, effective August 1,