This opinion will be unpublished and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 Welfare of the Children of:
C.F. and J.S.,
Filed October 31, 2006
Dakota County District Court
File No. JX-05-55667
Gregory J. Schmidt, Gregory J. Schmidt Law Offices, P.A., Spruce Tree Center, Suite 510, 1600 University Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant C.F.)
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Donald E. Bruce, Assistant County Attorney, 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for respondent Dakota County)
Nancy Johnson-Maloney, 115 South Broadway,
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The district court terminated the parental rights of CF and JS to their two children. On appeal, the mother, CF, argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the district court’s findings that the county made reasonable efforts to reunite CF and her children, that a statutory ground for termination was satisfied, and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Because the record provides a sufficient basis for the district court to find by clear and convincing evidence that the county made reasonable efforts to reunite CF and the children, that at least two statutory grounds for termination exist, and that termination is in the children’s best interests, we affirm.
F A C T S
CF is the mother of RF, age three, and AF, age six. CF is twenty-nine years old and has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. She began using methamphetamine at age nineteen or twenty and she used it heavily for two to three years.
Dakota County Child Protection Services became involved in this case after CF was arrested on outstanding warrants in February 2005. A police officer went to check on the children and found that they were being watched by a twenty-one-year-old man who had known CF for two weeks. CF let him stay in the apartment in exchange for watching her children. The only food items in the apartment were two eggs and a small amount of milk. Further investigation revealed that CF used methamphetamine, consumed alcohol heavily on a daily basis, and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The father, who was living with his parents, was also a methamphetamine user and was then on probation. Based on concerns about CF’s ability to care for the children, the county filed a Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) petition on February 15, 2005.
CF admitted to the CHIPS petition on February 16, 2005, and the children were placed in the care of their father and his parents. The court ordered CF to complete a chemical-dependency evaluation and follow any recommendations for treatment, complete a parenting and psychological evaluation and follow any recommendations, abstain from using chemicals, and cooperate with random drug tests. CF was assigned a social worker who continued to work on CF’s case through the termination trial.
After admitting the CHIPS petition, CF obtained a chemical-dependency evaluation on February 21, 2005. But CF did not follow up on the recommended outpatient treatment. At a second evaluation, on March 9, 2005, CF appeared to be intoxicated and was advised to enter inpatient chemical-dependency treatment. CF refused to enter inpatient treatment at that time.
entered outpatient treatment at Avalon in
CF had similar difficulties dealing with her mental-health problems. She completed the required psychological and parenting assessments in May 2005. The psychological assessment resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and features of borderline personality disorder. The evaluator recommended that CF participate in dialectical behavioral therapy, undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine the need for medication, and participate in individual parenting education. CF, however, failed to pursue any of these recommendations.
In the meantime, the children had been removed from their father’s residence. At the request of the children’s father and grandparents, the children were moved into foster care on March 25, 2005.
On September 21, 2005, the district court conducted a permanency review hearing in compliance with the requirement under Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11a(a) (Supp. 2005), that the district court provide a six-month review for children under eight years old who have been in out-of-home placement. On the day of the permanency review hearing, CF tested positive for methamphetamine. A week later, she tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine. Because neither parent was complying with the case plan, the district court ordered the county to submit a termination petition.
the court’s order to proceed on a termination petition, CF entered inpatient
chemical-health treatment on October 5, 2005, at Wayside House. She completed primary treatment on October
26, 2005, the day before the county filed the termination petition. CF began dialectical behavioral therapy on
December 27, 2005, and successfully completed phase two of the chemical-health treatment
program on January 9, 2006. She also attended
six of nine sessions of a parenting class through
Before the termination hearing, two counselors at Wayside wrote a letter to CF’s attorney. In the letter, they expressed concern that the social worker was focused on termination, refused to consider a housing option for the family, and was failing to communicate with CF about visitation appointments.
The termination hearing was held on February 2, 2006. CF was living in a half-way house at Wayside House, and testified that she had been sober since October 5, 2005. The district court found that reasonable efforts to reunite the family had failed, that three statutory grounds for termination were satisfied, and that termination was in the best interests of the children. As a result, the parental rights of CF and the father were terminated. CF now appeals.
D E C I S I O N
reviewing an order terminating parental rights, we evaluate the record
carefully to determine whether the evidence is clear and convincing. In re
Welfare of P.R.L., 622 N.W.2d 538, 543 (
The district court found that the county made reasonable efforts toward reunification. The district court noted that the county took concrete steps to help CF deal with her substance-abuse problems. The social worker met with CF, scheduled a chemical-health evaluation for CF, and intervened when a treatment program was about to discharge CF for nonattendance. Even after the termination petition was filed, the social worker continued to make reasonable efforts toward reunification. The social worker continued to meet with CF, to arrange and supervise visits with the children, and to arrange for parenting education.
The district court was aware of the letter from the Wayside House counselors but, on the totality of the evidence, found that the county’s reunification efforts were reasonable. The record supports that determination. At trial, the social worker described her efforts to facilitate visitation, explained why one visit was cancelled, and explained why she refused to consider a plan to reunite the family. On this record, it was reasonable for the social worker to refuse to consider a plan that would have reunited CF with her children three weeks before trial. The district court could therefore find by clear and convincing evidence that the social worker had made reasonable reunification efforts.
district court specifically found that the county provided needed and
appropriate services as part of the reunification efforts. In separately enumerated findings, the
district court referred to several of the factors that the court is required to
consider in determining whether the county’s efforts have been reasonable. See
Although only one statutory ground is required, the district court found that three grounds for termination were satisfied. The evidence is sufficient to support the district court’s findings on at least two statutory grounds.
First, the district court found that reasonable efforts had failed to correct the conditions leading to the children’s placement under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (2004). This finding is supported by the same evidence showing that reasonable efforts were made toward reunification. The district court relied on testimony that services were specifically directed at CF’s longstanding and severe chemical dependency and the district court also considered CF’s inability to respond to those efforts for the first eight months that the case was open. Second, the district court found that CF will be palpably unfit to be a parent for the reasonably foreseeable future under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4). This finding was supported by CF’s only recent sobriety, her history of drug and alcohol abuse, her noncompliance with court-ordered requirements, and her only very recent efforts to deal with her mental-health problems.
district court also concluded that the county established a third statutory
ground, that the children were neglected and in foster care under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301,
subd. 1(b)(8). Under
CF challenges the district court’s determination that termination was in the best interests of the children. She argues that the guardian ad litem did not have an adequate basis for her testimony that termination was in the children’s best interests. Specifically, CF argues that the guardian ad litem failed to conduct required investigations and failed to file required reports.
The guardian ad litem’s testimony and her reports demonstrate that she did in fact conduct an independent investigation. CF has cited no authority that supports her claim that the guardian ad litem was required to submit an additional report before trial. There is no indication that the guardian ad litem’s work was deficient.
Furthermore, the social worker’s testimony alone provided sufficient evidence that termination was in the children’s best interests. The social worker testified that the children had been out of CF’s care for more than eight months, that the current foster parents would adopt the children after termination, that the children were in need of permanency, that CF would be unable to care for the children in the foreseeable future, and that in the social worker’s opinion it was in the children’s best interests to be adopted. The fact that the guardian ad litem reached the same conclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, the district court’s finding that termination was in the children’s best interests.