This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







In the Matter of the

Welfare of:  J.A., Child.



Filed December 26, 2006


Lansing, Judge



Scott County District Court

File No. 2004-23451



John Stuart, State Public Defender, Leslie J. Rosenberg, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 425, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant J.A.)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and


Patrick J. Ciliberto, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, Special Assistant County Attorney, Justice Center JC340, 200 Fourth Avenue West, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for respondent State of Minnesota)



            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            In this appeal from disposition following a delinquency adjudication, JA challenges the adequacy of the facts and the district court’s findings to support an out-of-home placement.  Because the factual record and the district court’s findings sufficiently support the disposition, we affirm.


            The district court adjudicated JA delinquent based on his admission of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.  JA admitted that shortly before his thirteenth birthday, he digitally penetrated his five-year-old cousin.  Pending a dispositional hearing, the district court ordered JA to complete a psychosexual evaluation.

            The evaluation was a multi-day process that required JA to complete two psychological inventories.  On the first day, the evaluator placed JA in a private conference room to work on the inventories.  After JA left, the evaluator went to the conference room to pick up the inventories.  On the floor outside the conference room, the evaluator found part of a used condom.  She found another part of the condom inside the conference room under JA’s chair.  

            On the second day of the evaluation process, the evaluator placed JA in the same conference room where he worked on the inventories alone.  When JA left, the evaluator immediately entered the room and discovered wet semen on JA’s chair.  The evaluator contacted court services, and court services arranged for JA’s detention. 

            In her report to the court, the evaluator recommended that JA receive inpatient sex-offender treatment.  She based her recommendation on a number of factors, including JA’s denial of the digital penetration, the support of JA’s family in his continuing denial, and the evidence of compulsive masturbatory behavior in a public place.  The evaluator’s follow-up report reconfirmed the recommendation of inpatient sex-offender treatment based on JA’s continuing denial of culpability for the crime and his lack of empathy for the five-year-old victim.  The evaluator concluded that, in these circumstances, community-based treatment could not adequately address these underlying issues or resolve JA’s sexually inappropriate behavior.  A predispositional report was consistent with the recommendations.

            At the dispositional hearing, JA requested that he be allowed to continue living with his godparents and attend community-based outpatient treatment.  The district court issued a four-page order adjudicating JA delinquent and providing for placement in Woodward Academy, an inpatient sex-offender treatment program in a structured environment located near JA’s family.  The district court addressed the reasons for the placement, which included JA’s need for an environment that places strict control over his behavior, requires high accountability, provides skill training to remediate deficits that affect successful functioning, and is conducive to addressing JA’s sexually inappropriate behavior.  JA appeals the out-of-home-placement disposition.


            District courts have broad discretion to determine appropriate juvenile-delinquency dispositions.  In re Welfare of J.A.J., 545 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Minn. App. 1996).  Decisions that are not arbitrary and that do not present a clear abuse of discretion will be affirmed.  Id.  The overriding concern is that a disposition is “necessary to the rehabilitation of the child.”  Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1 (2004).  A disposition that orders out-of-home placement must be supported by evidence that the placement is the least-severe step necessary to restore law-abiding conduct.  In re Welfare of N.T.K., 619 N.W.2d 209, 211 (Minn. App. 2000). 

            A district court ordering out-of-home placement is required to make factual findings that show (1) why public safety is served by the disposition; (2) why the best interests of the child are served by the disposition; (3) what alternative dispositions were proposed to the court and why such recommendations were not ordered; (4) why the child’s present custody is not acceptable; and (5) how the correctional placement meets the child’s needs.  Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m) (addressing best interests and alternative dispositions); Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A) (addressing public safety, best interests, alternative dispositions, current placement, and suitability of ordered placement).  These findings are “essential to meaningful appellate review” and demonstrate that the district court considered the necessary standards in reaching its decision.  N.T.K., 619 N.W.2d at 211.  

            Although the district court did not specifically caption its findings to correspond with the five statutory factors, the findings sufficiently address each factor.  The district court specifically addressed public safety and JA’s ability to remain law abiding.  The findings state that public safety requires that JA be in a controlled, structured environment to monitor his behavior through a lengthy treatment process.  In evaluating JA’s best interests, the findings addressed the importance of JA being “in an environment that is conducive to addressing his sexually inappropriate behavior and where accountability is high.”  The district court also noted that an inpatient sex-offender treatment program would provide “skill training elements to remediate deficits that impede [JA’s] successful functioning.”  The findings specifically reflect that the district court considered the alternative dispositions of a community-based, outpatient sex-offender treatment program but rejected it because it would not provide a structured environment, address JA’s psychosexual issues, or adequately protect public safety.  The findings also conclude that JA’s present custody is not acceptable because of JA’s level of denial and the family’s continual support of JA’s denial and the depth of problems indicated in JA’s psychosexual evaluation.  The district court addressed how the designated placement meets JA’s needs by providing an environment suitable to addressing JA’s sexually inappropriate behavior and permitting treatment to remediate deficits that currently impede JA’s functioning.  Finally, the district court found that the disposition is the least-restrictive alternative to meet JA’s needs.

            JA primarily challenges the adequacy of the district court’s findings to support its conclusion that out-of-home placement is the least-restrictive alternative.  Throughout its findings, the district court includes reasons that support its conclusion that a structured, inpatient treatment program is necessary and that a community-based, outpatient treatment program is inadequate to meet JA’s needs.  The findings rely on psychosexual evaluations and a predispositional report that recommend an inpatient sex-offender treatment program based on JA’s “overall level of denial, lack of responsibility, and lack of empathy.”  The evaluator concluded that a “community based treatment program would be unable to address these factors adequately, and [JA] needs to be in an environment that is conducive to addressing his sexually inappropriate behavior.”

            We reject JA’s claim that the district court should not have considered the alleged masturbatory conduct because the court did not require the state to prove that the conduct occurred.  JA provides no authority to support his claim that the conduct observed by court evaluators must be formally proved, and the relevant rule does not require it.  See Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A)(2) (governing written findings in dispositional order).  We note that, although the court took this reported conduct into consideration, its findings and conclusion are based on the entire course of evaluations and the court’s own assessment of the facts surrounding the offense and JA’s conduct.

            Because the district court’s order addressed and considered each of the statutorily required findings and explained why a less-restrictive alternative would be unacceptable, the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the out-of-home-placement disposition, and we affirm.


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