This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed January 30, 2007
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Julie K. Harris, Managing Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, Health Services Building, 525 Portland Avenue South, Suite 1200, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department)
Laura G. Coates, Faegre & Benson, LLP, 2200 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3901 (for respondent guardian ad litem)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellant B.T. challenges the district court’s findings that it is in the best interests of her sons for her parental rights to be terminated. Because these findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous, we affirm.
Appellant is the mother of J., born
in 1995, and R., born in 1998. In 1999,
when appellant was living with the boys in
In March 2004, appellant was again
arrested on an
In June 2005, appellant was paroled until May 2007. A petition was filed seeking termination of her parental rights, and, after a trial in March 2006, the district court terminated her parental rights. Appellant moved for a new trial; her motion was denied.
D E C I S I O N
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 (
The district court found: “[Appellant] has not obtained safe and stable housing. Given [appellant’s] felony record, her chemical dependency issues, her lack of employment and her boys’ special needs, it is not probable that she will obtain such housing in the reasonably foreseeable future.” Substantial evidence supports this finding. Appellant testified that she is now living with a marijuana user in an environment that is not suitable for herself or her sons. She testified that she had returned temporarily to the daily use of marijuana although she knew her parole required her to abstain from drugs and that her recent positive drug tests were due to inhaling marijuana in the air of her residence. She also testified that she is unemployed.
The record provides substantial evidence regarding the special needs of appellant’s sons. J.’s mental-health assessment indicated that he has an “Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct” and “depressive symptoms including flat affect, emotional constriction, and his stance is quite closed.” His therapist has indicated that he has “significant mental health issues” and needs “ongoing consistent services.” He is in a mainstream classroom but leaves for special education and occupational therapy for fine motor skills. J. has trouble with any type of independent work and needs direction every few minutes. He needs a stable, structured environment.
R.’s mental-health assessment indicated that he also has an “Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct.” His diagnosis meets the criteria for severe emotional disturbance. He is aggressive and oppositional and has rapid mood swings. R.’s sexualized behavior makes him a danger to other children unless he has immediate supervision by his foster parents. He is in a school program for the emotionally and behaviorally disturbed and needs one-on-one care all the time. R. cannot remain safe in his environment and must wear a harness in the school bus for his own safety and that of other students. He needs a rigid, extremely structured home setting.
Appellant did not dispute her sons’ need for a structured home. When asked, “What kind of environment do you think the boys need?”, she answered, “They need a stable environment, calm environment.” She answered “No” when asked, “Are you in that kind of environment right now?” and “Yes” when asked, “Is it fair to say you would prefer [your sons] to remain in placement until your housing situation is stable?” The findings that appellant’s sons need a stable environment and that appellant’s felony record, chemical-dependency issues, and lack of employment, combined with the special needs of her sons, will make finding suitable housing unlikely in the foreseeable future are well supported.
claims that she lacks suitable housing because she was not permitted to move
with her sons to Oakwood Residence, a facility for housing mentally ill mothers
and their children; she also contends that the failure to admit her to Oakwood
shows that the county did not make reasonable efforts to reunite her family. See
appellant claims that the guardian ad litem’s testimony that appellant’s
parental rights should be terminated was not supported by the evidence.
“Considerable deference is due to the district court’s decision because a
district court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses.” In
re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (
The guardian ad
litem testified that appellant’s “history of documented mental illness has made
her unavailable much of the time in these boys’ lives and has made it difficult
or impossible for her, therefore, to respond to their needs.” Appellant
testified that, during the boys’ lives, she was imprisoned both in
due to the challenging special needs of both [R.] and [J.], these children will require caregiving well above and beyond the typical qualities needed in parents. [Appellant] is facing her own struggles now as she copes with her mood, chemical use and general life skills of finding housing and employment. It is not likely that [appellant] can manage to care for her sons at the present time.