This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).








In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of B. T., Parent


Filed January 30, 2007


Toussaint, Chief Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 27-J1-05-050551, 27-JV-05-2257


Leonardo Castro, Chief Fourth District Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant mother)


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)


            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Minge, Judge.

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 Arkansas, she was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and placed on probation for ten years.  She violated her probation by returning to Minnesota in March 2000.  In September 2000, she was arrested on an Arkansas warrant; she spent 72 days in prison but was not extradited.  From 2000 to 2004, appellant and her sons moved frequently among various apartments and homeless shelters.

            In March 2004, appellant was again arrested on an Arkansas warrant, extradited, and sent to prison in Arkansas.  Her sons remained with V., an adult male with whom appellant then had a relationship.  In January 2005, V. was convicted of a controlled-substance offense and sent to prison.  J. and R. were placed in foster care, where they have remained.  They have been adjudicated Children in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS).

            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. 


            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 (Minn. 1997). 

            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.

            Appellant 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 Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (2004) (providing that parental rights may be terminated if reasonable efforts, as directed by court, have failed to correct conditions leading to out-of-home placement).  Families at Oakwood have their own bedrooms but share common living spaces.  The child-protection worker felt that appellant’s sons’ special needs could not be met at Oakwood and that their aggressive and sexual behaviors could make them a danger to other children.  Moreover, appellant herself testified that “with [R.’s] touching other kids and some of his special needs it’s probably not a good place.”  Appellant’s argument on appeal that she and her sons should have been placed at Oakwood is inconsistent with her own testimony.

            Finally, 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 (Minn. 1996).

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 Minnesota and Arkansas, used marijuana daily even though she was on parole and knew it could affect her ability to raise her sons, left the boys with a man whom she knew was unable to care for them properly, and was unsuccessful at treating her own mental illnesses.  The guardian ad litem relied on the report of the parenting assessor, who concluded that

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.


The district court’s findings that it is in J.’s and R.’s best interests for appellant’s parental rights to be terminated are supported by the evidence and are not clearly erroneous.