This opinion will be unpublished and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
In the Matter of the Welfare
of the Children of
K.H., P.N. and M.M., Parents.
Filed January 23, 2007
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27-JV-05-3588
Leonardo Castro, Chief Fourth District Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, 317 2nd Avenue South, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant K.H.)
Howard S. Kleyman, 2400 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55405 (for respondent Janice Johnson)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary Martin Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
In this termination of parental rights case, appellant K.H. claims that the evidence does not support termination of her parental rights to her children, C.D. and C.H., under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), (5) (2004). Because we conclude that the evidence supports both statutory bases for termination and that termination is in the children’s best interests, we affirm.
rights are terminated only for grave and weighty reasons.” In re
Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (
Appellant claims that the record does not show by clear and convincing evidence that her parental rights should be terminated under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), which allows termination when a parent has
substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed upon that parent by the parent and child relationship, including but not limited to providing the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, and other care and control necessary for the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and development, if the parent is physically and financially able[.]
Appellant argues that both the record and the case law decided under this statutory subdivision do not support termination. As to the record, appellant concedes that she did not comply with every element of her case plan, which addressed issues involving her mental health, chemical dependency, parenting skills, and lack of employment and housing. Appellant nevertheless claims that termination is not warranted because she “put everything she had into” the plan.
The record, however, fails to support appellant’s characterization of her efforts. Appellant has struggled with depression since she was a teenager. Her depression has become more serious with the passing years and has included attempted suicide. As to her chemical abuse issues, the record shows that appellant admittedly struggled throughout 2005 with refraining from substance abuse, but that she complied with her treatment requirements and did not use drugs for several months in early 2006. After April 2006, however, she did not provide urinalysis samples and did not comply with her treatment recommendations. She has also displayed a recurrent pattern of partial compliance, set-backs, and abandonment of treatment, most poignantly reflected in her recent and unexpected decision to leave the structured support offered at Oakwood Residence, just before she was to be reunited with her children to live there. Further, her inability to make sufficient progress when addressing her chemical abuse and mental health issues has affected her ability to address other issues necessary for reunification with her children.
Appellant also claims that her case does not demonstrate the compelling facts exemplified in the case law on this statutory basis for termination. Each termination case “is unique and must be decided on its own facts.” In re Child of P.T. & A.T., 657 N.W.2d 577, 590 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Apr. 15, 2003). Here, the evidence does not show that the provision of further services to appellant would produce a change in her circumstances. See In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893-94 (Minn. 1996) (affirming termination of parent’s rights for palpable unfitness when, due to parent’s mental illness and substance abuse, parent was projected to be permanently unable to care for his children). Given this, we conclude that the record supports the district court’s termination of appellant’s parental rights to C.D. and C.H. because she has refused or neglected to comply with her duties as a parent within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2).
Appellant further claims that the record does not contain clear and convincing evidence to support termination of her parental rights under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5), because the county failed to make reasonable efforts “to correct the conditions leading to the child’s placement.” The district court’s findings enumerate the county’s efforts to assist appellant, including foster care for her children, chemical health assessments and treatment, urinalyses, residential treatment and aftercare, parenting education, employment training, and an array of mental health services, including therapy, medication, and hospitalization. These services were offered consistently from the time the county took the children into custody in January 2005, until just shortly before appellant’s permanency trial in May 2006.
Appellant claims that she made “remarkable” progress until she moved out of Wayside House and into Oakwood Residence in April 2006. The record reflects, however, that appellant made slow and intermittent progress on her chemical dependency and mental health issues, which prevented her from addressing other issues in a timely fashion, such as parenting skills, employment, and lack of housing. While appellant claims that Oakwood Residence failed to address her specific needs, her abrupt departure from that program, which offered her comprehensive services to address her own needs as well as a safe living arrangement for her and the children, reflected a pattern of behavior on appellant’s part that persisted throughout the time that the county was involved in this case. At the time of appellant’s permanency trial, the children had been in an out-of-home placement for 15 months, and appellant could not offer them a home or even the certainty of her presence. Although the county offered appellant appropriate services and she attempted to use some of those services, we agree with the district court’s conclusion that the county’s reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions that originally led to the children’s out-of-home placement. See In re Welfare of A.J.C., 556 N.W.2d 616, 622 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Mar. 18, 1997) (terminating parental rights when county provided at least 25 social services over 15-month period to assist mother and children in reunification but services failed to lead to mother’s compliance with parental duties).
Finally, appellant claims that termination of her parental rights is not in the children’s best interests. In all termination proceedings, the best interests of the child are paramount. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 (2004). “In analyzing the best interests of the child, the court must balance three factors: (1) the child’s interest in preserving the parent-child relationship; (2) the parent’s interest in preserving the parent-child relationship; and (3) any competing interest of the child.” In re Welfare of Child of W.L.P., 678 N.W.2d 703, 711 (Minn. App. 2004) (quotation omitted). The district court found that it was in the children’s best interests to terminate appellant’s parental rights, stating:
The children have suffered from parental neglect. The children require on-going special services to address their special needs caused in part by a previous chaotic environment. Mother has not adequately addressed her chemical dependency, mental health, domestic abuse or parenting issues. Mother has had since January 2005 to correct the conditions which led to out-of-home placement. The children are young and need permanency at this time. It is clear that mother cannot parent her children now or in the foreseeable future. The children require a stable, supportive, nurturing and safe environment. The children should be freed up for adoption.
Appellant contends that the record does not support the best interests finding, and she questions the opinions of the child support worker and guardian ad litem, both of whom favored termination. In light of the ample evidence that the interests of these special needs children would be best served by termination and that appellant is unable to parent these children in the foreseeable future, we agree with the district court’s conclusion that termination of appellant’s parental rights to C.D. and C.H. is in their best interests.