This opinion will be unpublished and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:
C.R.P. and Y.P.,
Filed February 13, 2007
Cottonwood County District Court
File No. 17-JV-06-1
Daniel A. Birkholz, Patrick J. Casey, Birkholz Law, L.L.C., 101 South Seventh Street, P.O. Box 461, St. James, MN 56081 (for appellant C.R.P.)
Paul E. Grabitske, Eskens, Gibson & Behm Law Firm, Chtd., 115 East Hickory Street, Suite 200, P.O. Box 1056, Mankato, MN 56002-1056 (for appellant Y.P.)
Douglas Storey, Cottonwood County Attorney,
Terry Scott Vajgrt, P.O. Box 688, Luverne, MN 56156 (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge, Worke, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
In these consolidated appeals of each parent from the district court’s termination of their parental rights, the parents argue that the record does not support the court’s findings that they are palpably unfit to parent, that reasonable efforts failed to correct harmful conditions, and that termination of their rights is in the children’s best interests. Having found evidence of record that is sufficient to support the district court’s findings, we affirm.
Appellant father C.R.P. and appellant mother Y.P. have four children. In November 2004, the couple’s seven-year-old daughter, Y., made statements about touching her father that led to his conviction of two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.343, subd. 1(a) (2002). Cottonwood County then initiated a CHIPS proceeding, but decided not to seek removal of the children from the home.
In December 2004, while attempting to serve the CHIPS petition on Y.P., a police officer discovered Y.P.’s children home alone, apparently being supervised only by seven-year-old Y. As a result of this incident, the county decided to remove the children from the home. After a short stay at a foster home, the children were placed in the home of C.R.P.’s parents. Shortly after the children were removed from her care, Y.P. wrote a letter to the Director of Cottonwood County Family Services stating that she believed her daughter was lying and that the accusations against C.R.P. were untrue. Y.P. later admitted that she wrote the letter because she did not want her family broken apart even though she knew that Y.’s allegations were true.
In May 2005, after C.R.P. was convicted and jailed, the children were returned to Y.P.’s care. A few months later, in early August 2005, a police officer responding to an unrelated call discovered two of Y.P.’s children, unsupervised, playing in the street outside of her home while she was asleep in an upstairs bedroom. In mid-August 2005, a police officer again discovered two of Y.P.’s children at her home apparently being supervised by their maternal grandfather who was asleep in the upstairs bedroom.
While in jail, C.R.P. was given Huber privileges. On August 17, 2005, Y.P. brought C.R.P. lunch while he was at work. Y.P. had their youngest son, D., with her and brought him into the building when she dropped off the lunch. They remained in the building for approximately 40 minutes and at one point C.R.P. held D. Y.P. later admitted that she knew that C.R.P. was not supposed to have any contact with the children. Shortly after leaving C.R.P.’s workplace, Y.P. was stopped by a police officer because one-year-old D. was in the front seat of the car without a proper car seat. After learning of the contact between C.R.P. and his child, the county again decided to remove the children from the home. A TPR petition was filed with the district court on December 2, 2005.
After a hearing in April 2006, the district court concluded that C.R.P. was palpably unfit to parent under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301 (2004); that reasonable efforts to prevent termination of C.R.P.’s parental rights were made; that under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 8(2), reasonable efforts at the reunification of C.R.P. and the child Y. were not required; that reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions leading to out-of-home placement; and that termination was in the best interests of the children. The district court also concluded that Y.P.’s rights should be terminated on similar grounds, with the added finding that Y.P. had neglected to comply with parental duties.
On appeal in a
termination proceeding, this court is “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 (
“Termination of parental rights will be
affirmed as long as at least one statutory ground for termination is supported
by clear and convincing evidence and termination is in the child’s best
interests.” R.W., 678 N.W.2d at 55. If a
single statutory basis for terminating parental rights is affirmable, this
court need not address any other statutory basis the court may have found to exist. In re
Children of T.A.A., 702 N.W.2d 703, 708 n.3 (
1. Fitness Findings
C.R.P. argues that the district court erred by finding him palpably unfit to parent under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4) (2004), which provides that a court may terminate parental rights if it finds that
a parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent child relationship because of a consistent pattern of specific conduct before the child or of specific conditions directly relating to the parent and child relationship either of which are determined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders the parent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the ongoing physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child.
The record shows that C.R.P. sexually abused his daughter on two separate occasions. The record also shows that he denied abusing his daughter for months and consistently maintained that his daughter was lying. A psychologist testified that C.R.P. has a sexual disorder and recommended that he not have contact with any child for at least two years. The record also shows that C.R.P. knowingly violated the terms of his case plan when he had contact with his son. The district court’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous.
C.R.P. also contends that he did not neglect parental duties, but such a failure was not cited by the district court in its termination findings.
Y.P. also argues that the record does not support the district court’s conclusion that she is palpably unfit to parent under the statute.
Evidence presented at trial shows that Y.P. failed to support her daughter after she reported being sexually abused by C.R.P., and at one point even sought to have her daughter live elsewhere so that C.R.P. could return home. The record shows that Y.P. knowingly violated the no-contact provision of the case plan when she brought her child to see C.R.P. The record also shows that on several occasions Y.P. failed to adequately supervise her children while they were in her care, at one point leaving the house and leaving only her seven-year-old daughter in charge. There was also testimony describing Y.P.’s lack of involvement in the home-based services and one instance in which the home-based worker had to intervene and perform CPR on one of Y.P.’s children. The county service providers testified that Y.P. failed to cooperate and refused to reveal her whereabouts to the service providers for approximately six months, preventing them from providing her with any in-home services. The home-based social worker testified that after the children were removed for a second time, Y.P. wanted to stop in-home service all together. The district court’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous.
argues that the district court erred because it did not consider evidence that
addressed the conditions as they existed at the time of trial. In a TPR proceeding the district court must
make findings that address the statutory criteria based on evidence that
reflects the conditions that exist at the time of the hearing. In re
Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (
The district court’s findings show that it considered evidence of the conditions as they existed at the time of trial. For example, the court found that Y.P. refused to provide the county with her address or contact information until shortly before the trial. The district court also found that at the time of trial there was a “continuing, or threat of a continuing, relationship between [Y.P.] and [C.R.P.].” The district court also considered the safety of the children and noted that “[Y.P.’s] disregard of this Court’s past orders banning contact between [C.R.P.] and [the children] creates an unacceptable risk of further abuse by [C.R.P.] upon the [children].” The district court properly considered the conditions that existed at the time of trial and addressed Y.P.’s ability to parent effectively in the future.
2. Failed Efforts
C.R.P. challenges the district court’s conclusion that reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions leading to the children’s out-of-home placement under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (2004). The district court determined that the children were in out-of-home placement for more than 12 months, that the appropriate case plans were filed, that C.R.P. did not substantially comply with the court’s orders and case plan, and that reasonable efforts were made.
It is presumed that reasonable efforts have failed if
(i) a child has resided out of the parental home under court order for a cumulative period of 12 months within the preceding 22 months . . .;
(ii) the court has approved the out-of-home placement plan required under section 260C.212 and filed with the court under section 260C.178;
(iii) conditions leading to the out-of-home placement have not been corrected. It is presumed that conditions leading to a child’s out-of-home placement have not been corrected upon a showing that the parent or parents have not substantially complied with the court’s orders and a reasonable case plan; and
(iv) reasonable efforts have been made by the social service agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family.
Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5).
In a termination proceeding, a district court must determine whether reasonable efforts were provided regardless of the statutory basis for termination. S.Z., 547 N.W.2d at 892. A court must base its determination of reasonableness on the basis of the factors listed in Minn. Stat. § 260.012 (Supp. 2005). Id. With regard to a district court’s determination of whether reasonable efforts were provided, the statute provides:
The juvenile court, in proceedings under sections 260B.178, or 260C.178, 260C.201, and 260C.301 shall make findings and conclusions as to the provision of reasonable efforts. When determining whether reasonable efforts have been made, the court shall consider whether services to the child and family were:
(1) relevant to the safety and protection of the child;
(2) adequate to meet the needs of the child and family;
(3) culturally appropriate;
(4) available and accessible;
(5) consistent and timely; and
(6) realistic under the circumstances.
regard to C.R.P.’s daughter, Y., reasonable efforts were not required. Reasonable efforts at reunification are not
required when a petition has been filed that states a prima facie case that
“the parent has subjected a child to egregious harm as defined in section
260C.007, subdivision 14.”
With regard to C.R.P.’s other three children, the record supports the district court’s finding that reasonable efforts at reunification were made and that he failed to substantially comply with the case plan. In March 2005, C.R.P. was provided with a detailed case plan which included sex-offender assessment, a chemical dependency evaluation, home-based services, and parenting classes. The case worker gave C.R.P. contact information for setting up the sex-offender assessment, and he met with in-home workers. C.R.P. attended parenting classes but did not complete them. The case worker testified that she was unable to set up appointments for C.R.P. with the various service providers because a release had not been signed, which related to the pending criminal matter. C.R.P. admitted knowingly violating the case plan by having contact with his son, D. Upon examining the record before us, there is no clear error in the district court’s finding that reasonable efforts were made.
Y.P. argues that the district court erred because it did not make specific findings regarding the reasonable efforts of the county to reunite the family. But the court made findings regarding reasonable efforts made by the county and addressed the factors listed in Minn. Stat. § 260.012(h). For example, the district court found that the continuing threat of a relationship between Y.P. and C.R.P. posed a threat to the safety of the children and that it was recommended that C.R.P. have no contact with any child for at least two years. The court also made detailed findings regarding the services provided to Y.P., including individual counseling, parenting time with her children, a psychological workup, home-based services, and play therapy for Y.P.’s daughter, Y.
The record also shows that the family participated in “group decision making,” which gives the parents an opportunity to meet with case workers and service providers to develop options for permanency. One of the options considered included returning the children to live with Y.P. and C.R.P. Y.P.’s children were returned to her home after the first out-of-home placement, but had to be removed again because of Y.P.’s failure to provide adequate supervision.
The district court properly considered the statutory factors when making its finding that reasonable efforts at reunification of Y.P. and her children were provided and that those findings are not clearly erroneous.
argues that the district court’s findings are insufficient to support its
determination that termination is appropriate under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301,
subd. 1(b)(2) (2004) (refusal or neglect of parental duties). But if even a single statutory basis for
terminating parental rights is affirmable, this court need not address any
other statutory basis the court may have found to exist. In re
Children of T.A.A., 702 N.W.2d 703, 708 n.3 (
3. Best Interests
Both parents argue that the record does not support the district court’s determination that termination of their parental rights is in the children’s best interests. Without citing any legal authority, C.R.P. argues that he and Y.P. have “provided a stable and happy home for their children” and that “it is in the interests of the children and their parents to remain a family unit.”
determining the best interests of a child, a district court is required to
“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 R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (
In its order, the district court carefully explained its rationale behind its decision that termination was in the best interests of the children. The court acknowledged both parents’ interests in preserving the parent-child relationship, but concluded that the competing interests of the children “are overwhelmingly in favor of termination, specifically as to the [children’s] health and need for a stable environment.” The district court noted that Y. had been molested twice by C.R.P., that Y.P. had failed to support her daughter when she made that accusation, that a psychologist recommended that C.R.P. have no contact with any child for at least two years, and that the children have had no contact with C.R.P. since June 2005. There was also testimony concerning the safety of the children because they had been found without adult supervision several times. The record supports the district court’s findings, and its conclusion that termination is in the best interests of the children is not clearly erroneous.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.