This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of:
A. G. and D. R., Parents.
Filed August 21, 2007
Blue Earth County District Court
File No. 07-JV-06-73
Paul E. Grabitske, Eskens, Gibson & Behm Law Firm, Chartered, 115 East Hickory Street, Suite 200, Mankato, MN 56002-1056 (for appellant D.R.)
Ross E. Arneson, Blue Earth County Attorney, Mark A. Lindahl, Assistant County Attorney, P.O. Box 3129, Mankato, MN 56002-3129 (for respondent Blue Earth County Human Services)
Carrie Marsh Leone, Assistant Public Defender, P.O. Box 1059, Mankato, MN 56002 (for respondent A.G.)
Debi Cumming, Nicollet County Courthouse, 501 South Minnesota Avenue, St. Peter, MN 56082 (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Kalitowski, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant D.R. challenges the district court’s order terminating his parental rights to his twin sons, arguing that the district court clearly erred by finding that respondent had provided reasonable services to rehabilitate him and reunify the family, and abused its discretion by concluding that (1) appellant refused to abide by the duties of the parent-child relationship; (2) appellant failed to correct the conditions leading to the children’s placement in foster care; (3) the children are neglected and in foster care; and (4) termination of appellant’s parental rights are in the best interests of the children. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Twin boys, D.R. and D.R., were born prematurely to A.G. and D.R. on December 20, 2005, at 29 weeks of gestation, having been exposed prenatally to cocaine and methamphetamine. Accordingly, the twins “were extremely fragile” and “required extraordinary care and attention.”
From the time of their birth, the twins have been in the custody of Blue Earth County Human Services, placed in foster care. Following a four-day hearing, the district court terminated appellant’s parental rights to the twins, concluding that termination was appropriate because appellant had failed to comply with the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) (2006); reasonable efforts had failed to reunite the family, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5) (2006); and the twins are neglected and in foster care, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(8) (2006). The district court concluded that respondent had made reasonable efforts to reunite the family, those efforts had failed, further efforts would be futile, and termination of appellant’s parental rights is in the best interests of the children. Appellant challenges each of these determinations.
“must determine whether the [district] court’s findings address the statutory
criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and
whether those findings are clearly erroneous.”
In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462
N.W.2d 370, 375 (
Before parental rights may be
terminated, reasonable efforts must be made to reunite the children with the
“Reasonable efforts” means “the
exercise of due diligence by the responsible social services agency to use
culturally appropriate and available services to meet the needs of the child
and the child’s family” and to reunify the family.
“Efforts to help parents generally
are closely scrutinized, because public agencies may transform the assistance
into a test to demonstrate parental failure.”
In re Welfare of J.H.D., 416
N.W.2d 194, 198 (Minn. App. 1987), review
Appellant argues that the district court clearly erred by making inadequate findings regarding the reasonableness of the services offered to appellant. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 8, requires:
In any proceeding under this section, the court shall make specific findings:
(1) that reasonable efforts to prevent the placement and to reunify the child and the parent were made including individualized and explicit findings regarding the nature and extent of efforts made by the social services agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family; or
(2) that reasonable efforts at reunification are not required as provided under section 260.012.
Section 260.012 provides that
reasonable efforts are unnecessary if “the provision of services or further
services for the purpose of reunification is futile and therefore unreasonable
under the circumstances.”
The record indicates that appellant’s case plan required him to:
1. complete a parenting skills course through Early Childhood Education Program.
2. complete Red Cross CPR Training for infants.
3. complete a parenting assessment
4. maintain sobriety
5. participate in medical attention for the children
6. work with the PIP program and participate in Early Childhood Assessment from the Early Intervention Outreach
7. find approved day care services before the children enter his care
8. sign releases
9. visit the children; and
10. visit with the social worker to review progress.
Appellant argues that the results of the parenting skills assessment regarding anger management were not incorporated into the plan and therefore the plan is faulty. He further argues that insufficient resources were supplied in order to maintain his sobriety.
Regarding appellant’s efforts to comply with his case plan, the district court found that:
[appellant] did complete the Red Cross CPR training. He did complete the parenting assessment. That was about it. Most critically, considering the extraordinary needs of the twins, [appellant] never contacted [the twins’ Early Childhood Special Education case manager] or anyone in an effort to acquire the skills necessary to care for them.
The district court further stated that:
[Appellant] has failed to fulfill much of the requirements established in the case plan. He actually explicitly denied that anything was wrong with the twins. He failed to engage in any of the opportunities for parenting skills classes or to participate in the early intervention programs.
And the court found that “[respondent] has made reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that led to the placement of the twins in foster care. Services have been offered to [appellant]. He has failed to take advantage of such services.”
Here, the district court determined that “reasonable efforts have been and would be futile and thus unreasonable and unnecessary.” It found that “given [appellant’s] psychological profile as verified by his life style, it is unlikely that he would be able to acquire the necessary ability to parent the twins. In other words, one must note the futility of continuing in an effort to provide services to [appellant] given the extraordinary needs of the twins and their legal right to permanent stability.” The district court noted that appellant had reacted with hostility toward various representatives of respondent, and that the psychological profile developed depicted appellant as “a man who would have difficulties with relationships; an inability to hold a job; difficulty following the rules of society; and animosity and suspicion of those in authority.”
The district court commented:
When pressed to provide a time line needed by [appellant] to possibly become minimally qualified to parent the twins, [the child protection case manager] suggested that [appellant] would need a year! And then, only if he was diligent in his efforts and did not experience any major problems.
We agree with the district court that the record supports its finding that future efforts by respondent would be futile. We conclude that Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 8(2), applies in this case and the district court was not required to make detailed findings regarding respondent’s reasonable efforts.
Under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), parental rights may be terminated upon a finding:
that the parent has substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed upon that parent by the parent and child relationship . . . and either reasonable efforts by the social services agency have failed to correct the conditions that formed the basis of the petition or reasonable efforts would be futile and therefore unreasonable.
Here, the district court determined
that appellant had not abided by the duties of the parent-child relationship
because he had not complied with the case plan.
See In re Child of Simon, 662
N.W.2d 155, 163 (
It is within the district court’s discretion to determine that appellant did not comply adequately with the case plan and, from that, to decide that he had failed to abide by the parent-child relationship. Because appellant failed to comply with the case plan and further efforts by respondent would be futile, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that appellant “substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed upon that parent by the parent and child relationship.”
A district court may terminate
parental rights if it finds “that following the child’s placement out of the
home, reasonable efforts, under the direction of the court, have failed to
correct the conditions leading to the child’s placement.”
It is presumed that reasonable
efforts have failed upon a showing of the following: (1) “a child has resided out of the parental
home under court order for a cumulative period of 12 months within the
preceding 22 months”; (2) the district court approved the out-of-home placement
plan; (3) “conditions leading to the out-of-home placement have not been
corrected”; and (4) “reasonable efforts have been made by the social services
agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family.”
Appellant argues that he complied
with seven of the ten requirements of the case plan, constituting substantial
compliance, sufficient to overcome the district court’s determination that he
had not upheld his commitment to the parent-child relationship.
A district court may terminate
parental rights if it finds that a child is neglected and in foster care.
To determine whether a child is neglected and in foster care, a district court may consider, among other considerations,
(1) the length of time the child has been in foster care;
(2) the effort the parent has made to adjust circumstances, conduct, or conditions that necessitates the removal of the child to make it in the child’s best interest to be returned to the parent’s home in the foreseeable future, including the use of rehabilitative services offered to the parent;
(3) whether the parent has visited the child within the three months preceding the filing of the petition, unless extreme financial or physical hardship or treatment for mental disability or chemical dependency or other good cause prevented the parent from visiting the child or it was not in the best interests of the child to be visited by the parent;
(4) the maintenance of regular contact or communication with the agency or person temporarily responsible for the child;
(5) the appropriateness and adequacy of services provided or offered to the parent to facilitate a reunion;
(6) whether additional services would be likely to bring about lasting parental adjustment enabling a return of the child to the parent within an ascertainable period of time, whether the services have been offered to the parent, or, if services were not offered, the reasons they were not offered; and
(7) the nature of the efforts made by the responsible social services agency to rehabilitate and reunite the family and whether the efforts were reasonable.
Here, the district court noted that appellant had visited with the children and attended some of the children’s medical appointments. But it also addressed appellant’s hostility toward medical and service staff, his denial that the twins had special needs, his attempts to undermine the parental assessment procedure, his continued drug- and alcohol-related lifestyle, and his lack of involvement with early childhood services. Appellant argues that the children are not in foster care because the surrogate family is providing such extensive services that the home should qualify as a treating facility instead of a foster home. But appellant does not explain how the care the children received in the foster home differs from the care the twins should receive in appellant’s home. Even though the twins require medical attention and services, including periodic nursing visits and therapy, they would need those services whether in appellant’s home or a foster home; the provision of these services does not appear to equate the foster home with a “hospital or treatment facility[y].”
We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that the twins are neglected and in foster care.
In addition to determining whether
one of the nine statutorily defined bases for termination is present, a
district court must also consider whether termination of parental rights is in
the children’s best interests and “explain its rationale in its findings and
conclusions.” In re Tanghe, 672 N.W.2d 623, 626 (
The “best interests” analysis
requires the district court to balance the children’s interest in preserving
the parent-child relationships, the parent’s interest in preserving the
parent-child relationships, and any competing interests of the children. In re
Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (
The district court noted with regard to another child in appellant’s care that “much of the time, no one in authority knew exactly where [appellant’s daughter] was sleeping at night.” And the district court concluded that termination of appellant’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests because appellant is unable to provide a stable environment and “given [appellant’s] psychological profile as verified by his life style, it is unlikely that he would be able to acquire the necessary ability to parent the twins.”
We have held that children have a
significant interest in the stability of the home environment and their
health. In re Welfare of M.G., 407 N.W.2d 118, 121 (
Termination of parental rights is called for by clear and convincing evidence. It is certainly in the best interests of the twins, as it is the only basis upon which the twins have any hope of achieving their full potential as human beings. They are in obvious need of extensive and long term caregiving and professional services. . . . [appellant], though expressing interest, is not capable of providing that care.
We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining that termination of appellant’s parental rights to the twins is in the twins’ best interest.