This opinion will be unpublished and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: 
and R.R.S., III


Filed November 6, 2007


Klaphake, Judge


Itasca County District Court

File No. 31-JV-06-4401



Winton J. Mason, 730 NE 7th Avenue, Grand Rapids, MN  55744 (for appellant father R.R.S., III)


John J. Muhar, Itasca County Attorney, Mary J. Evenhouse, Assistant County Attorney, 123 NE Fourth Street, Grand Rapids, MN  55744 (for respondent Itasca County)


Gayle M. Lovejoy, 204 Northeast Third Street, Grand Rapids, MN  55744 (for respondent mother M.D.K.)


Erica L. Hill Austad, P.O. Box 130, Grand Rapids, MN  55744 (for respondent father J.T.S.W.)



            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            R.S.S. appeals from a district court order terminating his parental rights to M.K., who was born on June 1, 2006.  The district court found clear and convincing evidence to terminate his parental rights under three statutory grounds, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), (5), and (8) (2006).  Because the record includes clear and convincing evidence supporting termination under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2), and because termination is in the child’s best interests, we affirm.


            M.K. was placed in foster care immediately upon his birth.  At that time, R.S.S. was a minor, and paternity of M.K. was not established until two months after the child’s birth.  The mother, who was subject to criminal proceedings for having sexual contact with another minor male, voluntarily terminated her parental rights to M.K.  The county developed a case plan for R.S.S. that included goals and offered services to develop his parenting and living skills, increase his awareness of M.K.’s developmental and basic needs, and to remain law abiding.  The last goal was in response to R.S.S.’s juvenile record, which raised concerns about his need to develop appropriate ways to express emotions and manage anger.  After R.S.S. was subject to further juvenile proceedings and did not meet the goals set out in his case plan, the district court terminated R.S.S.’s parental rights on March 13, 2007.  R.S.S. claims that the court erred by concluding that he failed to comply with his parental duties, that respondent Itasca County made reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that led to M.K.’s out-of-home placement, and that termination of his parental rights was in M.K.’s best interests.

            “Parental rights are terminated only for grave and weighty reasons.”  In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990).  An appellate court reviews a termination decision to determine whether the trial court’s findings address the statutory criteria and whether those findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence.  In re Welfare of Children of R.W., 678 N.W.2d 49, 55 (Minn. 2004).  Only one statutory ground must be present for termination if termination is in a child’s best interests.  In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396-97 (Minn. 1996).

            Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2) (2006) provides for termination of parental rights if 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.”  Minn. Stat. § 260.012(f) (2006) defines reasonable efforts as “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.” 

            The crux of the problem in this case is the balancing of interests represented by R.S.S.’s struggle to gain parenting skills, living skills, and employment, and M.K.’s need for permanency.  At the time of termination, R.S.S. had very limited resources, had no employment or independent means of support, lived with his parents in a home unsuitable for young children, and continued to violate the terms of his juvenile probation.  In the winter of 2007, he joined the National Guard and planned to attend a ten-week training program during the following summer.[1]  It is laudable that R.S.S. desired to parent M.K., but the record shows that he was not prepared to care for his son on his own and that he had insufficient resources to provide for his son at the time of termination or in the foreseeable future.    

            In addition, after M.K.’s out-of-home placement, the court was obliged to conduct a permanency hearing within six months, and to conduct a permanency placement determination within 12 months of M.K.’s placement.  See Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subds. 11a, 11(a) (2006).  Respondent also had the duty to seek a petition for termination of parental rights based on its assessment of R.S.S.’s lack of progress on the case plan.  See Minn. Stat. § 260C.201, subd. 11a(b).  These legal mandates, in conjunction with R.S.S.’s inability to parent M.K., also supported termination rather than prolonged foster care placement for M.K.

            R.S.S. further urges that the termination proceedings were unfair, claiming that certain witnesses attempted to streamline the termination process to facilitate M.K.’s adoption.  He particularly objects to the actions of the Assistant Itasca County Attorney, who stated during a pretrial discussion that it was respondent’s goal to “get this child adopted in a permanent home.”  The context of this statement reveals that the mother’s agreement to voluntarily terminate her parental rights was conditioned upon the rights of both fathers of her two children being terminated so that the children would be available for adoption.  The discussion among the attorneys and the judge was for the purpose of establishing the timing of her voluntary termination in relation to proceedings involving the fathers.  See In re Child of P.T. & A.T., 657 N.W.2d 577, 590 (Minn. App. 2003) (noting that “voluntary terminations are often used to facilitate adoptions”), review denied  (Minn. Apr. 15, 2003).  As such, the discussions did not impermissibly invade the termination proceedings, nor do we observe any witness improprieties in the record. 

            R.S.S. also claims that respondent never called his probation officer or an in-home worker provided by respondent.  These individuals both testified at trial, however, and prepared reports reviewed by the court.  The weight to be given these witnesses’ testimony was for the district court.  See In re Welfare of Children of J.B., 698 N.W.2d 160, 167 (Minn. App. 2005) (stating “[t]he weight to be given any testimony . . . is ultimately the province of the fact-finder”).      

            Finally, we agree with the district court that termination of  R.S.S.’s parental rights is in M.K.’s best interests.  See Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7 (2006) (best interests of child paramount in termination proceedings).  The district court stated:

[M.K.] is in need of a stable, supportive, nurturing and safe environment.  [R.S.S.] is not presently capable of providing these needs . . . nor does it appear that he will be in the foreseeable future . . . [R.S.S.] is young and struggling to meet his own needs, which leaves it difficult for him to also meet the needs of a young child.


The record supports this finding.  R.S.S. was a minor himself when M.K. was conceived.   While R.S.S. clearly loves his son and showed him proper attention and care during visits, he is unable to parent him at this time or in the foreseeable future due to his own youth and lack of resources.  The termination decision is sound and in the child’s best interests.






[1] While his attorney characterizes any challenge to R.S.S.’s decision to join the National Guard as improper, R.S.S. could not simultaneously join the National Guard and be available to parent M.K.