may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
J.S.S., J.R.S., and J.C.S., Children.
Filed October 1, 1996
Carver County District Court
File No. JC9550564
Bruce A. Olander, Olander Law Office, 200 First Street East, Jordan, MN 55352 (for Appellant Mother)
Michael A. Fahey, Carver County Attorney, Duane A. Bartz, Assistant Carver County Attorney, Carver County Government Center, Justice Center, 600 East Fourth Street, Chaska, MN 55318-1400 (for Respondent Carver County)
James L. Berg, 1059 Stoughton Avenue, Chaska, MN 55318 (for Respondent Father)
Nancy Platto, 218 Pine Street, P.O. Box 257, Chaska, MN 55318 (Guardian Ad Litem)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge, and Short, Judge.
In this parental rights termination action regarding the welfare of three minor children, appellant mother contests the trial court's findings of fact. Appellant contends the respondent county's social service agency did not afford her adequate chemical dependency treatment and that the relationship with her social worker rendered the agency's assistance insufficient. We affirm.
The agency arranged for appellant to attend a chemical dependency treatment in February 1995, but appellant never began the treatment as agreed. Appellant had no contact with her children or the agency for the next two and a half months. In May, appellant met with the social worker, but she did not appear at a subsequent scheduled visitation. Despite the social worker's attempts, appellant had no contact with the agency or the children for the next three months. In September, the agency filed a petition to terminate appellant's parental rights. The court ordered the appellant to have visitations with two children, but she failed to appear on time for three of the six scheduled visits.
After a hearing on the county's September 1995 termination petition, the trial court issued an order terminating appellant's parental rights to the three children. The trial court found that appellant was chemically dependent, that the proposed treatment services were appropriate, that the agency made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate appellant and reunify the family, and that appellant did not make reasonable efforts to adjust her circumstances. The court concluded that termination of appellant's parental rights was in the best interest of the children and justified on four separate statutory grounds: the appellant had abandoned the children, Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(1) (Supp. 1995), the appellant had neglected her parental duties to the children, Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd.1(b)(2) (Supp. 1995), reasonable efforts had failed to correct the neglect and dependency of the children, Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(5) (Supp. 1995), and appellant's circumstances, condition, and conduct precluded the return of the children from foster care to her custody, Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(8) (Supp. 1995), and Minn. Stat. § 260.015, subd. 18 (1994). All the relevant statutory grounds require a showing that the social service agency has furnished the parent an appropriate level of service or has made reasonable efforts to assist in correcting dangerous conditions. For a chemically dependent parent, the failure to correct harmful conditions requires a showing that an appropriate treatment program has been offered.
Termination is appropriate only where it appears that present circumstances of neglect will continue for a "prolonged, indeterminate period." In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980).
The standard of appellate review requires that we determine whether the trial court's findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether those findings are clearly erroneous. M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d at 375. An appellate court will closely inquire into the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether the evidence is clear and convincing. Clausen, 289 N.W.2d at 156.
"The court need find that only one of the statutory conditions exists to terminate parental rights." In re Welfare of P.J.K., 369 N.W.2d 286, 290 (Minn. 1985); see Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd.1(b) (Supp. 1995) (providing the several grounds upon which a court may grant involuntary termination of parental rights).
The trial court's findings that the agency offered appellant adequate chemical dependency services are not clearly erroneous. Appellant primarily asserts that the agency proposed an inpatient chemical dependency treatment program located a great distance from her home and that the agency should have modified the plan when it became apparent that appellant would not attend the treatment. But the chemical dependency counselor testified that appellant's chemical dependency prevented her from adequately caring for her children, that appellant required inpatient treatment before any reunification attempt, that the proposed treatment program was culturally, linguistically and clinically appropriate for appellant, that appellant agreed to attend this inpatient treatment program, and that appellant did not request additional or alternative services. See In re Welfare of Clough, 369 N.W.2d 337, 341 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that a parent's uncontrolled chemical dependency, provided it is manifested in her failure to attend to her child's needs, sufficiently establishes that a parent has neglected the parental duties owed to the child), review denied (Minn. Aug. 29, 1985). Appellant admitted that she was chemically dependent and that she neither attended the agreed-upon treatment program nor voluntarily sought treatment elsewhere. In re Welfare of J.S., 470 N.W.2d 697, 703 (Minn. App. 1991) (holding that a parent's failure to cooperate with the rehabilitation plan supports the conclusion that corrections will not occur within a reasonably foreseeable time), review denied (Minn. July 24, 1991); In re Welfare of J.H.D., 416 N.W.2d 194, 198-99 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that a parent's failure to take advantage of an agency's services supports a finding that reasonable efforts have failed to correct the conditions relating to the termination), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1988). The record contains sufficient evidence to support the trial court's findings that the agency offered adequate treatment services.
The trial court's findings that the agency made reasonable efforts to help appellant despite the relationship between appellant and the social worker also are not clearly erroneous. The social worker testified that appellant failed both to appear for scheduled appointments, including visitations, and to contact him or the children for months at a time. It was not inappropriate as a matter of law for the trial court to determine that the difficulties between appellant and the social worker did not justify ignoring the children and the agency's requests. In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 649 (Minn. 1995) (holding that a parent's refusal of services, failure to request services, and failure to make scheduled appointments may support a finding that a child is neglected and in foster care); J.H.D., 416 N.W.2d at 198-99 (holding that a parent's failure to take advantage of an agency's services or to maintain regular contact with social workers may support a finding that reasonable efforts have failed to correct the conditions relating to the termination); In re Welfare of J.J.L.B., 394 N.W.2d 858, 862-63 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that a parent's minimal contact with children and agency, refusal of services, and failure to make scheduled appointments may support a finding that a child is neglected and in foster care), review denied (Minn. Dec. 17, 1986); In re Welfare of W.R., 379 N.W.2d 544, 548-49 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that a lack of contact between parent and child and parental inaction with a public agency may be sufficient to establish abandonment), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1986); Clough, 369 N.W.2d at 341 (holding that a parent's lack of visitation effort is indicative either of an inability to perceive the child's needs or an unwillingness to attend to them). There is no evidence that the agency made the decision to seek the termination of appellant's parental rights before it began offering her services and counselling. Thus, the record contains sufficient evidence to support the trial court's findings that the agency made reasonable efforts to reunify the family.
Finally, appellant asserts that if her parental rights are terminated, the children will no longer receive common care because the children have different fathers. But there is no evidence on the record that suggests that either father will receive custody.
Substantial evidence on the record supports the trial court's findings that clear and convincing evidence exists to terminate appellant's parental rights.