may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
K.K., K.Y., and K.K.
Filed February 11, 1997
Kanabec County District Court
File Nos. JI9650005, J39650006, J59650007
Steve Anderson, 1013 Highway 65, Cambridge, MN 55088 (for respondent guardian ad litem)
Norman J. Loren, Kanabec County Attorney, Sherri D. Hawley, Assistant County Attorney, 19 North Vine Street, Mora, MN 55051 (for respondent State of Minnesota)
Kenneth J. Dee, P.O. Box 163, Milaca, MN 56353 (for respondent)
John C. Klippen, P.O. Box 209, Mora, MN 55051 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from the trial court's order terminating her parental rights to K.K. (born 1-12-90), K.Y. (born 8-8-91), and K.K. (born 1-11-94), appellant argues insufficient evidence exists to support the trial court's decision. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
In an action to terminate parental rights, a petitioner bears the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence the existence of one or more of the statutory grounds for termination. Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (1996); In re Welfare of C.K., 426 N.W.2d 842, 847 (Minn. 1988). The petitioner's burden is subject to the presumption that a natural parent is fit to be entrusted with the care of the parent's child, and that it is ordinarily in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of his or her natural parent. In re Welfare of Clausen, 289 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 1980).
On appeal, this court determines whether the trial court's findings address the statutory criteria, are supported by substantial evidence, and are not clearly erroneous. In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990). We exercise great caution in termination proceedings, finding termination proper only when clearly mandated by the evidence. In re Welfare of P.J.K., 369 N.W.2d 286, 290 (Minn. 1985). The best interest of the child is the paramount concern in all parental termination cases. Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 4 (1996); In re Welfare of J.J.B., 390 N.W.2d 274, 279 (Minn. 1986).
Termination of parental rights is appropriate under Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(5) (1996), if reasonable efforts, under the court's direction, have failed to correct the conditions that led to a determination that the child needs protection or services. The trial court should consider appellant's efforts to remedy the problems that led the children to be placed in foster care, the adequacy of the social services provided to reunify the family, and the possibility that additional services might lead to successful reunification in the foreseeable future. Id.
The trial court found: (1) the problems existing at the time of the finding of dependency (appellant's inability to provide adequate nutrition and shelter for her children) still exist today; (2) appellant failed to complete STEP parenting or nutrition classes, or find suitable housing; (3) appellant ended visits with her children early because she could not handle their behavioral outbursts; (4) while responsive in the early stages of reunification efforts, appellant has failed to follow through on the plan; and (5) appellant will not be able to care for her children adequately in the foreseeable future, despite an infusion of new resources. After a careful review of the record, we conclude these findings are supported by ample evidence.
The trial court also found the reunification plan was reasonable and achievable, and that Kanabec County had provided appellant with a significant number of helpful social services. There is no evidence the county employed a testing approach aimed at demonstrating appellant's parental failures. See In re Welfare of E.L.H., 356 N.W.2d 795, 798 (Minn. App. 1984) (criticizing such an approach by public agencies).
The trial court further found the children had spent the previous two years in foster care. Because this case involves long-term foster care and "a repeated failure of reasonable efforts to reunite the family," consideration of the children's interests was appropriate. See J.J.B., 390 N.W.2d at 280 (permitting courts to determine best interests of child in such circumstances). The trial court therefore concluded termination of appellant's parental rights was in the children's best interests. This finding is not clearly erroneous.
This is a troubling case because we recognize appellant, living with limited cognitive ability and in conditions of poverty, has made efforts to improve her life and comply with the reunification plan. We are sympathetic to appellant's desire for another chance to be reunited with her children. However, the trial court's findings and memorandum address the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b) (1996), and are supported by substantial evidence. We cannot say the trial court clearly erred in reaching its decision to terminate appellant's parental rights. We therefore affirm the termination of appellant's parental rights to K.K., K.Y., and K.K.