Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Termination of Parental Rights of:
J.F., J.F., J.F., and A.H.
Filed October 14, 1997
Becker County District Court
File Nos. J49550182, J69550183, J29550181, J09550180
Joseph Evans, Becker County Attorney, P.O. Box 743, Detroit Lakes, MN 56502 (for respondent Becker County)
Harry Taves, 13 Southeast Colfax Avenue, P.O. Box 486, Wadena, MN 56482 (for children)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Randall, Judge.
Appellant-mother claims that the evidence was insufficient to terminate her parental rights. We affirm.
determine[s] whether the district court addressed the applicable statutory criteria, whether the court's findings [are] supported by substantial evidence, and whether the court's conclusions [are] clearly erroneous. Considerable deference is due to the district court's decision because a district court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses.
In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1996) (citation omitted).
Parental rights may be terminated if, after a child has been adjudicated CHIPS, "reasonable efforts * * * have failed to correct the conditions leading to the determination." Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(5) (1996). Reasonable efforts are presumed to have failed if (a) a parent has been diagnosed chemically dependent; (b) the parent is required to participate in chemical dependency treatment; (c) the type of treatment is appropriate; (d) on two occasions, the parent fails or refuses to participate in treatment; and (e) the parent continues to abuse chemicals. Id. Here, the district court found that this presumption was satisfied.
Mother challenges the presumption. The crux of her claim is that the county failed to make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate her and reunite her family because she is not chemically dependent and does not need the chemical dependency treatment ordered by the district court on more than one occasion. She argues that the county failed to prove she still abuses chemicals, that there is no testimony of chemically-related child abuse or neglect, and that two chemical dependency evaluators stated she did not need chemical dependency treatment.
After acknowledging that chemical dependency evaluations completed in 1991 and 1992 indicated that mother was not chemically dependent, the district court gave "controlling weight to the most recent [1993 evaluation] which diagnoses mother as chemically dependent." On this conflicting record, we defer to the district court's finding that mother is chemically dependent. See Bury v. Bury, 416 N.W.2d 133, 137 (Minn. App. 1987) (where there is a conflict in the evidence from expert witnesses, an appellate court defers to the district court's credibility determination). Further, the district court's finding is consistent with eyewitness accounts of mother's drinking and/or intoxication on numerous dates between November 1993 and February 1995. It is also consistent with mother's admissions that (a) she continues to drink; (b) two and-a-half months before trial, she was arrested for obstructing a police officer after having "a couple drinks[;]" and (c) as a result, she was incarcerated and charged with obstruction of legal process. On this record, the finding that mother is chemically dependent and abuses alcohol comports with L.A.F. because it is supported by substantial evidence and is not clearly erroneous.
Mother claims that none of the workers assigned to her case could document a single incident of neglect or abuse of the children as a result of her use of alcohol. Even assuming that mother's claim is accurate, we note that because the children were removed from mother's home in 1993, mother has had limited opportunities since then to allow alcohol to have an impact upon her care for the children. Indeed, one reason the children have not been returned to mother is because she continues to use alcohol.
In ruling that reasonable efforts were presumed to have failed to correct the conditions leading to the CHIPS determinations, the district court addressed the applicable statutory criteria, made findings supported by substantial evidence, and made conclusions that are not clearly erroneous. Because mother failed to rebut the statutory presumption, we affirm the termination of parental rights on grounds that reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions leading to the CHIPS determinations. We need not address whether the district court properly terminated mother's parental rights on other grounds. Minn. Stat. § 260.241 subd. 1.