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:
B.S., B.S., R.S., A.S., K.S., and S.S., Children.
Otter Tail County District Court
File Nos. JX-96-50255, J1-96-50256, J3-96-50257,
Waldemar B. Senyk, Otter Tail County Attorney, Barbara R. Hanson, Assistant County Attorney, Otter Tail County Court House, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for respondent Otter Tail County Department of Social Services)
Schan E. Sorkness, 115 West Washington, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for children)
Allen Haugrud, 105 East Lincoln Ave., Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
Appellant-mother challenges the termination of her parental rights, alleging the proceeding was incorrectly venued and that the reunification services provided by the county were inadequate. We affirm.
If a CHIPS adjudication is in effect when a petition to terminate parental rights is filed, the court making the CHIPS adjudication "shall" hear the termination proceeding unless the case has been transferred under Minn. Stat. § 260.121, subd. 2 (1996). Minn. Stat. § 260.225 (1996); see Minn. Stat. § 645.44, subd. 16 (1996) ("`[s]hall' is mandatory"). Here, the Otter Tail County District Court made the CHIPS adjudication. That adjudication was in effect when Otter Tail County sought to terminate parental rights and the case had not been transferred. Therefore, venue in that county was proper.
Even if venue in Otter Tail County was improper, the district court would not lack jurisdiction. See Claseman v. Feeney, 211 Minn. 266, 268, 300 N.W. 818, 819 (1941) ("[s]ince our district courts virtually `constitute one court of general jurisdiction coextensive with the boundaries of the state,' the fact that `a civil action is brought or tried in the wrong county is not jurisdictional'") (citations omitted).
2. Generally, it is presumed to be in a child's best interest to be in the custody of a parent. In re Welfare of Clausen, 289 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 1980). The court may, however, terminate parental rights based on clear and convincing evidence of at least one of the conditions in Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1 (1996). Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (1996). If the interests of parent and child conflict, "the interests of the child are paramount." Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 4 (1996). On appeal, an appellate court must
determine whether the district court addressed the applicable statutory criteria, whether the court's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and whether the court's conclusions were 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).
Appellant challenges the adequacy of the services provided by the county to reunify the family. See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 5 (1996) (district court must make findings
on "nature and extent" of county efforts to "rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family"). Appellant claims the county's provision of services was "uneven." Here, the allegedly inconsistent provision of services resulted from appellant's moves and the county's frequent inability to locate her, and from a possible voluntary termination by appellant of her parental rights to three of her children. Further, the inconsistencies appellant complains of involve events occurring before December 1995. But both a social worker and the child protection worker to whom the case was originally assigned stated that the county's decision to seek to terminate appellant's parental rights was based on events after December 1995. Under these circumstances, appellant's allegations of problems before December 1995, even assuming these allegations are true, did not influence the county's decision to seek termination of appellant's parental rights. See Midway Ctr. Assocs. v. Midway Ctr., Inc., 306 Minn. 352, 356, 237 N.W.2d 76, 78 (1975) (appellant must show both error and prejudice).
Appellant claims that her psychological evaluation was invalid because: (a) she was improperly encouraged by the county to use a particular psychologist; (b) much of the psychologist's testimony was that appellant was uncooperative; and (c) the psychologist prematurely rejected appellant as a parent for the children. Having reviewed the psychological testimony in question, we conclude that, while the psychologist testified about appellant's failure to cooperate, this testimony was not the crux of the testimony. Similarly, while the psychologist did not testify favorably on appellant's parenting abilities, it is not clear that the psychologist prematurely rejected those abilities. On this record, we cannot say the district court erred by accepting the psychologist's testimony. See In re Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Minn. App. 1992) (appellate courts defer to district court determinations of credibility and weight given testimony).
Appellant claims the county did not adequately help her locate proper housing. Housing-related services provided to appellant included public assistance, advice on the type of housing to acquire, and offers to pay the deposits and fees required to "hook up" utilities. Appellant herself testified that the housing-related services were adequate, but she seems to claim the county should have procured housing for her. This, however, would have been inconsistent with the case plan for appellant, which required her to find her own housing. Further, appellant's inability to have a positive relationship with authority figures makes it unclear whether she would have accepted an apartment found by the county.
The social worker's testimony addresses appellant's claim that a social worker overemphasized appellant's "dishonesty" in renting an apartment by fraud and forgery. The social worker pointed out that appellant's dishonesty was not the problem but, rather, just a symptom of how poor her problem-solving skills were; the defects in her problem-solving skills are central to her inability to parent the children. Because we reject appellant's challenges to the adequacy of the rehabilitation services and because she does not specifically challenge the bases for the termination, we affirm the termination of her parental rights.