Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996)
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of: C. Y., Child.
File No. J99650486
Lee Bjorndahl, Baudler, Baudler, Maus & Blahnik, 108 North Main Street, Austin, MN 55912 (for appellant father)
Craig S. Nelson, Freeborn County Attorney, 411 South Broadway, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (for respondent county)
Sue Jorganson, 620 Park Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
Appellant Debra Moe appeals the district court's order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, C.Y. Because the district court's findings address the relevant statutory criteria and are supported by clear and convincing evidence, we affirm.
finds by clear and convincing evidence that one or more of the conditions set out in section 260.221 exist, it may terminate parental rights.
Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (1996).
The district court found that appellant was
palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship because of a consistent pattern of specific conduct before the child and specific conditions directly relating to the child and parent which [were] of a duration or nature that render[ed] the parent unable for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the ongoing physical, mental or emotional needs of the child.
See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4) (1996). Appellant argues that at the time of the hearing she had made changes in her life that contradict the court's conclusion that she was unable to become a fit parent.
The court's findings focused on appellant's criminal record and her conduct while at Genesis and Incarnation House that led to her incarceration and loss of C.Y.'s custody. The court found that appellant did not make a serious attempt to be reunited with C.Y. after her release from prison. Instead, she participated in family foster care for only one month before leaving C.Y. and the Albert Lea area for Mankato and eventually St. Paul. The court also found that appellant had limited visitation with C.Y. and had no visitation at all for the six months between June and December 1996, and that this visitation was insufficient to maintain a relationship with a child under the age of four. The court found this "off again-on again" relationship was harmful to C.Y. Substantial evidence in the record supports these findings, and appellant does not dispute them.
Instead, appellant argues that she has changed and relies on her testimony that she left her most recent abusive relationship, is now raising a five-month-old child, and, nine days before the hearing, began working with a therapist she trusts. However, appellant's argument of recent change is not convincing and instead is consistent with her "off again-on again" pattern that the district court found so harmful to the child.
The district court also found that, following an earlier determination that C.Y. was in need of protection,
reasonable efforts under the direction of the court have failed to correct the conditions leading to that determination.
See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(5) (1996). It is presumed that reasonable efforts have failed upon a showing that
the parent * * * [has] not substantially complied with the court's orders and a reasonable case plan * * * and reasonable efforts have been made by the social service agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(5)(ii) and (iii). The district court found that the county had made reasonable efforts to reunite the family.
When determining whether reasonable efforts have been made, the court shall consider whether services to the child and family were:
(1) relevant to the safety and protection of the child;
(2) adequate to meet the needs of the child and family;
(3) culturally appropriate;
(4) available and accessible;
(5) consistent and timely; and
(6) realistic under the circumstances.
Minn. Stat. § 260.012(c) (1996). Contrary to appellant's argument that the county did not make reasonable efforts, the record establishes that the social service agency made more than reasonable efforts and resources available in an attempt to help and reunite this family. C.Y. is a "special needs" child, with both physical and mental disabilities. The county furnished assistance to appellant and C.Y. in some 13 different programs made available. Despite this remarkable expenditure of resources, appellant's "off again-on again" pattern of care for her daughter remains essentially unchanged.
The district court also found:
Appellant has consistently failed to participate in individual therapy or visit with the child on a regular, frequent basis. [Appellant] failed to complete the Genesis II program and discontinued the whole family foster care. * * * [She] has chosen to live away from the * * * area thereby limiting her ability to have regular, frequent visitation.
This finding is supported by the testimony of appellant's social worker that appellant did "nothing to seek reunification with her daughter, to substantially comply with the existing Court ordered disposition/treatment program, or establish that she has sufficient parenting abilities to meet the needs of [C.Y.]" It is also supported by appellant's testimony that social services encouraged her and attempted to help her comply with her treatment plan, her testimony that she had not complied with the court-ordered treatment plan, and her testimony that she voluntarily chose to live in St. Paul and thus limited her ability to visit her daughter. This same evidence supports the court's finding that C.Y. was neglected and in foster care. See Minn. Stat. §260.221, subd. 1(b)(8) (1996); see also Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1 (1996) (parent's conduct is such that child cannot be returned).
Finally, in any proceeding to terminate parental rights, "the best interest of the child must be the paramount consideration." Minn. Stat. § 250.221, subd. 4 (1996). Appellant argues that severing C.Y.'s relationship with her mother is not in the child's best interest. The district court's finding to the contrary is supported by clear and convincing evidence, including the guardian ad litem's recommendation that appellant's parental rights be terminated.