may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. sec. 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
D. J. C.
File No. J6-95-72199
William E. McGee, Hennepin County Public Defender, C-2200 Government Center, 300 S. Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for appellant)
Warren R. Sagstuen, Assistant Hennepin County Public Defender, 317 Second Avenue South, Ste. 200, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2700 (for appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 14th Floor NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda M. Freyer, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 S. Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
Appellant D.J.C., a juvenile male, appeals his placement in the Hennepin County Home School Juvenile Male Offender Program. Appellant claims that the juvenile court abused its discretion in the disposition and did not make the required findings. We affirm.
On March 18, 1997, appellant ran from the Children's Home. He was apprehended and returned to the Children's Home a few days later. On April 2, 1997, a juvenile court dispositional review hearing was held. Monique Miller, appellant's therapist from the Children's Home, submitted a report. She explained that appellant had displayed behavioral problems in the weeks before he absconded; these included temper tantrums, disrespectful behavior, smoking, entering peers' rooms without permission, and disobeying time lines. The juvenile court determined that continued placement at the Children's Home was in appellant's best interest and was the least restrictive alternative necessary to restore him to law-abiding behavior. Appellant returned to the Children's Home to complete the program.
On May 2, 1997, appellant again absconded from the Children's Home. He was found at a home in Minnetonka about four days later. When the police arrived, appellant hid in a closet, forcing the police to search the house.
Miller again reported to the juvenile court on appellant's behavior. She stated that since his return in April, appellant had experienced problems with school, smoking, dishonesty, and rule breaking. She noted that appellant believed that he would be discharged soon after his next court date in May, although he was aware that his discharge was contingent on his successful completion of the program. Miller also reported that appellant "has not demonstrated the ability to manage his antisocial and oppositional behavior consistently nor when out of direct supervision." She recommended a correctional response with continued family therapy.
On May 15, 1997, the juvenile court held another dispositional review hearing. The probation officer recommended against continued placement in the Children's Home because of the seriousness of appellant's offenses and because appellant had not really committed himself to the program. The probation officer stated that a correctional placement was necessary and suggested nine months at the County Home School. The state agreed with the recommendations of the probation officer and the therapist.
Appellant's attorney argued that appellant should be placed in the Beta program for a short period and then sent home. She also asked the juvenile court to consider Thistledew and St. Croix Camp, two other juvenile facilities. She reasoned that it had been over a year since appellant's last criminal offense, and appellant had already been at the Children's Home for 14 months.
The juvenile court commented on the record that appellant's delinquency history was fairly serious, that appellant's therapist concluded that appellant's behavior management was inconsistent, and that appellant did not turn himself in after he ran away the second time. The juvenile court rejected the Beta program because it is short-term and consequence-based. It also rejected placement at Thistledew and St. Croix Camp because they "don't have the type of family therapy or the therapeutic components that the County Home School does, which it seems to me is an essential part of this plan." On May 19, 1997, the juvenile court issued a new dispositional order that placed appellant in the Hennepin County Home School for nine months. This appeal followed.
The goal of a delinquency disposition is rehabilitation; the disposition must be necessary to achieve that goal. Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997); M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d at 498; L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d at 398. The juvenile court must balance the severity of the delinquency with the proposed remedy to determine the least drastic method to restore law-abiding conduct. Id. at 398. Thus, the disposition must be proportional to the delinquency. The court may consider the seriousness of the offense and repetition of the unlawful conduct. Id.
Appellant argues that the disposition is disproportionate to the offense because of appellant's isolation from his family. He also contends that the placement is not proportional to the offense, because the placement is too long and there have been no new violations of the law.
The transcript of the dispositional review hearing indicates that the juvenile court considered the severity and proportionality of the offense and the disposition. Appellant has a serious record, requires further rehabilitation, has violated several conditions of his past placement, and has twice absconded from it. With respect to appellant's claimed isolation from his family, we see no abuse of discretion in the district court's choice of a new out-of-home placement albeit located 150 miles away from the home of appellant's mother. Rehabilitative necessities govern the choice of an out-of-home placement. Moreover, the recommendations of the therapist and probation officer support the juvenile court's decision. We conclude that the disposition is sufficiently proportional to the offense.
Appellant next argues that the disposition was not in his best interest, as is required by Minnesota law. Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1; Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(B)(2); L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d at 399. Where a residential placement is ordered, there must be evidence that the aims of the law cannot be realized without out-of-home placement and that the placement is suitable for the actual needs of the child. Id. 372 N.W.2d at 399-400. Here, appellant's own therapist concluded that appellant could not control his behaviors and needed correctional placement. The juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in accepting that conclusion and in determining that placement in the County Home School was in appellant's best interest.
Finally, appellant claims that the juvenile court did not make the required findings. Dispositional findings are required by statute and court rule. Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1; Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2. The juvenile court must make written findings of fact that address how the disposition serves the best interest of the child, what alternatives were considered, and why the other alternatives were rejected. Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A). These findings are required (1) to ensure that courts consider appropriate standards, (2) to enable the parties to understand the disposition, and (3) to facilitate meaningful appellate review. L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d at 400-01. Failure to make the required findings constitutes reversible error. In re Welfare of L.B., 404 N.W.2d 341, 346 (Minn. App. 1987).
Here, the juvenile court's written findings consist of the following:
Child ran from a court-ordered placement at St. Cloud Children's Home. Placement at CHS-JMOP is in the child's best interest and it [is] the least restrictive and appropriate placement necessary to return him to law-abiding behavior.
The juvenile court, however, made more extensive oral factual findings on the record at the dispositional review hearing. It considered a range of alternatives, namely, return to the St. Cloud Children's Home, placement at appellant's mother's home, placement at Thistledew or St. Croix Camp, and enrollment in the Beta program. The juvenile court explained why each alternative was rejected and accepted the therapist's conclusions about appellant's behavior and needs; it articulated its concern that appellant did not turn himself in after he absconded the second time. Finally, it stated that appellant was not "at the end of the line in terms of a treatment approach."
Although the findings in the order were minimal, the juvenile court did make adequate findings on the record. The contents of these oral findings satisfy the purposes of informing the parties of the court's rationale and providing a record for review. The oral findings were transcribed and available to the parties. At this point, it makes little sense to remand the case merely to include in the written order the juvenile court's oral findings, which appear in the hearing transcript. Further, we are mindful that in May 1997, appellant was placed in the County Home School for nine months. At the time of our appellate decision, that placement period will be two-thirds completed. Because the findings in the entire record are sufficient, in these circumstances we see no compelling reason to remand the case.