Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
R.R.F., II and K.O.F., Children.
Filed June 9, 1998
Mower County District Court
File No. J9-97-50592
Robert W. Auron, Mower County Attorney, Mower County Courthouse, Austin, MN 55912 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In September 1995, Mower County removed R.R.F., II and K.O.F. from their parents' home and adjudicated them CHIPS because of the parents' inability to maintain a safe, clean home and their inability to interact effectively with them. The county filed a petition in July 1997, and the district court terminated the parental rights of both parents. Appellant, the children's father, challenges the judgment terminating his parental rights. Because the district court's findings address the children's best interests and the requisite statutory criteria and are supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
We must determine whether the district court's findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether those findings are clearly erroneous. In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990). An appellate court will exercise "great caution in termination proceedings, finding such action proper only when the evidence clearly mandates such a result." In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 647 (Minn. 1995). The best interest of the child must be the paramount consideration. In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (Minn. 1996).
The district court based its decision on Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(5) (1996) that allows termination upon a finding:
That following * * * a determination of neglect or dependency, or of a child's need for protection or services, reasonable efforts, under the direction of the court, have failed to correct the conditions leading to the determination.
Appellant argues that the county did not make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate him and reunite him with his children because the boys' mother received more services. However, the county need not offer identical services to both parents; it must make reasonable efforts to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family. Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1 (5) (iii). The record supports the district court's finding that both parents were offered reasonable services to attempt to reunify them with their children.
Appellant also argues that the district court erred by terminating his parental rights simply because the children could not be returned home immediately. Appellant's experts testified that the children could not be returned to him at the time of the hearing and testified further that at least two years of additional services would be needed. Based on this testimony, appellant argues that the children should remain in foster care and the county should provide him two more years of services. Appellant erroneously relies on cases that predate changes to Minn. Stat. § 260.191, subd. 3b. (1996) and ignores that statute's prohibition against long-term foster care placement for children under the age of 12, except in limited circumstances.
The termination statute presumes
that conditions * * * will not be corrected in the reasonably foreseeable future upon a showing that the parent or parents have not substantially complied with the court's orders and a reasonable case plan, and the conditions which led to the out-of-home placement have not been corrected.
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. (1)(b)(5)(ii) (emphasis added). Here the district court found:
While there has been some indication of progress over the years, the conditions leading to placement are far from eradicated. Indeed, despite two years of concentrated effort, and an even longer history of assistance, there is no indication [the parents] have adequate parenting skills now or will in the foreseeable future.
The district court also found that termination was in the children's best interests and appellant fails to establish that finding was error.
The best interests of both children [are] clearly served by a safe, clean, and nurturing environment with parents who can appreciate the special needs of the children. None of these needs are met, nor will they be met in the foreseeable future by reuniting the * * * children with their natural parents.
* * * *
The high probability of adoption in the near future is a final factor in consideration of the children's best interests. Given the age of the boys, it is likely they will be placed together in an adoptive home that can meet the needs of these children.
The guardian ad litem and most of the professionals who testified recommended termination. The district court's best interest finding is supported by the record. Cf. In re J.M., 574 N.W.2d 717, 722 (Minn. 1998) (statutory limitation on foster care placement represents legislative determination that, "except under very limited circumstances," long-term foster care is never in best interests of child under age 12).