STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
R.R.H. and M.V.H.
Filed July 28, 1998
Affirmed; motion granted in part
Anoka County District Court
File No. J39750878
Tyran Hines, 1055 - 229th Avenue N.E., Bethel, MN 55005 (pro se appellant)
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Marcy S. Crain, Assistant County Attorney, Patricia M. Fair, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, Anoka, MN 55303 (for respondent county)
Jenny L. Walker, Tenth Judicial District Chief Public Defender, Pamela M. Strom, Assistant Public Defender, 433 Jackson Street, Anoka, MN 55303 (for respondent mother)
Daniel J. Sadowski, 2140 Fourth Avenue North, Anoka, MN 55303 (for children and guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Tyran Hines challenges an order terminating his parental rights, claiming that the district court's findings are clearly erroneous. Hines has also moved this court to accept a supplemental brief, consider extra-record materials, issue an order reinstating visitation, remove the social worker assigned to the case and the guardian ad litem, and direct a new trial. We grant Hines's motion in part and deny it in part. In his pro se supplemental brief, Hines argues that (1) the district court failed to allow him to admit relevant evidence at the TPR hearing; (2) the district court failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; (3) the district court violated "constitutional law," "juvenile protection rules," and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act; (4) he had inadequate legal representation; and (5) the hearing transcript does not accurately reflect the testimony. We affirm.
R.R.H. (born 12/22/93) and M.V.H. (born 2/13/95) are the biological children of Hines and Judey Healy. In February 1995, Healy was charged with first- and second-degree murder of her daughter, L.H. Healy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is presently serving a 450-month sentence. At the time of her arrest, Healy was seven-months pregnant with M.V.H.
R.R.H. was removed from Healy's home, adjudicated CHIPS, and placed in foster care, where it was determined that she was developmentally delayed in both her cognitive and gross motor skills. She continues to have many special needs. M.V.H. was also adjudicated CHIPS and was placed in the same foster home as his sister.
After the initial hearing on the CHIPS petition in January 1995, Hines repeatedly requested custody of R.R.H., but social services denied his requests, explaining to him that once he was adjudicated a legal parent, social services would conduct a home study and psychological evaluation. Christine Harder, a social worker in the child-protection unit, offered to work with Hines on a voluntary basis to complete these services if his attorney approved, but Hines did not take advantage of the offer. He was adjudicated R.R.H.'s father on May 8, 1995, and M.V.H.'s father on December 11, 1995.
Throughout the entire evaluation process, Hines filed numerous affidavits with the district court containing allegations regarding the culpability of the Anoka County court and social services system in L.H.'s death, Healy's incarceration, R.R.H.'s developmental delays and failure to "bond" with him, his health and financial problems, and the general victimization of him and his family members. He has also alleged that court transcripts were altered and that pictures, motion papers, and affidavits were removed from the court files.
Dr. James H. Gilbertson conducted a psychological evaluation of Hines and determined that he has a mixed personality disorder with paranoid and narcissistic traits and an adjustment reaction disorder with mood and conduct disturbances. Dr. Gilbertson opined that without treatment Hines's level of distrust in working with professionals would hinder his ability to parent his children.
The court ordered supervised visitation between Hines and R.R.H., in which Hines participated for approximately ten months. Although some of the visits were successful, Hines continually demonstrated an inability to accept recommendations by Harder to improve his parenting skills. He made inappropriate comments to R.R.H. and on several occasions refused to interact with her, which at times put her in physical danger. Hines was required to attend educational staffings for R.R.H., but he did not attend several meetings and was asked to leave on more than one occasion due to his inability to cooperate with social services staff.
Hines had his first visit with M.V.H. in January 1996. In February, Harder submitted a case plan, which the district court adopted, calling for increased visitation with less supervision if Hines made progress in therapy, domestic abuse counseling, and parent education classes. But by April 1996, Hines's behavior during visitation was so detrimental to the children that Dr. Judy Rothenberg, a psychologist retained by social services, recommended to the court that he not have contact with the children until he had undergone therapy for 90 days. Harder also recommended that the court terminate Hines's visitation rights immediately, which the court did.
In August 1996, Hines met with Dr. Joe Wotruba, who believed that Hines was amenable to treatment. In November 1996, Dr. Rothenberg and Dr. Wotruba both began to work with Hines. Both doctors indicated that Hines showed some willingness to allow Dr. Rothenberg to instruct him on parenting issues and to allow Dr. Wotruba to help him stay focused on reunification with his children rather than his relationship with Anoka County. Hines met with the doctors only a few times before the county filed a petition to terminate Hines's parental rights.
At the TPR hearing, Harder recommended termination of Hines's parental rights on the ground that Hines could not be a full-time parent to the children because his own problems interfered with his decision-making abilities and his ability to assess the needs of his children. Dr. Rothenberg also recommended termination because Hines would be unable to make the necessary changes to enable him to have custody of his children at any time in the foreseeable future. Dr. Gilbertson indicated that Hines was still suffering from psychological disorders, as evidenced by the manner in which he fired his attorney during the hearing. Dr. Wotruba testified at the hearing that Hines could not presently serve as a full-time caretaker of the children nor would he be able to do so within the six months following the hearing.
The district court terminated Hines's parental rights, finding that (1) Hines was "palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship"; (2) "[r]easonable efforts * * * have failed to correct the conditions leading to the determination that [R.R.H.] and [M.V.H.] are children in need of protection or services"; and (3) R.R.H. and M.V.H. are neglected and in foster care. The court also granted Healy's petition for voluntary termination of her parental rights. This appeal followed.
A district court may terminate parental rights if it finds
(4) that a parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship because of a consistent pattern of * * * specific conditions directly relating to the parent and child relationship [which is] determined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders the parent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the ongoing physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child. * * *
(5) that following upon 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. * * *
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(8) that the child is neglected and in foster care[.]
Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997). The district court needs to find that the evidence supports only one of these criteria to terminate parental rights. In re Welfare of R.M.M., 316 N.W.2d 538, 541 (Minn. 1982). The district court here found that the evidence supported termination under all three criteria.
1. Palpable unfitness
To support termination of parental rights for palpable unfitness the state must prove
(1) a consistent pattern of * * * specific conditions, (2) directly relating to the parent and child relationship, (3) of a duration or nature that renders the parent unable to care appropriately for the needs of the child, (4) for the reasonably foreseeable future.
In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (Minn. 1996). The evidence must address conditions that exist at the time of the hearing, and the court must rely on "the projected permanency of the parent's inability to care for his or her child." Id. (quoting In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 649 (Minn. 1995) (internal quotes omitted)).
A parent's mental illness is insufficient by itself to constitute palpable unfitness. Kidd, 261 N.W.2d at 835. But a mental health condition may support termination if, due to the condition, the parent is unable to recognize the child's needs and limitations or to perform the "mechanical functions of a parent." In re Welfare of N.C.K., 411 N.W.2d 577, 580 (Minn. App. 1987). The central question is whether the condition "will continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period." In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980). The county must prove not only its inability to rehabilitate the parent but also that failure to remedy existing conditions would be permanently detrimental to the child's welfare. M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d at 378.
Here, the district court examined Hines's personality disorder as it related to his ability to care appropriately for the needs of his children. The district court emphasized that it was "not terminating [Hines's] parental rights because he is personality disordered" but indicated that his disorder made Hines incapable of conducting himself in "a manner consistent with his children's best interests." The record shows that (1) R.R.H. has special needs but Hines continually denies that fact or, alternatively, blames the county for her developmental delays; (2) Hines has repeatedly displayed inappropriate interaction with his children, is unable to accept professional recommendations to modify his interactions, and denies that there is any legitimate basis for concerns about his interaction with his children; and (3) all of the professionals indicated that Hines is presently incapable of parenting his children full-time and it is unlikely that he can make the changes necessary to have custody of the children within the foreseeable future. We conclude that the district court's finding that Hines is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship is not clearly erroneous.
2. Failure of reasonable efforts
In any proceeding to terminate parental rights, the social service agency must show that it made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate and reunify or that "provision of services or further services for the purpose of rehabilitation and reunification is futile and therefore unreasonable under the circumstances." Minn. Stat. § 260.012(b) (Supp. 1997). In determining whether the agency has made reasonable efforts,
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) (Supp. 1997). To determine whether efforts to reunite are "reasonable," the court must examine the length of a parent's involvement with social services and the quality of the agency's effort. In re Welfare of M.G., 407 N.W.2d 118, 122 (Minn. App. 1987).
Although the record shows that there was some delay in reunification efforts early in the process because of Healy's pending second-degree murder charges and her unwillingness to stipulate to Hines's paternity, social services offered Hines the opportunity to participate in voluntary services before he was adjudicated the father of either child. Further, the record shows that much of the early delay was the result of Hines's unwillingness to cooperate with social services. The record also shows that social services altered its case plan on several occasions to accommodate Hines, including providing two licensed psychologists for joint sessions to address both Hines's personality and parenting problems. The district court found that reasonable efforts by social services have failed to correct the conditions leading to the determination that R.R.H. and M.V.H. are children in need of protection or services. We conclude that this finding is not clearly erroneous.
3. Neglected and in foster care
To determine if a child is neglected and in foster care, the court shall consider, among other factors:
(1) the length of time the child has been in foster care;
(2) the effort the parent has made to adjust circumstances, conduct, or condition that necessitates the removal of the child to make it in the child's best interest to be returned to the parent's home in the foreseeable future, including the use of rehabilitative services offered to the parent;
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(5) the appropriateness and adequacy of services provided or offered to the parent to facilitate a reunion;
(6) whether additional services would be likely to bring about lasting parental adjustment enabling a return of the child to the parent within an ascertainable period of time, whether the services have been offered to the parent, or, if services were not offered, the reasons they were not offered; and
(7) the nature of the efforts made by the responsible social service agency to rehabilitate and reunite the family, and whether the efforts were reasonable.
Minn. Stat. § 260.155, subd. 7 (1996).
Both R.R.H. and M.V.H. have been in foster care for more than three years. Although Hines was not directly responsible for the children's placement in foster care, the record shows that placement of the children with him was not possible. Hines has either failed to use or challenged most of the rehabilitative services available to him, and the contact he has had with social services generally involved confrontation rather than requests for information about his children or efforts to alter the conditions that required their continued placement in foster care. The record also shows that additional services are unlikely to "bring about lasting parental adjustment * * * within an ascertainable period of time." See Minn. Stat. § 260.155, subd. 7(6). We conclude that the district court's finding that R.R.H. and M.V.H. are neglected and in foster care is not clearly erroneous.
Affirmed; motion granted in part.