STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
C.L. and J.W.
Filed February 2, 1999
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. J19752494
Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, Human Services, Suite 200, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent Hennepin County Department of Children & Family Services)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County Department of Children & Family Services)
Raymond Wood, 1919 University Avenue, Suite 116, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for respondent mother)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.*
Lavantheone Larkin, father of C.L., age 7, and J.W., age 3, appeals the revocation of a stay of an order terminating his parental rights. The district court determined that appellant father violated conditions of the stay and termination was in the children's best interests. Because the evidence sufficiently supports the district court's conclusion that termination of parental rights is in the children's best interests, we affirm.
Father does not challenge the three underlying statutory grounds specified in the September 18, 1997, district court order for termination of parental rights. He acknowledges that his drug and alcohol use was the principal basis of the district court's determinations. He also admits that he reverted to "substantial drug use" leading to a felony drug arrest two months after the district court stayed the termination order, thereby violating the primary condition of the six-month stay. Nevertheless, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support termination of his parental rights because the record indicated he made progress towards fulfilling the case goals set by the district court in its September 18, 1997, order.
An order terminating parental rights must explain the district court's rationale for concluding why the termination is in the best interests of the children. D.T.J., 554 N.W.2d at 110 (considering whether an order revoking a stay of termination of parental rights contained the required findings on the children's best interests). As D.T.J. establishes, district courts considering revocation of a stay in this context may not limit their determination to whether the parent violated conditions of the stay. Rather, the district court must also adequately support its conclusion that termination of parental rights is in the children's best interests. Id.
In its order revoking the stay, the district court found that termination of father's and mother's parental rights was in the best interests of the minor children and expressly incorporated the findings in its previous order, including the rationale for why termination of parental rights was in the children's best interests:
It is in the best interests of the children that parental rights be terminated * * * [because the] parents are unable to provide for the needs of the children due to their chemical dependency, criminal activity and their resulting incarcerations and inability to provide a stable home for the children.The district court thus implicitly found that the evidence did not indicate a change in the parents' ability to provide a stable home or provide for their children's needs. The court specifically noted that the parents were still awaiting trial on the felony drug charge and that the children had been in continuous out-of-home placement since September 26, 1997. It also carefully considered the need for an early determination of permanency for the two young children. Contrary to father's assertion, these findings indicate that the district court considered the conditions existing at the time of the revocation hearing. See In re Welfare of Chosa, 290 N.W.2d 766, 769 (Minn. 1980) (evidence relating to termination must address conditions that exist at the time of hearing).
Father maintains that the district court ignored his more recent efforts at maintaining sobriety and receiving parenting instruction. Father specifically refers to the discharge summary from Eden Programs, which indicates that his prognosis for long-term sobriety and recovery is good if he follows all recommendations. The report also notes, however, that father entered the program on referral from Hennepin County Drug Court and that he is relapse-prone. The district court emphasized father's relapse into drug use within months of the order staying termination, despite his stated promise to comply with all the conditions of the stay. The record also reveals that father never enrolled in any parenting class after the district court made completion of a specific parenting program a condition of the stay; father testified that he completed a parenting class in March 1997, six months before the district court's order was even filed.
Substantial evidence, particularly father's violation of stay conditions that addressed his chemical dependency and parenting problems, the pending felony drug trial, and the children's young ages, supports the district court's determination that termination of parental rights is in the children's best interest. We therefore conclude that the district court did not err in revoking its stay of termination of father's parental rights.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.