may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
D.R. aka D.L., and D.L.
Filed February 23, 1999
Hennepin County District Court
File No. J4-96-64046
Michael A. Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Mary M. Lynch, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Ctr., Minneapolis, MN 55455 (for respondent county)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
This appeal is from a final order terminating Darrell Robinson's parental rights to his two children, D.R., born May 27, 1993, and D.L., born October 10, 1995. Robinson was adjudicated the father of D.R. on September 13, 1994 and has taken blood tests that reveal a strong presumption of paternity as to D.L., although he has not been adjudicated D.L.'s father. The district court terminated Robinson's parental rights to these children based on his palpable unfitness to parent, his refusal or neglect to comply with his parental duties, the failure of reasonable efforts to correct the conditions leading to the dependency determination, and his failure to be recognized legally as the children's father under Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(2), (4), (7) (1998). We affirm as to his palpable unfitness to parent the children.
The termination of a parent's relationship with a child is a "grave matter," one over which an appellate court will exercise "`great caution, * * * finding such action proper only when the evidence clearly mandates such a result in accordance with the statutory grounds.'" In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 647 (Minn. 1995) (quoting In re Welfare of Kidd, 261 N.W.2d 833, 835 (Minn. 1978)). On review, an appellate court must consider
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 S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (Minn. 1996) (quoting In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990)). The statutory bases applied by the district court in termination proceedings must be supported by clear and convincing evidence. Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (1998); Minn. R. Juv. P. 59.05. Only one statutory basis for termination is necessary to support the district court's termination decision. Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1.
Regarding Robinson's fitness to parent, the record demonstrates that he has not overcome the statutory presumption that he is unfit. See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4) (1998) (presuming parent palpably unfit to parent if, among other reasons, parent was found unfit to parent another child for circumstances similar to those alleged in present CHIPS petition). While Robinson argues that he has completed several of the programs and assessments required in his case plan, he continues to demonstrate the same problems with chemical dependency, domestic abuse, criminal history, and a pattern of inadequate parenting skills. See In re Welfare of J.D.L., 522 N.W.2d 364, 368-69 (Minn. App. 1994) (supporting termination of parental rights for unfitness where evidence established ongoing pattern of inadequate parenting skills, heavy alcohol use, and psychological problems).
Robinson's history of poor parenting includes (1) on several occasions failing to provide proper food, clothing, supervision, and sleeping accommodations for the children; (2) subjecting the children to unpermitted and unsupervised contact with their mother that resulted in their endangerment and harm; (3) failing to intercede on D.R.'s behalf on at least one occasion when D.R. was injured by an older child; and (4) allowing the children to be in contact with harmful items, such as knives and drugs within their reach. Robinson's parenting and psychiatric assessments further confirm his poor parenting skills and establish that he may not understand child development and that his "relationship problems" and "anti-social tendencies" interfere with his judgment.
Robinson also has unresolved chemical dependency problems. Although he completed a three-week program in May 1996, he had only a "guarded" prognosis because of his denial, blaming, and anger. He was arrested in April 1996 for fifth-degree possession of cocaine, but the charge was continued for dismissal. On September 21, 1996, D.R. and D.L. were placed on a 72-hour hold after they were found abandoned in Robinson's home. Police found crack cocaine and marijuana wrappers on the floor at that time.
Robinson's history of physical abuse involving other family members represents an additional obstacle to his fitness as a parent. He completed an anti-violence program at Excelsior Project in June 1997, but he was involved in an altercation with the children's mother after completion of the program.
While Robinson urges that he has made progress on his case plan, he has had similar objectives in earlier case plans and has generally failed to move forward in his areas of concern. As one example, although Robinson was ordered to complete a parenting assessment in one of his first case plans, he failed to do so until recently and thus has not had the opportunity to identify and address his many parenting issues. Meanwhile, the children have languished in foster care for more than two years. In our view, this is a case where "untoward delay of the demonstrated inevitable is intolerable." In re Welfare of J.J.B., 390 N.W.2d 274, 280 (Minn. 1986). Robinson has not overcome the statutory presumption of his unfitness to parent D.R. and D.L. under Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4).