This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




In the Matter of the Welfare of:

L.R.R. and N.J.G.

Filed March 16, 1999


Huspeni, Judge[*]

Stearns County District Court

File No. J89850104

Allen P. Eskens, 3 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 207, P.O. Box 3412, Mankato, MN 56002-2412 (for appellant-father Mark Gunderson)

Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, Theresa Kehe, Assistant Stearns County Attorney, Administration Center, Room 448, 705 Court House Square, St. Cloud, MN 56303-4773 (for respondent Stearns County)

Matthew A. Samuelson, 816 West St. Germain, Suite 410, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for mother)

William P. Kain, 11 North Seventh Avenue, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for guardian ad litem)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.



Appellant-father challenges the termination of his parental rights, alleging the county failed to make reasonable efforts to reunite the family and that the district court failed to make statutorily required findings addressing the county's efforts to reunite the family. Because the county made reasonable efforts to reunite the family and the district court's findings regarding those efforts are adequate, we affirm.


The judgment dissolving the marriage of appellant-father Mark Gunderson granted mother Patricia Reiter custody of their son. The parents later had a daughter. In October 1995, the children were adjudicated in need of protection or services (CHIPS) and in February 1996 they were placed in foster care. The August 1997 Permanent Placement Disposition orders recommended that the county petition to terminate the parents' parental rights. The county did so in January 1998. Mother consented to the petitions but father opposed them. The district court denied father's motion for a continuance and heard the case on June 4, 1998.[1] On June 23, 1998, the district court terminated father's parental rights. Father appeals.

A court may terminate parental rights upon clear and convincing evidence of one or more of the conditions listed in Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1 (1998). Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (1998). Where the interests of a parent and a child conflict, "the interests of the child are paramount." Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 4 (1998). Here, the district court terminated father's parental rights because he did not undertake the duties of the parent-child relationship, he was a palpably unfit parent, reasonable efforts did not correct the conditions leading to CHIPS adjudication, and the children are neglected and in foster care. See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(2), (4), (5), (8) (1998) (respectively). On appeal of a termination of parental rights, we review

whether the district court addressed the applicable statutory criteria, whether the court's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and whether the court's conclusions were clearly erroneous. Considerable deference is due to the district court's decision because a district court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses.

In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1996) (citing In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 374-75 (Minn. 1990)).


Father challenges the district court's findings under Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 5 (1998). That provision requires findings on the nature and extent of efforts made to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family, and a finding either that additional services would be futile or that reunification is not required because the parent has been convicted of crimes not involved here. Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 5. Father contends that the court's findings were inadequate. We disagree.

Regarding the effort made to rehabilitate father and reunite him with his daughter, the district court found that father did not show he could satisfy "the first step" toward rehabilitation by showing he could maintain consistent contact with his daughter. The district court also found that father received chemical dependency treatment four times and that the county "made reasonable efforts at reunification." Similar findings were made regarding the effort to rehabilitate father and reunite him with his son. Regarding the futility of additional services, the findings supporting the termination of father's parental rights to his daughter state that father made no effort to change his lifestyle so he could become a parent to the child, that his prior failures in chemical dependency treatment meant additional treatment "would not be reasonable," and that "additional services to [father] would [be] futile[.]" Again, similar findings were made regarding the effort to rehabilitate father and reunite him with his son. The record supports the findings made by the district court, and we conclude that those findings comply with the requirements by Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 5, because they address the efforts made to rehabilitate father and reunite him with the children, the adequacy of those efforts, and the futility of additional efforts.


Father also alleges that the county did not make reasonable efforts to reunite the family. Reasonable efforts

means the exercise of due diligence by the responsible social service agency to[,] * * * upon removal, [provide] services to eliminate the need for removal and reunite the family * * * . The social service agency has the burden of demonstrating that it has made reasonable efforts 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) (1998).

Father argues that under In re Welfare of K.P.C., 366 N.W.2d 711 (Minn. App. 1985), inconsistent visitation is not sufficient to terminate parental rights and should not have prompted the county to restrict the services it provided father. In K.P.C., we reversed a termination which "seemed" to be based "main[ly]" on the mother's failure to exercise visitation and her "apparent unconcern over whether she got her children back." 366 N.W.2d at 715. While the immediate reason prompting the termination in K.P.C was the mother's failure to exercise visitation, the crux of the problem was the mother's poverty and her "strained relationship" with the social worker. K.P.C., 366 N.W.2d at 714. K.P.C. has been cited for rulings that parental rights cannot be terminated based on a parent's financial condition or prompted by an adversarial relationship with a social worker. See In re Welfare of M.J.L., 407 N.W.2d 714, 719 (Minn. App. 1987) (noting economic barriers and poor relationship with social worker present in K.P.C. "are not present here"); In re Welfare of M.G., 407 N.W.2d 118, 120 & n.1 (Minn. App. 1987) (citing K.P.C. for rule that termination may not be based on financial condition). K.P.C., however, has not been read to hold that inadequate visitation is not a reason to terminate parental rights, and we decline father's invitation to read K.P.C. in that manner. To do so would create a prohibition on termination that is inconsistent with the facts and analysis in that case.

Father also argues the county erred by making consistent visitation between himself and the children a prerequisite to further reunification efforts by the county and that the county made no reasonable effort to reunify the family because it transported the children to visitation but did not offer to do the same for him despite his lack of transportation. Providing father with transportation to visitation, however, would not address the district court's findings that father is chemically dependent, that father's use of chemicals makes him abusive, that father's four prior chemical dependency treatments have been unsuccessful, and that additional treatments would not benefit him. Nor would it solve father's complete lack of a relationship with the children. We conclude that the county demonstrated that it provided reasonable services to father.

Absent an indication that father's problems with chemical dependency, abusive temperament, or a lack of a relationship with the children are likely to be resolved, his resulting inability to parent the children will not be corrected in the foreseeable future. See, e.g., Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(4) (party is palpably unfit parent if unable for "reasonably foreseeable future" to properly care for child); (5) (efforts to correct conditions leading to CHIPS adjudication presumed to have failed if conditions will not be corrected in "reasonably foreseeable future"). Thus, this record supports the termination of father's parental rights. See Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (court need only find one statutory condition to terminate parental rights).


[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] Father was not present at this hearing. He does not challenge, however, the fact that the hearing proceeded in his absence.