This opinion will be unpublished and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:

D.P.O. and J.R.B.

Filed March 23, 1999


Holtan, Judge[*]

Kandiyohi County District Court

File No. J69751119

John E. Mack, Mack & Daby P.A., 26 Main Street, P.O. Box 302, New London, MN 56273 (for appellant mother)

Boyd Beccue, Kandiyohi County Attorney, John Kallestad, Assistant County Attorney, 316 S.W. Fourth Street, P.O. Box 1126, Willmar, MN 56201 (for respondent Kandiyohi County)

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge,[**] and Holtan, Judge.



Appellant challenges the district court's termination of her parental rights. We affirm.


Appellant Mary Rodriguez,[1] formerly known as Mary Bregel (mother), has two children; one has attention deficit disorder and the other is developmentally delayed.

Beginning in April 1996, Kandiyohi County Family Services (the county) performed a series of home assessments based on reports of poor living conditions. By July 1996, the children were adjudicated as children in need of protective services (CHIPS). On January 30, 1997, the children were removed from mother's home due to bruises found on one child. The county petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights and in April 1998, the case was tried.

At trial, the forensic psychologist who performed a parental-capacity assessment on mother, testified that mother has a personality disorder with narcissistic, paranoid, and schizotypal traits. He found that mother had limited insight and lacked the ability to empathize or to understand her children's experiences. Mother's I.Q. was not identified as the cause of her poor parenting.

By order of June 25, 1998, the district court terminated mother's parental rights, finding that she "substantially, continuously, and repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with the duties imposed upon her by the parent and child relationship." The district court also found that mother "is palpably unfit to be a parent to these children because of a consistent pattern of specific conduct." Finally, the district court determined that, "following a determination of neglect and the children's need for protection or services, extensive efforts * * * have failed to correct the conditions." See Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(2), (4) & (5) (1998). Mother appeals.


"Parental rights are terminated only for grave and weighty reasons." In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990). When reviewing a termination, this court

must determine whether the trial court's findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether those findings are clearly erroneous.



To terminate parental rights for palpable unfitness, the county 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) which will last for the reasonably foreseeable future. Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4) (1998); In re Welfare of S.Z., 547 N.W.2d 886, 893 (Minn. 1996).

Mother argues that the evidence is insufficient to support termination of her parental rights. We disagree.

Between April 1996 and the children's January 1997 removal from mother's custody, the county performed several home assessments. Each time, the social worker found garbage in the home, unclean dishes, food left uncovered, and on at least two occasions witnessed one child eating food that he picked up from the floor. While the county attempted to help mother with her housekeeping skills, the record shows mother refused to cooperate. See In re Welfare of J.S., 470 N.W.2d 697, 702 (Minn. App. 1991) (holding petition to terminate parental rights supported where parent failed to cooperate with court-ordered requirements), review denied (Minn. July 24, 1991).

The record also shows that between late 1996 and the January 1997 removal of the children from mother's custody (1) the children were ages five and three, (2) occasionally wandered the apartment building where they lived without supervision and did so, on at least one occasion, only partially clothed, (3) were locked out of their apartment on other occasions, (4) one child was extensively bruised, (5) mother knew for months that the bruises were caused by the babysitter but continued to use the same babysitter, and (6) the older child, with a butcher knife, chased the younger child around the apartment building.

After the children's removal from mother's custody, mother had supervised visits with the boys. Although she appeared for her visits, she often did not participate in them, sitting in a chair for the entire visit (one and one-half hours) and not showing any affection or giving much attention to either child. Frequently, the staff had to monitor and discipline the children despite mother's presence.

For the younger child's birthday, mother brought cake, bowls, and a knife. The child grabbed the knife and began stabbing the cake while mother watched and a social worker had to grab the knife from the child. Also, the bowls mother brought to serve the cake in were "dirty and had chunky, dry food in them."

This record supports the district court's finding that mother is either unwilling or unable to parent the children. Also, mother's failure to show up for, or participate in, the parenting programs offered by the county, combined with her exhibiting the same disconnected conduct during visitation that originally caused the children to be adjudicated CHIPS shows mother has made limited progress in improving her parenting skills. While the record shows some positive changes, the courts have repeatedly affirmed terminations of parental rights where, as here, conditions improved, but only partially, belatedly, or excessively slowly. See, e.g., In re Welfare of B.M., 383 N.W.2d 704, 708 (Minn. App. 1986) (finding some progress insufficient), review denied (Minn. May 22, 1986); In re Welfare of J.K., 374 N.W.2d 463, 466 (Minn. App. 1985) (declining to hold findings clearly erroneous where evidence indicated improvement immediately before termination hearing), review denied (Minn. Nov. 25, 1985).

The district court's findings are not clearly erroneous, and, on this record, the evidence clearly supports the termination of mother's parental rights as being a palpably unfit parent under Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(4). Although the district court terminated mother's parental rights on two other grounds, we need not address those grounds here. See Minn. Stat. § 260.241, subd. 1 (1998) (allowing termination of parental rights upon existence of single statutory condition).


Mother argues that Kandiyohi County failed to make a good-faith effort to reunite her with her children because (1) the county did not reinvestigate mother once she had married; (2) the county removed her third child without considering mother's new husband's parenting ability; and (3) the county's efforts were not to rehabilitate her but to gather evidence to support the termination. Because we find these arguments to be unsupported by the record, we do not address them.


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

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

[1] Mother married Crispen Rodriguez, Sr. in April 1998.