STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
A.P., C.P., & V.P.
Filed September 14, 1999
Roseau County District Court
File No. J59850122
Donna K. Dixon, P.O. Box F, Warroad, MN 56763 (for appellant mother)
Brian T. Hardwick, P.O. Box 269, Roseau, MN 56751 (for appellant father)
Michelle E. Moren, Roseau County Attorney, 606 Fifth Ave. S.W., Room 10, Roseau, MN 56751 (for respondent state)
John M. Carter, P.O. Box 218, Roseau, MN 56751 (for the children)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Appellants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence presented to support terminating their parental rights. We affirm.
From May 1989 until the termination of parental rights in 1998, the family had 10 child protection assessments, 2 police emergency foster care placements, 4 psychological evaluations for each parent, 65 months of homemaker services, intensive in-home counseling, and more than a year of foster care for each of the three children. But neglect and abuse persisted.
In April 1998, Roseau County Social Services (the county) filed a petition to terminate appellants' parental rights. The district court, after conducting hearings in September and October 1998, terminated appellants' parental rights. This appeal follows.
The county's petition alleged three grounds for termination of appellants' parental rights: continuous neglect, with reasonable efforts having failed to correct the condition under Minn. Stat. § 260.221, subd. 1(b)(2) (1998); parents palpably unfit, id., subd. 1(b)(4); and an adjudication as children in need of protection or services, with reasonable efforts having failed to correct the condition, id., subd. 1(b)(5). The district court concluded that the county had proven all three grounds for termination. Appellants apparently concede this conclusion, except to argue that the county failed to make reasonable efforts to reunite the family and the court erred by finding neglect and abuse were likely to continue indeterminately.
The record contains substantial evidence of uninhabitable living conditions for the children and numerous instances of abuse. Social worker Karla Langaas testified that the county administered individual counseling for each family member, homemaker services, and intensive in-home counseling services, as well as 76 months of foster care for both V.P. and C.P., and 14 months of foster care for A.P. Langaas testified that the county's efforts were unsuccessful and that she could not think of anything else the county could reasonably do. Langaas testified that, despite all the efforts, "[m]uch has remained the same for a period of years."
Appellants argue that the county's reunification efforts were "too little, too late," and the delay in providing the in-home counseling services showed that the county failed to make reasonable efforts to reunite the family. In determining reasonableness, the court must consider whether services were administered in a timely manner. Minn. Stat. § 260.012(c) (1998). The parties acknowledge that, although the district court ordered in-home counseling services in 1995, the county did not administer this counseling until January 1997. The county claims this was because it did not want to overwhelm the family with programs.
The record supports the district court's finding that, even had social services followed the court order, as it should have, the efforts would still have been futile. See Minn. Stat. § 260.012(c) (court may find it unreasonable to require an effort that would be futile). In-home counselor Susan McCallum testified that the family was unable to sustain any progress in the in-home counseling program when it was finally administered. Moreover, there were several other unsuccessful efforts to reunite the family.
Appellants also claim that it was unreasonable not to give them more unsupervised visitation. But the record indicates that problems arose when appellants were left alone with their children. Physical abuse occurred during a visitation program in 1993 and visitation had to be stopped. The children were living in unsanitary conditions in November 1996 and had to be removed by an emergency placement. There was abuse in May 1997, which led the parents to consent to a voluntary placement of the older children. There were allegations of inappropriate contact between the mother and her daughters during unsupervised visits in 1997.
The record contains substantial evidence that efforts to reunite the family were reasonable.
The district court concluded that the conditions of dependency and neglect "will continue for a long and indeterminate period of time." Appellants contest this determination and point out that they have recently quit smoking and joined a church. The district court found these changes "laudable" but insufficient to "address the underlying conditions of dependency and neglect." We agree. The mother testified that the church group would provide moral support, but the underlying conditions of unsanitary housing and significant emotional problems seem unlikely to be affected by this new affiliation. Similarly, quitting smoking would seem to have a negligible effect on physical abuse, unsanitary housing, and appellants' inability to care for the children.
Appellants have both been treated for depression, and the children have all been diagnosed with significant emotional and behavioral problems. Expert witness Dr. Shoberg testified that the mother was the primary caregiver for the children, but her level of depression impairs her ability to parent. Dr. Donlin testified that appellants simply lack the parenting skills needed to deal with the exceptional emotional and behavioral needs of their three children.
Additionally, when predicting the foreseeable future, the court may consider the success of past programs and the parents' previous cooperation. See In re Welfare of Clausen, 289 N.W.2d 153, 155 (Minn. 1980) (father's rejection of treatment program indicated conditions would not improve in future). The record is replete with examples of efforts that failed due to the parents' inability or lack of desire to cooperate.
Substantial evidence supports the district court's conclusion that the conditions of dependency and neglect are likely to continue indefinitely.