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In re Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of Doe

April 15, 2010

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP OF JOHN DOE, JOHN DOE II AND JANE DOE, PARENT.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JANE DOE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. William B. Dillon, III, Magistrate.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gratton, Judge

2010 Opinion No. 28

Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

Jane Doe (Doe) appeals from the magistrate court‟s order terminating her parental rights as to her two children, K.E.P. and K.A.P. Specifically, Doe contends that the magistrate erred in finding that termination would be in the best interests of Doe and the children, that Doe failed to substantially complete her case plan, and that Doe is likely to be incarcerated for a substantial period of time during the children‟s minority.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Jane Doe is the mother of three children. The oldest child is from a different father than the two younger children and is not involved in this case. The two younger children, K.E.P. and K.A.P. (the children), were born on September 30, 2004, and September 15, 2005, respectively. The children‟s father lives in Mexico and has not had any contact with the children.

On June 27, 2007, police officers arrived at an apartment where Doe and the children were staying in order to evict any remaining tenants. Upon performing a records check on Doe, the police discovered that Doe had an outstanding warrant from Lewiston for possession of methamphetamine. Doe requested permission to make arrangements for her children, which was granted. Doe called her friend, whose apartment she and her children had been staying in, and it was decided that the friend‟s daughter would pick up the children.

The following day, Doe‟s friend went to the Department of Health and Welfare and told Department social worker, Tracy Warriner, that he was unable to take care of the children. He was advised by the social worker to speak with Doe about whether there were any suitable family members that could care for the children. He returned to the Department the next day and reported that he had been unsuccessful. The children were then declared in imminent danger and placed in protective custody on June 29, 2007. On July 1, 2007, Warriner met with Doe at the Canyon County Jail to discuss whether or not any family members would be viable as a placement option, and Warriner determined that there were none.

On July 2, 2007, the Department filed a petition under the Child Protective Act seeking custody or, in the alternative, protective supervision of the children. A shelter care hearing was held on July 9, 2007, at which the parties stipulated that the children would remain in the custody of the Department pending the adjudicatory hearing. An adjudicatory hearing was held on July 30, 2007, and the matter was continued for a pre-trial hearing because Doe was not present due to her incarceration. Doe failed to appear at the continued hearing held on August 15, 2007, and the court ordered that the Department retain custody of the children for an indeterminate period of time not to exceed their eighteenth birthdays. On August 28, 2007, the court entered a decree of protective custody concluding that the children came within the purview of the Child Protective Act.

The Department prepared a case plan, dated September 9, 2007, and a hearing was held on September 10, 2007, to review the case plan. The case plan required Doe to complete the following tasks: (a) resolve legal problems; (b) obtain a substance abuse evaluation, complete substance abuse treatment, submit to urinalyses, and remain drug free; (c) maintain safe and stable housing; (d) maintain employment to provide financially for the children; (e) complete an approved parenting class; (f) attend ninety percent of the scheduled visits with the children; (g) complete approved domestic violence and anger management classes; and (h) attend all of the children‟s doctor, WIC, and other developmental appointments. The magistrate court approved the case plan on September 24, 2007.*fn1

The magistrate held permanency plan and case plan review hearings on January 1, 2008, and on July 16, 2008, with Doe attending the second hearing by phone. An updated case plan was filed on January 2, 2008. This case plan is substantially the same as the initial case plan with the exception that the requirement of attending ninety percent of the scheduled visits with the children was changed to require Doe to attend all of the scheduled visits. On December 9, 2008, the Department filed a petition seeking to terminate Doe‟s parental rights in the children.

On January 28, 2009, the case was set for a termination hearing. Doe did not appear as she was in the "rider"*fn2 program at the time. The court set the case for a pre-trial hearing on March 11, 2009, and a termination hearing on April 1, 2009. A permanency plan review hearing was held on February 18, 2009, and continued to March 11, 2009. At the March 11, 2009, hearing Doe indicated that she had family members who were interested in adopting the children, and the court advised her to have those family members present for the termination hearing. Doe did not appear for the April 1, 2009, termination hearing due to the fact that she had failed to successfully complete her rider and was incarcerated. The court continued the termination hearing to April 29, 2009. The termination hearing was held on April 29, 2009, and the magistrate continued hearings on June 3, 2009; June 10, 2009; and June 17, 2009.

At the final termination hearing, the magistrate entered oral findings on the record terminating Doe‟s parental rights to the children. On July 8, 2009, the magistrate court filed its written decision and decree incorporating its oral findings. Doe appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

The State must prove the grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship by clear and convincing evidence. State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006); Idaho Code § 16-2009. "In an action to terminate parental rights, where the trial court has explicitly determined the case by application of the clear and convincing evidentiary standard, this Court must determine if the decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence." In re Doe, 146 Idaho 759, 761, 203 P.3d 689, 691 (2009). "Substantial competent evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (internal quotations omitted) (quoting In re Doe, 143 Idaho 343, 345-46, 144 P.3d 597, 599-600 (2006)). "This Court will indulge all reasonable inferences in support of the trial court‟s judgment when reviewing an order that parental rights be terminated." Doe v. Doe, 148 Idaho 243, 245-46, 220 P.3d 1062, 1064-65 (2009) (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Matter of Aragon, 120 Idaho 606, 608, 818 P.2d 310, 312 (1991)).

A parent has a fundamental liberty interest, protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, in maintaining a relationship with his or her child. In re Doe, 146 Idaho at 761, 203 P.3d at 691; see also Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978). The Idaho legislature has also recognized the importance of maintaining the parent-child relationship: "Implicit in [the Termination of Parent and Child Relationship Act] is the philosophy that wherever possible family life should be strengthened and preserved . . . ." I.C. § 16-2001. "Therefore, the requisites of due process must be met when the Department intervenes to terminate the parent-child relationship." In re Doe, 146 Idaho at 761, 203 P.3d at 691 (citing State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006)). "It is well settled that, in a proceeding to terminate a parent-child relationship, the due process clause mandates that the grounds for termination must be shown by clear and convincing evidence." Doe, 148 Idaho at 246, 220 P.3d at 1065 (citing Doe v. Department of Health and Welfare, Human Services Division, 141 Idaho 511, 513, 112 P.3d 799, 801 (2005)).

In this case, the Department filed a petition for the termination of the parent-child relationship pursuant to Title 16, chapter 20 of the Idaho Code. Idaho Code ยง 16-2005 sets forth the conditions under which termination of the ...


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