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In re Doe

June 9, 2010

IN THE INTEREST OF JANE DOE, JANE DOE I, JOHN DOE, JOHN DOE I, MINOR CHILDREN UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & WELFARE, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
JANE DOE II, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Carolyn M. Minder, Magistrate.

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

2010 Opinion No. 41

Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

Jane Doe II (Doe) appeals from the magistrate's order terminating her parental rights as to her four children, N.C., L.M., F.S., and D.S., due to neglect. Doe argues that the magistrate's decision was not supported by substantial and competent evidence. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Doe is the mother of four children. The children all come from different fathers, and none of the fathers are involved in their children's lives. The oldest, N.C., was born on September 7, 1996, and has not been in contact with her father, who now resides in Mexico, since she was two.*fn1 L.M., F.S., and D.S. were born on December 14, 1999, January 21, 2004, and February 22, 2006, respectively, and have never had any contact with their fathers.

On the morning of March 2, 2009, at approximately 8:15 a.m., the Boise Police Department responded to a 911 call regarding Doe's four children who had been left alone overnight. N.C., who was twelve at the time, called the police to report that her mother had not returned home from the previous night. When police arrived at the house, they discovered that the children were there with no adult supervision and that there was no phone in the house in case of emergencies. In order to make a phone call, N.C., who is physically handicapped because of a prosthetic leg, would have to go five houses down and across a street to use the neighbor's phone. The police tried to contact Doe on her cell phone, but she did not answer. At about 9:15 a.m., Doe returned home and told the police that she had left the house around 9:00 p.m. the previous night to go out drinking and to stay with her boyfriend. She also told the police that she had intentionally left her cell phone in the car so that she would not be bothered while she was at her boyfriend's.

When questioned by the detective, Doe could not recall her children's birthdays or their grade levels. She also could not recall the last time N.C. had seen a doctor for her prosthetic leg to have it adjusted or fitted, or if she had ever taken her other children to any doctor appointments. Doe later admitted to the police that she was on misdemeanor probation for an injury to child charge.*fn2 The children were declared to be in imminent danger, and Doe was arrested and indicted on four counts of felony injury to child due to neglect and lack of supervision of her four children. Doe eventually pled guilty to one count of felony injury to child and the rest of the counts were dismissed pursuant to plea negotiations. Doe was sentenced to a unified term of ten years, with four years determinate and six years indeterminate. As part of the criminal charge, a no-contact order was issued that prohibited Doe from having any contact with her four children until March 3, 2011. Concurrently with the criminal action, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (the Department) filed a petition under the Child Protective Act seeking custody of the children on the basis that they were neglected and without proper parental care and control necessary for their well-being. The magistrate granted the state's petition and placed the children in the custody of the Department.

Consistent with the Child Protective Act, the Department prepared a case plan, with the aim of achieving reunification, which was approved by the magistrate. The case plan required Doe to: complete a substance abuse assessment; participate in random urinalyses testing; allow unannounced random home visits; complete a psychological evaluation and follow all recommendations; participate in personal counseling; participate in a Family Preservation Services program upon reunification; participate in a protective parenting program; demonstrate learned skills during visits and telephone conversations, and provide proof of class completion; not allow any other individuals to reside in her home overnight or longer without the Department's prior approval; address and resolve any pending criminal issues and refrain from any further activity that would result in her arrest or incarceration; and cooperate with developmental and educational testing for any and all of her children as deemed necessary.

The magistrate held case plan review hearings at which point Doe had not fulfilled the requirements of her case plan. The magistrate thereafter approved a permanent plan of termination of parental rights and adoption for L.M., F.S., and D.S., and a concurrent plan of termination and adoption and guardianship for N.C. Consequently, the Department filed a petition seeking to terminate Doe's parental rights.*fn3 After the trial on the petition for the termination of Doe's parental rights, the magistrate entered an order terminating Doe's parental rights finding that it was in the children's best interest. The magistrate determined that Doe had neglected her four children, that she is unable to discharge parental responsibilities, and that such inability will continue for a prolonged indeterminate period and will be injurious to the health, morals, or well-being of the children. Doe appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In an action to terminate parental rights, due process requires this Court to determine if the magistrate's decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence. In re Doe, 143 Idaho 343, 345, 144 P.3d 597, 599 (2006). Substantial and competent evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id. at 345-46, 144 P.3d at 599-600. 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, 246-47, 220 P.3d 1062, 1064-65 (2009). We conduct an independent review of the record that was before the magistrate. Doe, 143 Idaho at 346, 144 P.3d at 600.

III. DISCUSSION

A parent has a fundamental liberty interest in maintaining a relationship with his or her child. Doe v. State, 137 Idaho 758, 760, 53 P.3d 341, 343 (2002). See also Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246, 255 (1978). This interest is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Doe, 144 Idaho 839, 842, 172 P.3d 1114, 1117 (2007). "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(2). Therefore, the requisites of due process must be met when the Department intervenes to terminate the parent-child relationship. State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006). Due process requires that the Department prove grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship by clear and convincing evidence. Id. Idaho Code Section 16-2005 permits the Department to petition the court for termination of the parent-child relationship when it is in the child's best interest and any one of the following five factors exist: (a) abandonment; (b) neglect or abuse; (c) lack of a biological relationship between the child and a presumptive parent; (d) the parent is unable to discharge parental ...


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