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In re Doe

July 27, 2010

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



Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. Bryan K. Murray, Magistrate.

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

2010 Opinion No. 51

Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

John Doe II and Jane Doe II appeal from the magistrate's order terminating their parental rights to their children. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Jane is the mother of C.G., a female born in December 2000; D.G., a male born in February 2003; N.G., a male born in September 2004; and K.G., a female born in February 2006. John is the biological father of C.G., D.G., and N.G. John is listed as the father of K.G. on her birth certificate, but he is not her biological father.*fn1 The Department of Health and Welfare initiated a child protection action in November 2007, after the Department had received several referrals regarding the children. Approximately a year previous, a Department worker visiting a neighbor's house observed C.G., who was five years old at the time, wandering the neighborhood unsupervised. C.G. appeared dirty and was not wearing shoes. In September 2007, police were contacted concerning an allegation that K.G., who was one year old at the time, had ingested methamphetamine from Jane's purse.

The impetus for the child protection action occurred in October 2007 when police found D.G. and N.G. playing naked and unsupervised in the middle of the road. When police visited the home, they observed dirty dishes piled in the sink and over the countertops, garbage spilling over the cans, clothes and linen strewn over a filthy floor, a dirty refrigerator containing very little food, and empty cupboards. K.G. was roaming naked in the house, and Jane explained that it was because they could not afford diapers. The water had been turned off for failure to pay the bill. Jane also indicated that they were behind on rent, and John was not helping support the family. Jane reported that she had quit her job because it was too hard. Police questioned Jane about K.G.'s alleged methamphetamine ingestion to which Jane responded that she would not allow the Department to perform drug tests on the children because she had nothing to prove. The police observed damage to Jane's vehicle which Jane explained happened during an altercation with John. In November 2007, authorities were alerted to C.G.'s poor attendance at her elementary school.

In December 2007, the parties stipulated to a case plan that allowed the children to remain with the Does under protective supervision. The case plan also provided, among other things, that the Does cooperate with the Department's home visits; not move outside of the jurisdiction without written permission; notify the Department of address changes; maintain a home free of drugs, alcohol, and other criminal activities; ensure that any child of age is attending school; properly supervise the children and provide them with proper medical treatment; submit to urinalysis testing; and complete various individual and family, as well as drug and alcohol assessments. The case plan also required that Jane obtain a driver's license as soon as she was legally able and that John maintain employment and financially support the children.

The condition of Jane and John's home improved slightly after the Department became involved. However, the situation remained unstable and, over the course of the next two years, Jane and John moved at least five times. Several of those moves were motivated by eviction for failure to pay rent. At least one such move, when Jane and John moved to Wyoming, was without written permission from the court and the Department. Jane and John also had a rocky relationship which resulted in periodic separation and at least one alleged incident of domestic violence. Jane filed for divorce during this period, but the action was dismissed for inactivity.

Jane and John's compliance with their case plan was inconsistent. The couple completed individual and family assessments and held a meeting with extended family members to discuss temporary placement for the children. However, Jane and John failed to follow through with many of the recommendations to completion, including substance abuse evaluations and treatment, couple's counseling, and a parenting course. They also failed to live free of drugs and alcohol, which was of great concern in the drafting of the case plan. Due to noncompliance with their case plan, the magistrate ordered the children to be placed in the custody of the state during the remainder of the proceedings.

Foster families and guardians who were responsible for the children reported various disciplinary problems as a result of lack of proper supervision. Perhaps most troubling was the highly-sexualized behavior of C.G., who was teaching her elementary school classmates how to pole dance and be sensual. There were also reports that C.G. had been sexually abused and was now subjecting her younger sister K.G. to abuse. Jane disputed the allegations, claiming that they were not possible and that she had never witnessed such behavior. She admitted that an acquaintance had taken sexually-inappropriate photographs of C.G., but denied that she had been abused. Once placed within the care of the state, the children required extensive dental work and surgery to correct years of neglect and lack of proper hygiene. Jane admitted difficulty in getting the children to brush their teeth. N.G. was behind in his vaccinations. Employment for Jane and John was also sporadic, and John failed to adequately provide for the children even when he had work. Neither of them paid child support for the care of their children in the state's custody nor repaid temporary guardians for clothing and other necessities that were provided for the children. They admitted receiving the child support orders, but claimed that they ignored them because they did not understand them. Several home visits revealed evidence of alcohol consumption in the home, which was also contrary to the requirements of the case plan. Neither parent maintained regular phone contact with the children, despite the allowance of such contact. During visits with the children, both Jane and John displayed poor, and at times unsafe, parenting judgment with the children.

The Department sought termination of Jane and John's parental rights to the children. A hearing was held over several days in October 2009 and January 2010. Numerous witnesses testified as to the instability in Jane and John's lives and their lack of compliance with the case plan. These witnesses were of the opinion that Jane and John could not adequately raise their children. Some witnesses were presented on behalf of the parents. These witnesses testified that Jane and John had made progress and were now capable of raising and nurturing the children in a stable home environment. Jane and John offered assurances that all of their problems were behind them. The magistrate terminated Jane and John's parental rights to C.G., D.G., N.G., and K.G. on the grounds of neglect and abandonment. The magistrate also held that John is the presumptive father of K.G., but has been shown not to be her biological father. Jane and John appeal.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In an action to terminate parental rights, due process requires this Court to determine whether the magistrate's decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence. State v. 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 ...


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