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In re Doe

August 4, 2010

IN THE MATTER OF JANE DOE, A CHILD UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & WELFARE, AND GUARDIAN AD LITEM, PETITIONERS/RESPONDENTS,
v.
JANE DOE I, RESPONDENT/APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Twin Falls County. Hon. Howard D. Smyser, Magistrate.

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

2010 Opinion No. 52

Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

Jane Doe I (Doe) appeals the magistrate‟s order terminating her parental rights as to her child, K.Q. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 5, 2008, Doe gave birth by cesarean section to a girl, K.Q. She was born with only one kidney, and following her birth was faced with health problems such as breathing and eating difficulties. Both Doe and her daughter stayed in the hospital for five days. During this time, the nurses and doctor became concerned with Doe‟s ability to care for K.Q. They observed that not only did Doe have difficulty caring for K.Q., such as holding, feeding, and changing her diapers, Doe resisted these responsibilities and passed them off to others. Doe did not want K.Q. in her bed, and Doe wanted K.Q. quiet so she could rest. A caseworker and an officer arrived to investigate following a call from a doctor who was concerned for K.Q. On June 10, 2008, the officer declared K.Q. to be in immediate danger, and a petition was filed asserting that K.Q. was neglected under Idaho Code § 16-1602 and should be placed in shelter care, which was granted.

On July 31, 2008, the magistrate approved a case plan that the parties agreed to follow. Doe and K.Q.‟s father, D.A., had ended their relationship prior to K.Q.‟s birth, but he agreed to the case plan. Doe lived with her mother, M.A., and her stepfather, B.A. K.Q. stayed in foster care throughout the life of the case plan, and changed foster parents one time.

On June 22, 2009, the State filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Doe and D.A. The trial was held on February 17 and 18, 2010. D.A. consented to the termination of his parental rights if Doe‟s rights were terminated. On April 1, 2010, the magistrate granted the State‟s petition and terminated the parental rights. D.A. does not appeal. Doe appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

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. 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 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.

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 § 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 responsibilities for a prolonged period which will be injurious to the health, morals, or well-being of the child; or (e) the parent is incarcerated and will remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time. Each statutory ground is an independent basis for termination. Doe, 144 Idaho at 842, 172 P.3d at 1117.

In this case, the magistrate concluded, among other things, that Doe‟s parental rights should be terminated for neglect. Idaho Code § 16-2002(3) defines "neglect" as any conduct included in I.C. § 16-1602(25),*fn1 as well as situations where the "parent(s) has failed to comply with the court‟s orders in a child protective act case or the case plan, and reunification of the child with his or her parent(s) has not occurred within the time standards set forth in section 16-1629(9)." The time standard established by I.C. § 16-1629(9) is defined as when "a child is placed in the custody of the department and was also placed in out of the home care for a period not less than fifteen (15) out of the last twenty-two (22) months from the date the child entered shelter care."

A. Neglect

Doe argues the magistrate erred in finding Doe neglected K.Q. under I.C. § 16-2002(3)(b).*fn2 As noted, I.C. § 16-2002(3)(b) provides that neglect is established if the parent fails to comply with the case plan and reunification of the child with the parent does not occur within the time limit set by I.C. § 16-1629(9). Doe concedes the magistrate correctly found K.Q. was in foster care for more than the time limit set by I.C. ...


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