Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Cathleen MacGregor-Irby, Magistrate.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Melanson, Judge
IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF JOHN DOE.
Decree terminating parental rights, affirmed.
John Doe appeals from the magistrate's decree terminating his parental rights to his child. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
Doe has a history of methamphetamine use and felony convictions. In September 2003, Doe pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance. He was placed on a rider and, after successful completion, was released on probation in March 2004. In September 2004, Doe was sentenced to a unified term of five years, with a minimum period of confinement of two years, following a guilty plea to felony eluding a police officer. Based on this guilty plea, his probation for possession of a controlled substance was revoked and that original sentence was ordered into execution. Doe was paroled in 2006. During the next two years, Doe continued to use methamphetamine. Doe was sober for a period of eight months in 2008, but relapsed following the death of his mother.
In late 2008, Doe learned that he and his wife were expecting a child. In early January 2009, Doe was charged with possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. J.S. was born January 28, 2009, to Doe and his wife (Mother). Doe pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced in February 2010 to a unified term of seven years, with a minimum period of confinement of three years, for possession of a controlled substance and a consecutive indeterminate term of three years for unlawful possession of a firearm.*fn1 Doe has been continuously incarcerated since J.S.'s birth.
For the first five months of her life, J.S. was cared for by Mother. Like Doe, Mother had a substance abuse problem with attendant felony criminal charges. This termination action commenced as a child protection case on June 3, 2009, when Mother, with J.S. in her arms, entered the house of a neighbor insisting the neighbors were hiding another child who Mother believed was supposed to be under her care. Mother was confused and paranoid and she claimed she could hear the lost child in the pipes of the neighbor's house. The neighbors stated that Mother whipped J.S. around in her arms as she searched the house for the other child. Law enforcement was called to the scene and declared J.S. to be in imminent danger. J.S. was taken into the care of the Department of Health and Welfare. A motion to place temporary custody in the Department was filed, and a hearing was held on the motion on June 4, 2009. Thereafter, a custody order was entered as to both parents which granted temporary legal custody to the Department.
On July 10, 2009, a case plan was filed with the court which outlined nine tasks for Doe to complete to facilitate reunification with J.S. Four of the tasks were to be completed upon Doe's release from prison.*fn2 The remaining five tasks required Doe to: (1) successfully complete a parenting class; (2) attend scheduled visitations with J.S.; (3) address and resolve his current and pending legal issues and refrain from further illegal activity; (4) participate in a substance abuse evaluation and provide the Department with tests demonstrating he was free of alcohol and drugs; and (5) participate in a cognitive self-change class. On August 13, 2009, the magistrate issued an order granting legal custody of J.S. to the Department and approving Doe's case plan. That order also approved a case plan as to Mother. Mother worked on her case plan between August 2009 and June 2010. During this time, J.S. was placed with her maternal grandmother as Foster Mother.*fn3 Ultimately, Mother was unsuccessful in reuniting with J.S because Mother was incarcerated in June 2010 and failed to complete her case plan.
In July 2010, the Department filed a petition for termination of parental rights as to both parents. The Department filed an amended petition for termination on October 7, 2010. The amended petition requested termination as to Doe on two grounds: Doe was incarcerated and likely to remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time during J.S.'s minority and Doe had neglected J.S. by failing to comply with the case plan and reunification with J.S. had not occurred within fifteen of the last twenty-two months. A hearing was conducted on the petition for termination on October 7, 2010. The magistrate terminated Doe's parental rights in a memorandum decision dated December 3, 2010.*fn4 Doe appeals.
The United States Supreme Court has held that a parent's interest in maintaining a relationship with his or her child is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 753 (1982); Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246, 255-56 (1978). See also In re Doe, 146 Idaho 759, 761, 203 P.3d 689, 691 (2009). Concordantly, the Idaho Legislature has, in the Child Protective Act, Another unnumbered task required Doe "upon his release" to attend medical appointments for J.S. directed "that the state of Idaho shall, to the fullest extent possible, seek to preserve, protect, enhance and reunite the family relationship." I.C. § 16-1601. Likewise, the Termination ...