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In the Matter of the v. Jane (2011-16) Doe

February 16, 2012

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF JANE (2011-16) DOE. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & WELFARE, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
JANE (2011-16) DOE, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Cathleen MacGregor-Irby, Magistrate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: W. Jones, Justice

2012 Opinion No. 29

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The Order of the Magistrate Court terminating parental rights is affirmed. Costs are awarded to respondent.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

Jane Doe appeals the termination of her parental rights with regard to her son, John Doe, contending that the magistrate court failed to properly consider her improved participation in mental health and family counseling services. Because there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate court's Final Judgment that termination of Jane Doe's parental rights was in John Doe's best interests, the magistrate court did not err in terminating her parental rights.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

John Doe ("Child") was born on January 28, 2004. Child has two older twin half- brothers ("Twins") and a full-sister. Jane Doe ("Mother") is the biological mother of all of the children. Twins were involved at the beginning of this action, but their child protection cases have since been vacated as they have been placed with their father. Child's sister was previously adopted by her paternal aunt on October 14, 2004. Child's father consented to the termination of his parental rights, contending that adoption is in Child's best interests because of Mother's history of neglect. Thus, this action relates solely to Mother's parental rights with regard to Child.

Throughout the month of January 2010, the Department of Health and Welfare ("the Department") received four referrals ("the January referrals"), involving Mother's neglect. At that time, Child and Twins were residing with Mother pursuant to a custody order. This was the second time Twins were placed in foster care due to Mother's neglect.*fn1 The January referrals involved excessive absences and tardiness from school, Mother's refusal to engage in Individualized Education Program meetings, disenrollment of the children from school, lack of supervision, and health and safety dangers in the home.

In response to the January referrals, the Department's risk assessor, Dawn Doepke ("Doepke"), made a formal visit with Mother and her children in order to assess the severity of Mother's neglect. As a result of the visit, Doepke offered Mother a referral service with Family Connections, a parenting education program. Mother reacted by becoming very angry and yelling at Doepke. Doepke stated that Mother's volatility was a cause for concern throughout this action. She described Mother's anger as quick to escalate, like "turning on and off a light switch." On numerous occasions, Mother would storm out of Department home visits and end telephone conversations with Department social workers by hanging-up in anger.

On January 29, 2010, the Department filed its Motion for an Order to Remove the Children, contending that Child and Twins were "neglected as they [were] without proper parental care and control, or subsistence, education, medical or other care and control necessary for their well-being because of the conduct or omission of their parents . . . ." The Department asserted that despite its efforts to provide parenting and mental health counseling and financial support, it received twenty referrals,*fn2 beginning in 2000, regarding "concerns of [physical and educational] neglect, lack of supervision, hazardous home environment, and physical abuse." On February 4, 2010, the magistrate court issued its Order to Remove the Children, holding that the children "should be removed from their present conditions and surroundings because continuation in such condition[s] or surroundings would be contrary to the welfare [and best interests of the children]." Thereafter, the children were placed in foster care, and Child's guardian ad litem ("the GAL") was appointed. Mother was assigned a case worker, Francine Frank ("Frank"), to establish a Case Plan, provide Mother with referral services, and to assess any further risks.

When Child was placed in foster care, he had significant dental needs. He also had unaddressed issues with his vision and asthma. Child was provided with mental health counseling as well.

The Department then filed its Report of Investigation ("ROI") on February 16, 2010. The ROI recommended that the Department retain custody of Child until Mother met the following conditions:

A. [Mother] will participate in a psychological evaluation and a risk to child assessment approved by the Department social worker and follow any and all recommendations.

B. [Mother] will participate in a protective parenting program approved [by] the Department social worker, that addresses child development, children with behaviors, and demonstrate skills learned during visitations.

C. [Mother] will obtain and maintain a stable, safe and healthy home environment for herself and her children. [Mother] will keep the home ...


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