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In the Matter of the v. Jane (2011-17) Doe

April 25, 2012

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF JANE (2011-17) DOE. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & WELFARE, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
JANE (2011-17) DOE, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Cassia County. Hon. Mick Hodges, Magistrate.

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

2012 Opinion No. 24

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

Jane Doe (Mother) appeals from the magistrate's order terminating her parental rights to her child. We affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

When Mother gave birth to her child on April 6, 2010, Mother admitted to using methamphetamine, both intravenously and by smoking, during the pregnancy. Because it was suspected the child would test positive for methamphetamine, a child protective case was filed on the date of birth. After showing positive test results for methamphetamine, the child was removed to foster care and Mother was charged with felony injury to child. Mother later pled guilty to the charge and was placed on probation.

A shelter care hearing was held on April 8, 2010, at which time the child was formally placed into protective custody under the Child Protective Act (CPA). The magistrate held an adjudicatory hearing on April 28, 2010, and issued a decree two weeks later, finding the court had jurisdiction under the CPA and ordering that legal custody be vested with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (Department). A case plan was prepared and filed on May 27, 2010, for both Mother and the child's father. As to Mother, the case plan included provisions, among others, that Mother would (1) address her substance abuse issues, (2) address her possible mental health issues, (3) gain full-time employment, and (4) obtain adequate housing before reunification with the child would occur.

Mother initially obtained funding and started outpatient treatment at a family services organization. However, Mother reported being uncomfortable at that organization and was discharged from the treatment program for failing to attend. Shortly thereafter, she admitted to the Department social worker that she had used methamphetamine. An assessment of Mother, completed around that time, also reported on Mother's continued use of methamphetamine--she even went to the assessment while high--despite the child having tested positive for methamphetamine at birth, an open child protective case, and other negative consequences associated with her drug use. The assessment suggested an intensive inpatient treatment program, as well as coordinating services with the justice system. Similarly, the child's guardian ad litem indicated concerns about Mother's failure to adhere to her case plan in any manner whatsoever in the four months since the child's birth and Mother's constant stream of excuses as to why she was not following recommendations in the case plan. Thereafter, Mother started treatment at a different substance abuse center in September 2010 and successfully completed the center's inpatient program.

At the six-month review in October 2010, the child's parents stipulated that the child would remain in the State's custody. A Department social worker assigned to Mother's case expressed that the prognosis for reunifying Mother with the child in this case was poor because of Mother's limited efforts to meet the requirements of her case plan and continued drug use. After Mother was released from the inpatient drug treatment facility, the guardian ad litem also reported Mother continued to use methamphetamine and had only limited participation in any other substance abuse treatment. For example, Mother had missed over half of the scheduled sessions with the second outpatient treatment center from which she was supposedly receiving help. While Mother was making some progress in the sessions she did attend, she seemed ambivalent about her substance abuse recovery and made numerous excuses for missing other scheduled sessions. Additionally, Mother had been coming to visitations with the child while high. In fact, Mother tested positive for methamphetamines and amphetamines in November 2010. Not long afterwards, Mother was arrested and remained incarcerated from December 27, 2010, to January 15, 2011, for failing to appear at a court date with the drug court. After her arrest, Mother was also terminated from the second outpatient treatment center for failing to attend.

A review hearing was held on February 23, 2011. As a result of the magistrate's order following that hearing, reunification efforts were ceased and the State began focusing on termination of both the father and Mother's parental rights. On March 29, 2011, Mother was again arrested for probation violations after admitting to methamphetamine use just two to three weeks prior. On April 12, 2011, while Mother was still incarcerated, the Department filed a motion to terminate the parental rights of both Mother and the child's father. Mother was released from custody on July 28, 2011, and the termination hearing was held on August 13, 2011. The father consented to the termination of his parental rights; Mother contested the termination and went to trial.

At Mother's trial on September 1, 2011, evidence was presented that Mother, during her four-month incarceration, attended bi-weekly Narcotics Anonymous classes, participated in a daily outpatient therapy program, and regularly attended church meetings. She also completed a twelve-week course in anger management. In the roughly one month between her release and the trial, Mother continued to participate in the outpatient therapy program, was in a second anger management course, and attended general education classes to work towards her high school diploma. She also reported she was participating in personal and group counseling. Though not yet employed, Mother had been accepted by a rehabilitation facility and was planning to attend job training and mental awareness training to help her gain employment. Mother had also submitted to drug tests three times per week since her release from jail and had clean results during that time frame. The magistrate acknowledged Mother's latest efforts to meet her case plan, but determined that terminating the Mother's parental rights was in the best interests of the child. An order terminating Mother's parental rights was entered on September 29, 2011. Mother timely appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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 CPA, directed that "the state of Idaho shall, to the fullest extent possible, seek to preserve, protect, enhance and reunite the family relationship." Idaho Code ยง 16-1601. Likewise, the Termination of Parent and Child ...


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