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In the Matter of the of the Parental Rights of: Jane (2011-24) Doe

April 26, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Canyon County. The Hon. Brian D. Lee, Magistrate Judge.

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

2012 Opinion No. 64

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

This is an appeal from a judgment terminating the appellant's parental rights with respect to her two children. We affirm the judgment on the ground that there was substantial and competent evidence supporting the magistrate court's findings of fact.

I. Factual Background.

Appellant is the mother of two minor children who were placed into the custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on suspicion that they were abused or neglected. On March 27, 2009, the Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney filed a petition under the Child Protective Act alleging that Appellant's infant daughter was abused. On April 8, 2009, the prosecutor filed an amended petition adding Appellant's son and alleging that he was neglected. On May 29, 2009, Appellant appeared in court with her attorney for the adjudicatory hearing, and she stipulated that her two children were within the jurisdiction of the magistrate court under the Child Protective Act.*fn1 Pursuant to that stipulation, on June 3, 2009, the magistrate court entered a decree of protective custody of the Department for an indeterminate period not to exceed their eighteenth birthdays. On June 16, 2009, Appellant signed a case plan that had been prepared pursuant to Idaho Code section 16-1621 to set forth reasonable efforts that would make it possible for the children to return to Appellant's home.

On July 27, 2010, the prosecutor filed a petition seeking to terminate Appellant's parental rights in her two children. The matter was tried to the magistrate court, which on December 7, 2011, issued its decision. The court found that Appellant had failed to complete the tasks required of her under the case plan.

The case plan required that Appellant demonstrate adequate parenting and protective skills with her children. This matter had come to the attention of law enforcement and the Department because Appellant's son had physically attacked the son of Appellant's boyfriend when they were residing in the same house. They took the boyfriend's son to the hospital, and the medical personnel became suspicious and contacted police because Appellant and her boyfriend gave conflicting accounts of how the boyfriend's son had been injured. Although Appellant attended parenting classes, the court found that Appellant was never able to demonstrate during visits with her children that she was able to implement what she had been taught in order to properly care for both children. The court found that during those visits Appellant failed to respond appropriately to her son's outbursts and failed to engage him in age and developmentally appropriate activities. It further found that she was unable to recognize the deficiencies in her behavior and resisted suggestions for improvement from her caseworkers.

The case plan also required that Appellant secure safe and stable housing approved by the Department. She moved into low-income housing with the assistance of the Department, but she was evicted because of violations of the lease. She moved into a homeless shelter, and by the time of trial was living in a camp trailer that she stipulated was unsafe for children and that the magistrate court found was unfit for habitation. The trailer had one bedroom, it did not have running water, and its only heat source was a wood stove.

When the case plan was adopted, Appellant was not working and was living on her son's SSI benefits. The case plan required that she secure and maintain legitimate employment sufficient to meet the needs of herself and her children. The magistrate court found that she had failed to do so.

The court found that Appellant was unwilling to make changes in her behavior and her decision-making processes that would be necessary for her to successfully complete her case plan. It further found that the evidence did not support a reasonable expectation that she would complete the case plan even if she were given more time to do so. The court concluded that Appellant was unable to discharge her parental duties, that such inability will continue for a prolonged and indeterminate period, and that it would be injurious to the health, morals, or well-being of her children. Finally, the court found that it was in the children's best interests to terminate Appellant's parental rights.

The court found that the prosecuting attorney had proved by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the parent-child relationship was in the best interests of the children and that the following conditions, each of which is a statutorily sufficient for termination, existed:

(a) Appellant had neglected her children as defined in Idaho Code sections 16- 2005(1) (b); 16-2002(3)(a); and 16-1602(25)(a) because they were without proper parental care and control, or subsistence, medical or other care or control necessary for their well-being because of the conduct ...

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