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In re Termination of Parental Rights of Jane

Court of Appeals of Idaho

October 16, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF JANE (2013-13) DOE.
v.
JANE (2013-13) DOE, Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Scott L. Wayman, Magistrate.

John M. Adams, Kootenai County Public Defender; Jay Logsdon, Deputy Public Defender, Coeur d'Alene, for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Denise Rosen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

LANSING, JUDGE

Jane Doe argues that the magistrate court erred by failing to recognize that it had been divested of jurisdiction, by inadequately considering whether Doe had a disability, and by failing to recognize the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (Department) offered inadequate support to her as a disabled parent. Finally, she argues that the magistrate court erred by finding that termination was not in the best interests of her children. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In 2010, the three of Doe's children who are discussed in this appeal lived with Doe. At that time, the youngest child was four years old and the oldest child was fourteen. Police originally came to Doe's home to resolve a noise complaint on December 19, 2010. Doe's oldest daughter had begun yelling after Doe slapped her. Police found a home in disarray. There was insufficient food in the home and an unsecured butcher knife was found on the floor next to a children's toy. The youngest children had lice and an older child had severe tooth decay.

In addition to observing conditions which the police believed endangered the children, police heard from Doe's children that she was playing video games rather than caring for them. Doe essentially admitted that she had done so. She admitted that she was playing "World of Warcraft" approximately six to eight hours per day in the time leading up to the removal of her children. Her playing was not limited to hours where other adults were available to care for her children or when her children were asleep. It also appears that Doe did not choose to play the game in a manner in which she could take frequent breaks to care for her children. Rather, she chose to play with groups of other players who depended upon her maintaining a sufficient level of attention to the game in order to meet group objectives.

For all of these reasons, officers believed Doe's children were in danger and removed them from the home. The Department thereafter discovered that Doe's children had been removed from her custody on three prior occasions in the state of Washington. From the records, it does not appear that Doe was always the party primarily responsible for the removal. For example, one removal appears to have been based upon physical abuse by the father of one of Doe's children. However, other removals were based upon facts similar to the instant circumstance--Doe's failure to supervise and appropriately parent her children.

On December 22, 2010, the trial court entered a sheltering order and, shortly thereafter, Doe stipulated that her children fell within the jurisdiction of the Child Protection Act. On February 8, 2011, the court ordered the parties to comply with a case plan.

Over a year and one-half later, on September 21, 2012, the Department filed a petition to terminate Doe's parental rights as to three of her children. The petition sought termination on the grounds of abandonment, neglect, and Doe's inability to discharge parental responsibilities pursuant to Idaho Code §§ 16-2002(3), (5), 16-2005(1)(a), (5)(d), as those statutes were then in effect.[1] The termination trial was conducted on March 19 and 20, 2013.

At the termination trial, Doe admitted that she failed to comply with various portions of the case plan. In particular, she admitted that she did not obtain consistent employment, provide evidence of employment, or show she was capable of applying significant parental skills such as instituting consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Doe argued that she had met certain requirements of the case plan because of changes to her lifestyle, all of which occurred in the month immediately preceding the trial. She testified that her living situation had changed substantially. In the year prior to the trial, Doe had lived in four different homes in three cities across the Pacific Northwest. At the trial, she testified that she had arranged for consistent housing because she had signed a one-year lease less than a week before the trial. Likewise, Doe had three jobs in the preceding three years. One job was temporary; Doe quit another job because of scheduling issues; and another job ended because Doe had car trouble. In total, she had worked approximately six months out of the past thirty-nine months.[2] Doe argued she had found consistent employment because, approximately a month before the hearing, she ...


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