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In re Termination of Parental Rights of Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

March 18, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS OF JANE (2013-15) DOE.
v.
JANE (2013-15) DOE, Respondent-Appellant IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent, and GUARDIAN A.D. LITEM, Respondent,

Page 1263

2014 Opinion No. 30

Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Twin Falls County. Hon. Thomas D. Kershaw, Magistrate Judge.

The order of the magistrate court terminating Jane Doe's parental rights is affirmed.

Marilyn Paul, Twin Falls County Public Defender, attorney for Appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for Respondent Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. James T. Baird argued.

Jamie LaMure, Kimberly, attorney for Guardian ad litem.

HORTON, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, Justices EISMANN, J. JONES and Justice Pro Tem SCHROEDER CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1264

[156 Idaho 105] HORTON, Justice.

This is an expedited appeal by Jane Doe from an order terminating her parental rights to five minor children on the grounds of neglect. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

There are five children involved in this case: C.C., M.R., G.C., M.C.C., and A.C.C. The children have four different fathers. This appeal is the culmination of several child protection actions involving Jane Doe. The first child protection action was filed by the State on August 17, 2006. C.C., who was then one year old, was taken from Jane Doe because of an unsafe and unhygienic home and Jane Doe's drug use. There was also evidence of domestic abuse by the man who would later become M.R.'s father. Jane Doe completed a case plan including drug treatment and other tasks, and C.C. was returned to Jane Doe on October 25, 2007.

The second child protection case was filed on November 4, 2009, involving the two children that Jane Doe had at the time, C.C. and M.R. The children tested positive for drugs. Jane Doe was pregnant with G.C., whom the magistrate found had been " almost certainly exposed to methamphetamine in utero." Again, domestic violence was present, this time perpetrated by G.C.'s father. Jane Doe participated in another case plan, including child protection drug court. During drug court, she relapsed twice. Despite the relapses, Jane Doe graduated from the program in May of 2011. One month later, she gave birth to twins, M.C.C. and A.C.C.

On April 1, 2012, shortly after 3:00 a.m., police officers attempted to serve a warrant at an apartment in Twin Falls. During a struggle in which the subject attempted to flee, the officers noticed twins, younger than one year old, crawling on the floor. Methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were present in the apartment. Jane Doe told an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (" IDHW" ) caseworker that she had left her three younger children at the apartment to be cared for by a friend because she had been evicted. She admitted to recent use of methamphetamine. The caseworker believed that Jane Doe and her children were living out of her car. The other children were located and all five were placed in foster care.

The final child protection case was filed on April 2, 2012. Following a hearing on May 22, 2012, the magistrate court granted default judgment against two of the fathers of Jane Doe's five children and made a finding of aggravated circumstances as to all of the children and parents. Pursuant to I.C. § 16-1619(6)(d), this meant IDHW was not required to use reasonable efforts to reunify the children with the parents. Jane Doe filed a Motion for Reconsideration of Aggravated Circumstances Finding on June 5, 2012, which was denied after a hearing. Although the magistrate court's finding of aggravated circumstances was an appealable order, I.C. § 16-1625(1)(c), Jane Doe did not appeal the order. The magistrate court approved IDHW's permanency plan with respect to the parental rights of all the parents except for the father of M.C.C. and A.C.C. The State filed a Motion for Termination of Parent-Child Relationship on June 26, 2012. The magistrate court received evidence on May 13 and 14, 2013, and found that C.C., age eight, had been in foster care for 44 months; M.C., age six, had been in foster care for 32 months; G.C., age three, had been in foster care for 14 months; and M.C.C. and A.C.C., ages two, had been in foster care for 14 months. On July 2, 2013, the magistrate court ordered the termination of the parental rights of Jane Doe with respect to all five children and the parental rights of three of the fathers. Jane Doe timely appealed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship must be proved by

Page 1265

[156 Idaho 106] clear and convincing evidence. In the Matter of Aragon, 120 Idaho 606, 608, 818 P.2d 310, 312 (1991) (citing Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 102 S.Ct. 1388, 71 L.Ed.2d 599 (1982)).

Our review of factual findings is limited, and where the trial court has granted a petition terminating parental rights, that conclusion will not be disturbed on appeal so long as there is substantial competent evidence in the record to support the findings. Furthermore, in reviewing such findings, this Court will indulge all reasonable inferences in ...

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