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In re Doe

Court of Appeals of Idaho

December 5, 2016

In the Matter of JOHN DOE, a Child Under the Age of Eighteen (18) Years.
v.
JOHN DOE I (2016-37), Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

         2016 Opinion No. 77

          Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Carolyn M. Minder, Magistrate.

         Order terminating parental rights, affirmed.

          Ellsworth, Kallas & DeFranco, PLLC; Joseph L. Ellsworth, Boise, for appellant.

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

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         John Doe appeals from the magistrate's order terminating Doe's parental rights. Specifically, he challenges whether there was substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings that (1) Doe had neglected the child and (2) it was in the child's best interests to terminate Doe's parental rights. We affirm.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Doe is the father to a minor child born in November 2013. At the time of the child's birth, the child was placed in the care of the Department of Health and Welfare ("Department") after the mother tested positive for amphetamine. In February 2014, the child was again placed in the care of the Department after the mother was hospitalized for suicidal ideations. Then, in October 2014, the child was placed in foster care for a third time after police found the child unsupervised while the mother was unconscious on the floor.[1] When the child was placed into foster care for the third time, Doe stated he was unable to care for the child due to Doe's employment and lack of resources and child care skills.

         As part of the child protection case, Doe was ordered to participate in a case plan in November 2014. The primary objectives of Doe's case plan were to (1) increase his awareness and ability on how to care for the child and (2) provide the child with a safe and stable living environment. To meet these objectives, Doe was required to participate in a parenting program, demonstrate his ability to care for the child's basic needs, and obtain Department-approved child care. In conformance with his plan, Doe completed parenting classes and participated in daytime visits and several overnight visits with the child. Then, in September 2015, the magistrate held a permanency hearing. Testimony at that hearing revealed that Doe continued to display difficulties providing for the child's basic care and had not secured child care. The magistrate issued an order approving termination and adoption as the final plan.

         The Department then petitioned for termination of Doe's parental rights, and a trial date was set for December 2016. In response to the Department's petition, Doe requested additional time to comply with his case plan, citing the arrival of his three teenaged children from Ethiopia as the basis for the continuance. The magistrate vacated and reset the termination trial for March 2016. The Department then filed a motion to amend the permanent plan to allow additional time to work with Doe toward reunification. The magistrate again reset the termination trial for May 2016. In May, the Department filed another motion to amend the permanent plan after learning that Doe was relying on his teenaged children to care for the child in Doe's absence, again requesting termination of parental rights and adoption. After holding a hearing on this motion, the magistrate granted the Department's request to amend the plan. The Department filed an amended petition for termination in June 2016.

         At the termination hearing in August 2016, the magistrate heard testimony from the police officer who discovered the child unsupervised in the home, the case workers, the foster mother and father, the guardian ad litem, Doe, and Doe's three teenaged children. Based on the evidence presented at trial, the magistrate found that there was clear and convincing ...


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