In the Matter of the DOE CHILDREN, Children Under Eighteen Years of Age.
JANE DOE (2016-43), Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH and WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,
Opinion No. 3S
from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the
Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Nez Perce County.
Hon. Kent J. Merica, Magistrate.
terminating parental rights, affirmed.
Knowlton & Miles, PLLC; Mackenzie Jo Welch, Lewiston, for
appellant. Mackenzie Jo Welch argued.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Marcy J. Spilker,
Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Marcy J.
SUBSTITUTE OPINION THE COURT'S PRIOR OPINION
DATED JANUARY 13, 2017, IS HEREBY WITHDRAWN
Doe appeals from the magistrate's judgment terminating
Jane's parental rights to her three minor children. This
Court first considered Jane's appeal on the grounds that
the magistrate erred procedurally by failing to issue written
findings of fact and conclusions of law. As we further
elaborate in our decision below, we remanded the case to the
magistrate for issuance of written findings. The case is
before us again after the magistrate issued its written
findings of fact and conclusions of law and a corresponding
amended termination order. Thus, having cured the procedural
defect, we now also consider the merits of the
magistrate's decision to terminate Jane's parental
rights. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
Doe and her husband, John Doe, have an extensive history of
drug abuse and have been involved in child protection
proceedings in the past. In February 2015, the Department of
Health and Welfare (Department) received reports indicating
that neither Jane nor John were in compliance with the terms
of their probations and that the three children in Jane and
John's care were unsafe. These three children are the
biological children of Jane, but only two are the biological
children of John; the biological father of Jane's oldest
child is unknown.
February 20, 2015, the Department filed a petition asking the
magistrate to determine whether the children were within the
jurisdiction of the Child Protection Act, alleging the
children were neglected and lacking a stable home
environment. Additionally, the petition asked the magistrate
to remove the children from Jane and John's home and
place the children into the temporary legal custody of the
Department. The magistrate entered an order granting the
Department's requests, and the children were immediately
removed from Jane and John's care and placed in shelter
care. The children remained in shelter care until an
adjudicatory hearing was held, at which point the magistrate
found it was in the children's best interests to remain
in shelter care. The Department prepared a written case plan
for both Jane and John, and the magistrate approved the
proposed plan on April 29, 2015.
2015, Jane was arrested for various probation violations. The
district court then sentenced Jane to serve out the remainder
of her underlying sentence. In August 2015, the magistrate held a
permanency hearing on the child protection case, at which
time the Department requested the approval of a modified case
plan to pursue relative adoption rather than reunification.
In its subsequent permanency plan order, the magistrate
ordered the Department to file a petition to terminate
parental rights within thirty days. The Department then filed
a petition to terminate both Jane and John's parental
rights to the children in September 2015, followed by an
amended petition approximately two weeks later. The
magistrate scheduled the termination trial for December 2015.
reasons unclear from the record, the parties stipulated to
postponing the December trial until February 2016. Then, the
parties again stipulated to postponing the February schedule
as Jane was pregnant at the time and the trial would be too
close to her due date. The magistrate rescheduled the
termination trial for May 2016.
February 2016, Jane gave birth to a child fathered by John.
The Department filed an amended petition under the Child
Protection Act to add the new baby to the existing child
protection order. The baby was placed in shelter care with
the other three children. The magistrate then held the
appropriate shelter care and adjudicatory hearings.
Ultimately, in May 2016, after the magistrate approved the
Department's proposed case plan regarding the baby, the
parties stipulated to sever the baby's and the
children's child protection proceedings. Jane and
John's parental rights to the baby are not at issue in
in March 2016, the Department filed a second amended petition
for termination of the parent-child relationship between the
three older children and both Jane and John. This amended
petition alleged that both parents neglected the children and
divided the grounds for termination into four separate
Count I: The children are neglected as defined in [I.C.
§§ 16-1602(31)(b)];[16-2002(3)(a) and 16-2005(1)(b) because
they lack proper support or parental care necessary for their
health, morals, and well-being, to-wit: [John and Jane] have
shown the inability to maintain safe and stable [sic] for
their children. Neither parent is able to demonstrate the
ability to safely parent their children when they are abusing
substances, and it appears that they are still unable to
maintain control of their addictions despite all the services
they have been offered and that they have completed
throughout the past five (5) years of Child Protection
Count II: The children are neglected as defined in I.C.
§§ 16-2002(3)(b) and 16-2005(1)(b). The parents
have failed to comply with the Court's orders or the case
plan in a Child Protective act case.
Count III: The parents have neglected the children. The
children are neglected as they are without the proper
parental care and control, or subsistence, education, medical
or other care and control necessary for their well-being
because of the conduct or omission of their parents,
guardian, or other custodian or their neglect or refusal to
provide them as follows: [Jane and John] have a significant
substance abuse history. [Jane and John] have not engaged in
any support services recommended by Department staff that has
been identified to help them successfully establish a safe
life to parent [the children].
Count IV: The parent, [Jane], is unable to discharge parental
responsibilities and such ability will continue for a
prolonged indeterminate period and will be injurious to the
health, morals, or well-being of the children, to-wit: [Jane]
has been sentenced to a prison term to the . . . Prison, and
the Idaho ...