In the Interest of the DOE CHILDREN, Children Under the Age of Eighteen (18) Years.
JANE DOE (2016-32), Respondent-Appellant, IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent, and GUARDIAN AD LITEM, Intervenor-Respondent.
Opinion No. 27
from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District,
State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Michael B. Kennedy,
court judgment terminating parental rights, affirmed.
Bonneville County Public Defender, Idaho Falls, for
Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for
Perkins, LLP, Boise, for intervenor-respondent.
BURDICK, Chief Justice.
Doe (Mother) appeals the Bonneville County magistrate
court's termination of her parental rights to her two
minor children, K.J.M. and K.M.M. (Children). The Idaho
Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) filed a petition to
terminate Mother's parental rights to Children on
November 10, 2015. An eight-day trial was held, where over
forty witnesses testified and one-hundred-eighty exhibits
were admitted. The magistrate found termination proper on
several bases and entered a judgment to that effect. On
appeal, Mother asserts that the magistrate's judgment is
not supported by sufficient evidence and that the magistrate
committed several errors. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case concerns the termination of Mother's parental rights
to her two minor children, K.J.M. (born August 2012) and
K.M.M. (born August 2013). IDHW became involved in this case in
November 2012, when it learned Mother and her boyfriend, who
was also K.J.M.'s father, were blowing marijuana smoke in
K.R.C.'s and K.J.M.'s faces. IDHW visited
Mother's home and noted it was "filthy with pills
and drug paraphernalia scattered throughout the home[.]"
Further investigation revealed that Mother's boyfriend
was physically abusing Mother. Mother's boyfriend was
arrested for felony strangulation of Mother. Apparently,
Mother dropped the charges "due to him being the sole
caretaker of the children and needing his help . . . ."
addition, Mother's boyfriend was physically abusing
K.R.C. and K.J.M. Mother reported she had witnessed her
boyfriend "shake 4 month old [K.J.M.] . . . and hit 1
year old [K.R.C.], leaving bruises on her legs and
bottom." Even so, Mother routinely placed them in the
care of her boyfriend while she went to work, not "fully
comprehend[ing] the danger she [was] placing her children in
. . . ." IDHW concluded Mother lacked "capacity to
protect her children from harm" and became concerned
about their safety. IDHW filed motions for appointment of a
guardian ad litem and for protective supervision under the
Child Protective Act, both of which were granted. IDHW
maintained protective supervision until July 2014.
plan was entered during protective supervision, requiring
Mother to do several things, including: (1) complete
parenting and home organization classes; (2) complete
domestic violence safety classes; (3) provide a plan stating
how she would ensure Children's safety; (4) ensure her
home was clean; (5) clear her home's floor of small
objects, due to Children's ages; (6) wash dishes and
vacuum daily; (7) submit to random drug testing; and (8)
acquire IDHW's approval before allowing others to visit
or reside in her home. Nevertheless, IDHW observed "the
dishes were not done, the floor needed to be vacuumed, food
was smeared into [the] carpet, and there were clothes on the
floor." Thus, IDHW concluded Mother "was either not
wanting to change the way she lived or wasn't taking this
protective supervision, Mother's drug problem became
evident. For instance, Mother was arrested in spring 2013 for
failure to appear, and during the arrest, police found a
urine-filled condom stashed in her underwear. That arrest
occurred while Mother was traveling to a drug testing center,
"indicating that Mother planned on falsifying her drug
test." Then, in spring 2014, Mother tested positive for
"Methamphetamine and Amphetamine." Mother testified
she had used methamphetamine off-and-on during her
pregnancies, further conceding she had used methamphetamine
"during at least a portion of the pregnancy." By
2014, Mother was using methamphetamine "pretty
regularly" on a daily basis. In a mental health
assessment performed on November 30, 2015, Mother stated that
she "rel[ied] on drugs to feel normal."
was incarcerated several times during protective supervision.
She was arrested and incarcerated in spring 2013 for failure
to appear. After failing a drug test in spring 2014, Mother
was incarcerated until the week of June 23, 2014. Mother was
again arrested and incarcerated on July 21, 2014, evidently
for repeatedly violating a court order preventing
non-approved persons from residing with her. IDHW concluded
Children were at a high level of threat, due to Mother's
incarcerations and "concerns of ongoing substance abuse
and chronic neglect of children."
made an unannounced visit to Mother's apartment on July
21, 2014. Mother was home, but asleep. K.J.M. was seen
playing in the dirt with no clothes or shoes, supervised by a
man who indicated he had recently been released from jail and
was using methamphetamine. K.M.M. was seen in her play pen,
with a diaper "that was unchanged and bulging and almost
overflowing with feces." The IDHW "worker woke up
[Mother] and told her that she needed to change
[K.M.M.'s] diaper and that [Children] were being
supervised by a man . . . [who] the worker never met.
[Mother] then ran out from her bedroom looking for her
children." Thereafter, IDHW concluded Mother was unable
to meet the needs of Children and filed a motion for legal
custody. The motion was granted, and Children have been in
IDHW's legal custody since July 22, 2014.
case plan was entered on August 11, 2014, requiring Mother to
do several things, including: (1) stay sober; (2) find stable
housing; (3) acquire IDHW's approval before allowing
others to reside in her home; and (4) submit monthly budgets
to IDHW. A similar case plan was entered on March 16, 2015.
Mother failed to meet these requirements. As IDHW found in
[Mother] has been discharged from Family Drug [C]ourt and
treatment. She completed a Nelson's Truth Verification
Testing and Investigation on February 7, 2015. Results
indicated that she recently relapsed by smoking meth for a
period of 3-4 days, having unapproved associations, she had
also been on 5-7 ride alongs where she knows people were
dealing meth, as well as delivered it once by person. She
admitted to facilitating a drug transaction by connecting a
dealer to a person, having sex with 5 different individuals,
as well as [being] in contact with 2 boy friends in jail
while relationships or contact with these persons were not
IDHW concluded Mother had shown no improvement despite
IDHW's involvement but, in fact, had regressed.
filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to
Children on November 10, 2015. An eight-day trial was held in May 2016.
Forty-three witnesses testified, twelve more witnesses
submitted stipulated offers of proof, and over
one-hundred-eighty exhibits were admitted. The magistrate
found termination proper on several bases and entered a
judgment to that effect. This appeal timely followed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
"Idaho Code section 16-2005(1), a court may terminate
parental rights if it finds that doing so is in the best
interests of the child and that at least one of five grounds
for termination is satisfied." In re Doe
(2014-23), 157 Idaho 920, 923, 342 P.3d 632, 635 (2015).
"The grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship
must be proved by clear and convincing evidence." In
re Doe (2013-15), 156 Idaho 103, 105-06, 320 P.3d 1262,
1264-65 (2014); see also I.C. § 16-2009.
"Clear and convincing evidence is evidence that
indicates the thing to be proved is highly probable or
reasonably certain." In re Doe (2014-17), 157
Idaho 694, 699, 339 P.3d 755, 760 (2014). "This Court
must 'conduct an independent review of the magistrate
court record, but must draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the magistrate court's judgment, as the
magistrate court has the opportunity to observe
witnesses' demeanor, to assess their credibility, to
detect prejudice or motive and to judge the character of the
parties.' " In re Doe (2014-23), 157 Idaho
at 923, 342 P.3d at 635 (quoting Doe I v. Doe II,
150 Idaho 46, 49, 244 P.3d 190, 193 (2010)). "[T]his
Court will not disturb the magistrate court's decision to
terminate parental rights if there is substantial, competent
evidence in the record to support the decision." Doe
I, 150 Idaho at 49, 244 P.3d at 193. "Substantial,
competent evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). Even if
conflicting evidence is in the record, the judgment must be
upheld so long as it is supported by substantial, competent
evidence. Doe I v. Doe, 138 Idaho 893, 905-06, 71
P.3d 1040, 1052-53 (2003) (citation omitted).
Substantial, competent evidence supports the magistrate's
Idaho Code section 16-2005(1)(b), termination is proper where
clear and convincing evidence shows that the "[t]he
parent has neglected . . . the child" and termination is
in the best interests of the child. Idaho Code defines