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In re Doe

Court of Appeals of Idaho

June 6, 2017

In the Interest of: JANE DOE, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
v.
JANE DOE I (2017-5), Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

         2017 Opinion No. 26

         Appeal from the Magistrate Division of the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bonner County. Hon. A. Lynne Krogh, Magistrate.

          Janet K. Whitney, Bonner County Public Defender; Catherine E. Enright, Deputy Public Defender, Sandpoint, for appellant. Catherine E. Enright argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Denise L. Rosen, Deputy Attorney General, Coeur d'Alene, for respondent. Denise L. Rosen argued.

          MELANSON, Judge.

         Jane Doe I (2017-5) appeals from a judgment terminating her parental rights. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         I.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         Doe has a significant history of drug use, including methamphetamine and prescription pain medications, accompanied by multiple periods of sobriety and relapse. In 2013, Doe was arrested and charged for being in possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Doe, who had been released pending trial, became pregnant but did not learn of the pregnancy until January 2014. Doe continued using drugs until she was arrested on a federal warrant in March 2014. Doe pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in federal court and, in exchange for her guilty plea, Doe's state and other federal charges were dismissed.

         In August 2014, Doe gave birth to a child while in custody and awaiting sentencing. A petition under the Child Protective Act was filed, a shelter care hearing was held, and the child was placed in the legal custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. In September 2014, Doe was sentenced to a term of sixty months and to an additional five years of supervised release. In October 2014, a case plan was developed for the potential reunification of Doe and the child. In early 2015, the child was transitioned to the same foster family that had previously adopted the child's older siblings.[1]

         A petition to terminate Doe's parental rights was filed June 30, 2016, and an amended petition was filed in August 2016. Doe remained incarcerated until her release from residential drug treatment to a residential re-entry facility in August 2016.[2] At the termination trial, evidence and testimony was submitted relating to Doe's history, case plan progress, relationship with the child, and the child's special needs. Following the trial, the magistrate made extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law, ultimately ruling that there was clear and convincing evidence that Doe had neglected the child as defined under both I.C. § 16-2002(3)(a) and (b) and that termination was in the child's best interests. Final judgment terminating Doe's parental rights was entered on January 20, 2017. Doe appeals, challenging the magistrate's findings that Doe had neglected the child and that termination was in the child's best interests.

         II.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A parent has a fundamental liberty interest in maintaining a relationship with his or her child. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000); Doe v. State, 137 Idaho 758, 760, 53 P.3d 341, 343 (2002). This interest is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Doe, 144 Idaho 839, 842, 172 P.3d 1114, 1117 (2007). Implicit in the Termination of Parent and Child Relationship Act is the philosophy that, wherever possible, family life should be strengthened and preserved. I.C. § 16-2001(2). Therefore, the requisites of due process must be met when terminating the parent-child relationship. State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006). Due process requires that the grounds for terminating a parent-child relationship be proved by clear and convincing evidence. Id. Because a fundamental liberty interest is at stake, the United States Supreme Court has determined that a court may terminate a parent-child ...


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