In the Interest of: JANE DOE I, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JANE DOE (2017-36), Respondent-Appellant, IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent, and GUARDIAN AD LITEM, Intervenor-Respondent.
Opinion No. 12
from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District,
State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Andrew Ellis, Magistrate
court order terminating parental rights, affirmed.
County Public Defender's Office, Boise, for appellant.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for
Eberle, Berlin, Kading, Turnbow & McKlveen Chtd., Boise,
BURDICK, Chief Justice.
Doe (Mother) appeals the Ada County magistrate court's
termination of her parental rights to her minor child, A.L.
(Child). The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW)
filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to
Child on August 26, 2016, and an amended petition on June 30,
2017. After a two-day trial, the magistrate court found
termination proper on several bases of neglect and entered an
order to that effect. Mother timely appeals, and for the
reasons that follow, we affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
was removed from Mother's custody and placed into foster
care on June 25, 2015, after Mother's roommate reported
to law enforcement that Mother had attempted to commit
suicide in front of Child, who was then five years of age.
Mother's suicide attempt stemmed from frustration with
Child because Child refused to sleep. Mother thus
"smacked [Child] in the mouth" and then yelled,
"I'm going to kill myself, I can't take it
anymore" before taking three Ambien sleeping pills in
front of Child. Mother was admitted to the hospital for
has suffered traumatic experiences and mental health problems
since her childhood. For example, Mother's brother
sexually and physically abused her when she was a child.
After a suicide attempt in 2002, she was diagnosed with major
depressive disorder and began receiving treatment for mental
health problems. Since 2002, Mother has experienced
considerable mental health fluctuations, resulting in
frequent "ups and downs." These fluctuations caused
several periods of hospitalization.
Child's birth in 2009, Mother met and married John Doe
(Father). Father, a registered sex offender, had
parole conditions that largely barred contact with Child
after Child's birth. As such, Mother primarily raised
Child alone during the first few months of Child's life.
Later, when Father was around, he noticed that Mother's
focus was on watching television, not Child. According to
Father, Mother and Child never had a positive relationship.
emotionally abused Child. For example, Mother told Child,
"I hate you. I don't want you anymore. I wish you
hadn't been born." Mother explained that she
"yelled at [Child] a lot." Mother recognized that
this abuse "affected [Child] a lot." At times
Mother's abuse turned physical. Mother reported to IDHW
that she "often times will 'pop [Child] in the
mouth' or give her a 'swat on the butt' with her
hand if [Child] refuses to listen to her." Mother
explained that Child was a "trigger" for her anger
and mental health issues.
and physical abuse also plagued Mother and Father's
relationship, with Child witnessing it at times. During the
first few years of their marriage, Mother would "pop off
at the snap of a button . . . . [Mother] would yell at
[Father]. [Mother] would curse. [Mother] would put [him]
down." Father became physically abusive towards Mother
after he "reach[ed his] boiling point" and grabbed
Mother to restrain her and "los[t] his control" at
some point in 2013. Father did not recall ever physically
striking Mother, but he "grabbed her to the point where
--sometimes to restrain her, and at some times where [Father]
just lost control, and [Father] felt like [he] was going to
do something that was going to end up putting [him] back in
prison." Child witnessed some of the incidences,
including some that became physically abusive, which Father
attributed to Mother.
learned the full extent of Child's treatment after Child
was placed into foster care. Specifically, after Mother was
released from hospitalization following her suicide attempt,
she informed an IDHW safety assessor that (1) Child was
"trigger" and Mother "could go off at any
moment"; (2) Mother was not in control of her mental
health and was thus "worried about her ability to take
care of [Child]"; and (3) Mother would "pop one off
on [Child] in [Child's] mouth when she needed it."
IDHW thus grew concerned over Mother's ability to parent
Child, which concern was exacerbated when Mother expressed
her wish that Child be placed with her maternal grandmother,
notwithstanding that Mother's brother, who had sexually
assaulted Mother when she was approximately the same age as
Child was, resided in Mother's maternal grandmother's
house. In light of these concerns, a case plan was entered on
August 13, 2015.
initially exhibited bad behavior and poor decision making
while in foster care. For example, Child would throw
"extreme fits" ten or twenty times per day and was
expelled from preschool for exhibiting aggression toward
other students and pulling fire alarms. When Mother was
confronted about these issues, she did not express any
concern, much less advice on how to resolve them, which
IDHW's social worker testified was "a rare thing to
see . . . ." After approximately two months in foster
care, Child began counseling and was diagnosed with general
anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and
parental-relational issues. In counseling, Child reported
"very specific nightmares about [Mother]." The
nightmare "always involved a weapon and her mother and
[Child] being the victim. And there was always blood, and it
was quite graphic." The counselor concluded there was
"a significant issue between [M]other and [C]hild."
was placed into a second foster home in August 2016.
Child's former foster parents explained that Child's
"extreme behaviors and particularly the screaming fits
and the screaming and physical fits" took a significant
toll on them, though Child did improve gradually while in
their care. Nevertheless, Child improved greatly with more
time in foster care under the care of her second foster
family. By the 2016-17 schoolyear, Child was (1) "on
grade level" and even exceeded some expectations in some
areas; (2) able to develop and maintain friendships; (3)
"show[ed] empathy towards her peers"; and (4) able
to "start to trust adults more, a lot more." When
Child's former foster parents saw Child in August 2017,
approximately one year after Child had left their care, they
felt that Child "was a different kid" and
Child's progression had continued "in an amplified
way." Overall, Child has become "just a happy kid,
" but once Mother is mentioned, Child has
"meltdowns that c[an] last anywhere from 45 minutes to
thus filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental
rights on August 26, 2016. Shortly thereafter, in September
2016, IDHW moved to suspend Mother's visitation rights,
explaining that Child's "visits with [Mother] are
hindering progress in therapy and life." Mother, who had
missed twenty-eight visits since January 2016, agreed that
discontinuing visits "would be better for both [her] and
[Child, ]" and acknowledged that she was unable to care
for Child "based on [Mother's] state of mental
health." Accordingly, the magistrate court entered an
order on October 13, 2016, limiting visitation with Mother to
that which Child requested and requiring it to take place in
a therapeutic setting.
amended its termination petition on June 30, 2017. After a
two-day trial, on October 16, 2017, the magistrate court
entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights,
finding that Mother had neglected Child and, further, that
termination was in Child's best interests. Mother timely
appeals, and, after the parties' consented, this ...