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In re Doe Children

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 19, 2018

In the Matter of: DOE CHILDREN, Children Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age
v.
JANE DOE, Respondent-Appellant. IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,

          Appeal from the Magistrate Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Twin Falls County, Hon. Thomas D. Kershaw, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

         The judgment of the magistrate court is affirmed.

          Twin Falls County Public Defender, Twin Falls, for Appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for Respondent.

          HORTON, JUSTICE

         Jane Doe (Mother) appeals from a judgment of the Twin Falls County magistrate court terminating her parental rights to her three minor children: PG, KG, and BG. Mother argues that the magistrate court abused its discretion in determining that she neglected her children and that it is in the children's best interest to terminate the parent-child relationship. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This case arises from the termination of Mother's parental rights to her three minor children-PG, KG, and BG-on July 17, 2018. Father previously consented to termination of his parental rights.

         Near the end of February 2017, Mother, who was thirty-five weeks pregnant with BG, went into preterm labor while in jail. She was transported to a hospital but did not have the baby at that time. While at the hospital, she tested positive for methamphetamines. Around that time, KG was hospitalized to receive treatment for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Because Mother appeared to be under the influence of drugs when she visited KG in the hospital, the doctor called Child Protective Services over concerns that Mother could not adequately care for her child. After an investigation, the State of Idaho filed a petition to remove PG and KG from their home and they were placed into emergency shelter care on March 1, 2017. The children were three years old and one year old, respectively. BG was then born and placed in emergency shelter care on March 29, 2017, after testing positive for three kinds of opiates. She was four days old when she went into care.

         In early April 2017, a detailed case plan was developed and approved by the magistrate court specifying the tasks that Mother needed to accomplish to regain custody of her children. Because Mother continued to use drugs, have other criminal issues, and made only minimal progress on her case plan after eight months, the State filed a petition to terminate her parental rights on November 28, 2017. On January 22, 2018, the magistrate court entered an order approving a permanency plan of adoption for the children in the event that Mother's parental rights were terminated. The foster parents agreed to adopt all three children. A termination trial was held at the end of June 2018, and on July 17, 2018, the magistrate court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights. A final judgment to that effect was entered on July 24, 2018. Mother timely appealed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the fundamental right of parents "to maintain a familial relationship, and to the 'custody, care and control' of their children." In re Termination of Parental Rights of Doe (2013-17), 155 Idaho 896, 902, 318 P.3d 886, 892 (2014) (quoting State v. Doe, 143 Idaho 383, 386, 146 P.3d 649, 652 (2006)). "Therefore, when the State intervenes to terminate the parent-child relationship the requisites of due process must be met." Doe, 143 Idaho at 386, 146 P.3d at 652. To satisfy due process, the State must prove by clear and convincing evidence that at least one of the statutorily approved grounds for terminating the relationship is satisfied and that termination is in the child's best interest. In re Doe (2011-02), 151 Idaho 356, 362, 256 P.3d 764, 770 (2011); I.C. § 16-2005(1). "Whether a matter has been proved by clear and convincing evidence is primarily a matter for the trial court." Id. at 363, 256 P.3d at 771 (quoting In re Doe (2009-19), 150 Idaho 201, 203, 245 P.3d 953, 955 (2010)).

When reviewing a termination decision, this Court reviews the trial court record to determine whether substantial and competent evidence supports the magistrate court's findings of fact and whether the conclusions of law follow from those findings. Substantial and competent evidence is such evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.

Matter of Doe II, 163 Idaho 399, 401, 414 P.3d 221, 223 (2018) (internal citations and quotations omitted). A court's decision is not an abuse of discretion where it is supported by substantial and competent evidence. See Woods v. Woods, 163 Idaho 904, 907, 422 P.3d 1110, 1113 (2018). However, where the trial court's findings must be supported by clear and convincing evidence, "the substantial evidence test requires a greater quantum of evidence . . . than in cases where a mere preponderance is required." Doe v. Doe (2016-45), 162 Idaho 194, 197, 395 P.3d 814, 817 (2017) (quoting In re Doe, 143 Idaho at 346, 144 P.3d at 600). "This Court will indulge all reasonable inferences in support of the trial court's judgment when reviewing an order that parental rights be terminated." Matter of Doe II, 163 Idaho at 401, 414 P.3d at 223.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Mother argues that the magistrate court abused its discretion in determining that she neglected her children under Idaho Code sections 16-1602(31) and 16-2002(3)(b) and that it is in the children's best interests to ...


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