In the Matter of: JANE DOE, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JANE DOE, Respondent-Appellant, IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent, And GUARDIAN AD LITEM, Intervenor-Respondent.
from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Cassia County. Hon. Blaine P. Cannon, Magistrate
court decree terminating parental rights, affirmed.
Hilverda McRae, PLLC, Twin Falls, for appellant. Adam Ondo
T. Baird, Idaho Attorney General, Twin Falls, argued for
Lindstrom, Burley, for intervenor-respondent.
BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE.
Doe (Mother) appeals the Cassia County magistrate court's
termination of her parental rights to her minor child, T.G.E.
(Child). On May 3, 2017, the Idaho Department of Health and
Welfare (the Department) moved to terminate Mother's
parental rights. Following a termination hearing, the
magistrate court found termination proper based on neglect
and entered an order to that effect on December 8, 2017 (the
Order). However, in a subsequent decree (the Decree) issued
on December 15, 2017, the magistrate court stated
Mother's parental rights were being terminated based on
abandonment. The court also terminated Father's parental
rights; however, Father had voluntarily relinquished his
parental rights and is not a party to this appeal. On appeal,
both Mother and the Department raised procedural issues in
briefing relating to the conflicting Order and Decree.
Subsequently, this Court remanded the case for entry of a new
judgment terminating Mother and Father's rights to Child,
and stated the Order would constitute the findings of fact
and conclusions of law. Mother timely appeals and contends
the magistrate court erred when it terminated Mother's
parental rights. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
gave birth to Child on June 14, 2016. At the time of
Child's birth, Mother had pending felony drug charges and
there was an active warrant for her arrest. After birth,
Child's umbilical cord blood tested positive for
methamphetamine. Mother admitted to using illegal drugs
during the first three months of her pregnancy, stating she
did not know she was pregnant at that time. Mother was
arrested a few days after Child's birth on the
outstanding warrant. Three days after Child's birth, on
June 17, 2016, the Department filed a petition asking that
Child be placed in the legal custody of the Department. Child
was placed in foster care with a paternal aunt.
5, 2016, Mother submitted to a hair follicle test that was
positive for methamphetamine at a level that indicated Mother
had not stopped using methamphetamine three months into
pregnancy. On July 8, 2016, the Department filed an amended
petition asking the court to make a finding of aggravated
circumstances because Mother's parental rights had been
terminated involuntarily with respect to five other children
in 2015. The parties came to an agreement that Child would be
put in custody of the Department, that the Department agreed
not to pursue the aggravated circumstances, and that both
Mother and Father would work a case plan with the goal of
reunifying Child to the family. Based on Mother's lack of
progress with the case plan, the Department moved to
terminate parental rights on May 3, 2017.
the termination hearing, the magistrate judge entered the
Order. In the Order the court entered its Findings of Fact
and Conclusions of Law, focusing on Mother's failure to
comply with her case plan. The case plan contained several
tasks Mother was required to complete. The magistrate judge
analyzed each task in Mother's case plan and found that
while Mother had completed some tasks, she had only partially
completed some and had completely failed others. For example,
though Mother entered drug treatment as required by the plan,
she continued to test positive for methamphetamine every time
she submitted to a hair follicle test. From July through
November in 2016, Mother's levels of methamphetamine in
her hair follicles rose from 4307 pg/mg in July to 10710
pg/mg in November. Mother also missed several follicle tests
between February and August 2017, and admitted to using
methamphetamine while working the case plan.
was also required to report to her case worker every three
weeks with her progress and proof of attending treatment.
Though Mother initially complied, she later missed her
appointments and subsequently only had contact with the
Department after Mother was incarcerated and her case worker
met with her at the jail. After Mother's release, she
made no effort to contact the Department.
was able to comply with some of her tasks. For example, the
magistrate judge found that Mother had maintained safe and
sanitary housing and had maintained full time employment.
Also, Mother complied with her plan by demonstrating
appropriate behavior during visits with Child and attending
some of Child's medical appointments. However, the
magistrate judge found that Mother failed to show "her
ability to understand her role in the circumstances that led
to [Child] being placed in foster care" and an
"understanding of her need to change" her
lifestyle. The court stated that while Mother admits she has
a problem, she "continues to deny the extent of her
methamphetamine use. She has not shown the desire or ability
to make the necessary life changes."
was also required to participate in visitation with Child.
Here again, Mother complied initially but as time went on
began showing up late to appointments and later missing
appointments completely. While some missed visits occurred
because Mother was in jail, Mother also missed visits when
she was not incarcerated. At the time of the termination
trial, Child had been in the care and custody of the
Department from June 17, 2016 through October 23, 2017, which
was 16 consecutive months.
also failed to comply with the task that required her to
report any changes in her legal status to the Department.
Mother was on felony probation while she was working on her
case plan. Mother did not notify the Department when she was
charged with a probation violation in August 2017. This
probation violation occurred when a car Mother was riding in
was stopped for a traffic violation and methamphetamine was
found in the car. Subsequently, Mother was incarcerated three
different times between June 2016 and September 2017.
task in Mother's case plan had to do with Mother's
purported brain tumor and required Mother to provide the
Department with documentation from a medical professional
relating to the diagnosis and treatment recommendations for
the tumor. It also stated Mother would follow the recommended
treatment and the Department would help her find funding if
Mother could not qualify for Medicaid. The magistrate judge
found that Mother did not comply with this task and that
Mother did not provide proof she still had the tumor or proof
of its progression. The court stated Mother had done nothing
to treat the tumor and she seemed unconcerned about its
potential impact on her ability to parent Child.
magistrate judge concluded that termination of parental
rights based on neglect was in the best interests of Child.
The magistrate judge stated that while Mother had made some
effort to address her drug use and improve her parenting
skills, those efforts were ...