In the Interest of: Jane Doe I, Jane Doe II, and Jane Doe III, Children Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JANE DOE (2019-17), Respondent-Appellant, STATE OF IDAHO, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent, and GUARDIAN AD LITEM, Guardian Ad Litem-Respondent.
from the District Court of the Second Judicial District,
State of Idaho, Nez Perce County. Victoria Olds, Magistrate
terminating parental rights, affirmed.
McFarland Law Office, Lewiston, for appellant. Joanna Maria
Lawrence G. Wasden, Lewiston, for respondent. Floyd Leavitt
Elmer Swanton argued.
Law Office, Lewiston, for respondent Guardian Ad Litem. Paige
M. Nolta argued.
BURDICK, Chief Justice.
Doe ("Mother") appeals the Nez Perce County
magistrate court's termination of her parental rights to
her minor children Jane Doe I ("B.L.S."), Jane Doe
II ("X.V.S."), and Jane Doe III
("A.C.S."). On December 11, 2018, the Idaho
Department of Health and Welfare ("Department")
filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to
B.L.S., X.V.S., and A.C.S. After a four-day trial, the
magistrate court found by clear and convincing evidence that
termination was proper on the grounds of neglect and that
termination was in the best interests of the children. The
magistrate court also terminated the parental rights of John
Doe ("Father"), who filed a separate appeal
regarding termination of his parental rights to B.L.S. and
A.C.S., but not X.V.S. because he is not the biological
father of that child. On June 11, 2019, the magistrate court
entered a final judgment terminating Mother's parental
rights. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
appeal concerns the termination of Mother's parental
rights to her three minor children, B.L.S. (born March 25,
2008), X.V.S. (born December 31, 2014), and A.C.S. (born
December 24, 2017). On Christmas Eve, 2017, the Department
received a referral when A.C.S. was born prematurely at
Gritman Medical Center in Moscow, Idaho. Mother's
amniotic fluid had ruptured prematurely due to drug use.
Tests confirmed that A.C.S. was prenatally exposed to
methamphetamine. Shortly after her birth, A.C.S. was
life-flighted to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane,
Washington for treatment.
staff for the Department conducted an initial safety
assessment and the Department's Region 2 Child Welfare
Supervisor (Region Supervisor) met with Mother at Gritman
Medical Center on December 27, 2017. Mother explained that
she and Father had been in an on-and-off relationship for the
past 20 years. At the time of the meeting, Mother and Father
lived together in a camper on his family farm near Kendrick.
Mother disclosed that she actively used methamphetamine, and
had used methamphetamine while pregnant with A.C.S. She also
explained that she and Father used methamphetamine together
in their camper, sometimes with their children present.
also described frequent incidents of domestic violence that
occurred in the home. For instance, when the couple fought
they would yell and throw appliances and other objects at
each other. Mother recalled an incident where the windshield
of one of their vehicles had been shattered when an object
was thrown at it during a fight. X.V.S. was inside the
vehicle at the time, and B.L.S. was possibly present as well.
Mother also described an incident where Father "ripped
the door off the hinges of the camper" during a
"drug-induced altercation" and left it on the
ground for days. During another incident, Father threatened
to harm himself and Mother with a firearm while the children
were "in the vicinity."
January 2, 2018, based on the information Mother provided to
the Region Supervisor and the rest of its investigation, the
Department filed a motion to remove the children from the
home under the Child Protection Act. The petition was granted
the same day and a shelter-care hearing was scheduled for
January 4, 2018. At the hearing, Mother stipulated to the
Department retaining custody of all three children on the
basis of an unstable home environment. Father was not
present, but attended a continued shelter-care hearing on
January 8, 2018, where he also stipulated to jurisdiction due
to an unstable home environment. B.L.S. and X.V.S. were
placed into foster care with one of Father's cousins, and
A.C.S. was eventually placed into foster care with
Father's sister after a one-month stay with another
an adjudicatory hearing where Father and Mother again
stipulated to the Department retaining jurisdiction and
custody, the Department worked with the parents to develop a
case plan. Mother agreed to the tasks in the case plan and it
was adopted by the court on February 23, 2018.
case plan contained tasks for her to complete that were
designed with the goal of establishing "stability in her
life so she is able to be a safe parent to her children"
by living "a sober life, free of abuse and neglect for
herself and her children." The first task in
Mother's case plan required her to complete a substance
abuse assessment (GAIN-I assessment) and comply with the
recommendations of the treatment provider. Mother was
supposed to begin the first task no later than 15 days from
the date the case plan was approved. The second task required
Mother to establish and maintain sobriety, complete random
urinalysis tests (UAs) at the request of Department staff,
and self-report barriers to attending treatment or
maintaining sobriety. The third task required Mother to
attend and participate in mental health services. The fourth
task required Mother to demonstrate stability in her housing
status by establishing sober housing. Mother's fifth task
required that she demonstrate the ability to meet her own
basic needs as well as the needs of her children. This task
included the requirement that she demonstrate financial
stability to meet the needs of her children as well as her
own. The case plan further specified that Mother could work
toward accomplishing this task by accessing resources such as
Idaho Housing, Community Action, or the Salvation Army to
meet her children's needs, as well as her own.
Mother's sixth task required that she participate in all
scheduled visitation with her children and demonstrate her
ability to recognize the needs of her children by responding
to them in an age-appropriate manner. The seventh task
required Mother to actively participate in all reunification
services with her children. The final task required Mother to
address the domestic violence and relationship conflict with
Father if they planned to stay together. The case plan listed
individual counseling, anger-management evaluations, couples
counseling, and parent counseling as possible services to be
used in accomplishing this task.
magistrate court held review hearings in May, June, and
September of 2018 to evaluate the parents' progress on
their case plans, the status of the children in their
foster-care placements, and the Department's
reunification efforts. At a review hearing on October 29,
2018, the Department requested an early permanency hearing on
the grounds that both parents had made little progress on
their case plans. Agreeing that the parents had made very
little progress up to that point, the magistrate court moved
the permanency hearing up from December 28, 2018, to November
26, 2018. At the permanency hearing, the magistrate court
approved a permanency plan that sought termination of
parental rights and relative adoption with the foster parents
as the primary goal for each child.
Department subsequently filed a petition to terminate the
parental rights of both Mother and Father on December 11,
2018, approximately 11 months after the children had been
placed in the Department's custody. At the time of the
trial, Mother was living with Father in a house he was
renting in Kendrick. The Department's petition asked the
magistrate court to terminate Mother's parental rights on
the following grounds:
The children are neglected as defined in I.C. §§
16-2005(1)(b), 16-2002(3)(a), and 16-1602(31)(a) [because
they] are without proper parental care and control, and/or
subsistence, medical and/or other care or control necessary
for their well-being because of the conduct and/or omission
of their parents, and/or their neglect or refusal to provide
[for] them . . . .
The children are neglected as defined in I.C. §§
16-2005(1)(b), 16-2005(1)(d), 16-2002(3)(a), and
16-602(31)(b) because their parents are unable to discharge
their responsibilities to and for them and, as a result of
such inability, the children lack the parental care necessary
for their health, safety and/or well-being. Such inability
will continue for a prolonged indeterminate period . . . .
The parents have neglected the children as defined in I.C.
§ 16-2005(1)(b) because the parents have failed to
comply with the Court's orders and/or the case plan in a
Child Protective [A]ct case. [The children] have been in the
custody of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare since
their removal on January 2, 2018.
four-day trial, the magistrate court made the following
findings by clear and convincing evidence: the Department had
legal custody of the children for 15 of the most recent 22
months without reunification occurring; Mother failed to
comply with the case plan, failed to provide proper parental
care and control for her children, and is unable to discharge
her parental responsibilities; and termination of
Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of
B.L.S., X.V.S., and A.C.S.
magistrate court entered a final order terminating
Mother's parental rights to B.L.S., X.V.S., and A.C.S. on
June 11, 2019. Mother timely appeals.