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In re Doe

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 23, 2019

In the Matter of: John Doe I, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JANE DOE (2019-18), Respondent-Appellant. STATE OF 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. Thomas H. Borresen, Magistrate Judge and Calvin H. Campbell, Magistrate Judge.

         Decree terminating parental rights is affirmed.

          Marilyn Paul, Twin Falls Public Defender, Twin Falls, for appellant.

          Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Twin Falls, for respondent.

          BRODY, Justice.

         Jane Doe ("Mother") appeals from the magistrate court's judgment granting the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's ("the Department") petition to terminate her parental rights to her son, A.V. The magistrate court concluded that the Department proved by clear and convincing evidence that Mother and John Doe ("Father") neglected A.V. and that termination was in A.V.'s best interests. Father's termination is the subject of a separate appeal (Dkt. No. 47200). Mother's main argument on appeal is that the magistrate court erred in terminating her parental rights because her disabilities prevented her from completing her case plan. We affirm the magistrate court's decree terminating Mother's parental rights.


         A.V., the child at issue in this case, went into foster care in November 2017, when he was approximately two-and-a-half years old. Mother acknowledged that A.V. went into care after she had left him alone in an apartment. One Department social worker testified that he met with Mother a few days later and talked with her about the fact that A.V. was malnourished. He testified that Mother indicated A.V. previously had a hiatal hernia and that he was always going to have a problem gaining weight. However, after a Department investigation, and having A.V. examined by doctors, that did not turn out to be the case.

         A.V. had been in shelter care once before from the time he was ten months old until he was about eighteen-months old. While in care, A.V. received physical therapy from a board-certified pediatric physical therapist. She worked with A.V. from July 2016, until he was returned to his parents in October of 2016. She testified that when she first began working with A.V., he was approximately four to six months developmentally delayed. Additionally, she learned from the nurse who had worked with A.V. that he was very malnourished when he first went into care. However, she saw significant improvement in A.V. during the time that she worked with him. In October of 2016, when he returned to his parents' care, A.V. was slightly delayed but, adjusting for his age and prematurity, "he looked really good." She did not think that further skilled therapy was needed. At that time, A.V. weighed eighteen pounds.

         In November of 2017, when A.V. went into care for the second time, he weighed only sixteen pounds-two pounds less than he weighed when he left foster care a year before. He was placed with the physical therapist who had worked with him in 2016, and she became his foster mother. The foster mother testified that when she became his foster mother, A.V. was more than a year delayed, as he was at the level of a ten-month-old. She believed that, even given that A.V. was born prematurely, he should have weighed between twenty and twenty-five pounds. A.V. had very little muscle mass, was not walking, and was babbling and making sounds but not talking. Likewise, another Department social worker testified that when she first saw A.V. in November of 2017, he appeared to be the size and weight of a twelve-month-old, his overall development was that of an eleven or twelve-month-old, and he was not walking. She agreed that most children take their first step around one year old.

         In response to a question about why she thought A.V. was losing weight in the time period before he was placed into care in November of 2017, Mother testified that she was dealing with a very big loss-the death of her mother by suicide-and unfortunately she let it get in the way of her life and the lives of her children. She did not ask for help because she did not want people feeling sorry for her. However, after A.V. was placed in foster care, she realized that all of this could have been avoided if she had just reached out for help.

         A Department social worker developed a case plan for Mother and Father. Both parents were present at the case plan meeting in which the case plans were designed. One task on each parent's case plan was to attend as many of A.V.'s physical therapy, speech, and occupational therapy sessions as possible. The social worker testified that each parent attended only eleven out of forty scheduled speech and occupational therapy visits.

         Another task on each parent's case plan was to complete a parenting class. The Department social worker testified that neither parent completed this task. The leader of the parenting class, which was known as Nurturing Parents, testified that neither parent turned in their homework, and neither showed for the final in-home session. She explained that the homework is a required part of the class because it helps parents apply what they have learned to their own households. She testified that throughout the class, she reminds parents that if they turn in the homework and attend all of the sessions, they pass, but if they do not, they fail.

         The parenting class teacher further testified that she repeatedly had to ask Mother to put her phone away during the class. She was not aware of Mother's ADHD. However, all parents do a self-evaluation at the end of every class to tell her how well they understand the curriculum, and Mother repeatedly remarked that she understood the curriculum very well. Furthermore, the parents had eighteen weeks to complete their homework; they were not required to turn it in each week. The Department social worker testified that she did not know that Mother had ADHD or other learning problems because Mother did not make her aware of them. She also testified that Mother is now attending Parents as Teachers, another parenting class, and that Mother told her ...

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