In the Matter of: John Doe I, A Child Under Eighteen (18) Years of Age.
JOHN DOE (2019-19), Respondent-Appellant. STATE OF IDAHO, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND WELFARE, Petitioner-Respondent,
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.
terminating parental rights is affirmed.
Timothy J. Williams, Williams Law Office Chtd., Twin Falls,
Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Twin Falls, for
Doe ("Father") appeals from the magistrate
court's judgment granting the Idaho Department of Health
and Welfare's ("the Department") petition to
terminate his parental rights to his son, A.V. The magistrate
court concluded that the Department proved by clear and
convincing evidence that Father and Jane Doe
("Mother") neglected A.V. and that termination was
in A.V.'s best interests. Mother's termination is the
subject of a separate appeal (Dkt. No. 47190). Father's
main argument on appeal is that the magistrate court erred in
terminating his parental rights because it is not in
A.V.'s best interests to be separated from his siblings.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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
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
November of 2017, when A.V. went into foster 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 he 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.
testified that he was aware that A.V. was malnourished and
not developing as he should have been while he was in
Father's care, and that he did not obtain services to
help A.V. with walking and talking. However, Father did not
realize that A.V. had lost weight when he came back into
their care. One Department social worker testified that
Father feels that it is his responsibility to work and
provide financially for the family, and it is Mother's
responsibility to ensure the children are getting their
medical and emotional needs met and to feed and care for them
during the day. She further testified that she had talked
with Father about his observing A.V. being underweight or not
gaining weight, and Father said that he told Mother she
needed to take care of it.
Department social worker developed a case plan for Mother and
for 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.
A.V.'s relationship with his parents and two sisters, the
Department employee who supervised visits with A.V. testified
that A.V. loves seeing his sisters, and that his sisters are
very happy to see him. Similarly, the Department social
worker testified that A.V. is close with his sisters; he
engages with them and plays with them very well. She agreed
that it is important to promote sibling relationships and
that it would be in A.V.'s best interests to maintain a
relationship with his sisters. Additionally, she had spoken
at length about that with the foster mother, who was selected
as a permanency plan placement, and the foster mother
indicated that she would continue to encourage those
relationships and A.V.'s relationships with his parents.
The social worker further testified that A.V. loves his
parents and goes to them and gets hugs from them, but in her
opinion, his bond with them is more that of a child with an
aunt or an uncle.
magistrate court issued a memorandum decision and order,
determining by clear and convincing evidence, that the
Department had established statutory grounds for termination
under Idaho Code section 16-2002(3)(b), neglect through
failure to complete a case plan, and under section
16-1602(31), neglect through conduct or omission of the
parents. The magistrate court also determined that
termination was in A.V.'s best interests. A final
judgment and a decree ...