In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of: R.A.B. and J.R.S., Parents.
Stearns County District Court File Nos. 73-JV-12-9317, 73-JV-12-9317
Cathleen Gabriel, Annandale, Minnesota (for appellant R.A.B.).
Janelle P. Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, Gayle A. Borchert, Assistant County Attorney, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for respondent Stearns County).
Thomas Nolan, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for guardian ad litem).
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.
Appellant-mother R.A.B. challenges the termination of her parental rights to C.J.S. and R.M.B., arguing that the evidence does not support the district court's determinations that the county proved a statutory ground for termination and that termination is in her children's best interests. We affirm.
In April 2011, two-month-old C.J.S. was removed from mother's home and placed in foster care after a verbal and physical altercation between mother and father J.R.S.Stearns County Human Services (the county) filed a child-in-need-of-protection-or-services (CHIPS) petition. The district court adjudicated C.J.S. in need of protection or services and continued his out-of-home placement. The county implemented a case plan focusing on father's chemical dependency, both parents' mental health, and father's history of domestic violence toward mother. The district court approved the case plan and ordered both parents to comply with it.
R.M.B. was born in March 2012 and remained in mother's custody. Two months later, the county returned C.J.S. to mother's custody. But father continued to test positive for illegal drugs, and mother repeatedly failed to protect herself and the children from his drug use and violence. In September, the county removed the children from mother's home and filed CHIPS petitions. The district court adjudicated the children in need of protection or services and continued their out-of-home placement.
On October 5, the county petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights to both children. The county alleged three statutory grounds for termination: failure to comply with parental duties, palpable unfitness, and failure of reasonable efforts to correct the conditions that led to the children's out-of-home placement.
Mother admitted the third statutory ground asserted in the termination-of-parental-rights (TPR) petitions on November 5. Specifically, mother admitted that father's continued drug use and domestic violence pose a risk to the children's safety; that the county provided her "a number of services" to help her deal with those issues; and that because she continues to expose herself and the children to father's drug use and domestic violence, the circumstances that led to their out-of-home placement have not been corrected. Mother also presented evidence that she was accepted into and prepared to actively participate in a domestic-violence program (the Starfish Program). The district court found that reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions requiring the children's out-of-home placement but that staying termination serves the children's best interests, provided mother (1) successfully completes the 19-month Starfish Program; (2) avoids all contact with father, including written, phone, and face-to-face contact, even while he is incarcerated; and (3) obtains an order for protection (OFP) against father prohibiting his contact with mother and the children.
On November 15, the county moved to revoke the stay based on mother's contact with father. Mother admitted that she failed to comply with this stay condition but declared that she had since severed all connections to father, had a "new plan for [her] life, " and was "begging for one last chance." The district court continued the stay, finding that mother's "relationship addiction" impedes her ability to comply with the court's conditions but that she had "taken ownership" of that issue and had made strides toward compliance that suggested she could ultimately be reunified with her children. The district court again ...