In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: J. V. B. and D. W., Parents
St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-JV-12-242
Amy Lukasavitz, Duluth, Minnesota (for appellant mother)
Mark Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Benjamin M. Stromberg, Assistant County Attorney, Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Department)
Char Matheson, Duluth, Minnesota (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.
Appellant-mother challenges the district court's termination of her parental rights, arguing that she rebutted the presumption that she is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship. In the alternative, appellant argues that the district court erred by transferring custody of the child to the commissioner of human services. We affirm.
Appellant-mother, J.V.B., is the biological mother of U.J.W., who was born on March 18, 2010. On March 24, respondent St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services Department (the county) petitioned the district court to terminate J.V.B.'s parental rights to U.J.W. because her parental rights to a prior child had been involuntarily terminated, she has an extensive criminal history, and she tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana at 38 weeks pregnant with U.J.W. The district court awarded temporary custody of U.J.W. to the county following an emergency hearing, and U.J.W. was placed in out-of-home care.
On July 19, the county amended the termination of parental rights (TPR) petition to a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS) petition. U.J.W. remained in out-of-home placement while J.V.B. worked on a reunification plan. On October 11, the district court returned U.J.W. to J.V.B.'s custody under the county's protective supervision, noting J.V.B.'s cooperation with the reunification plan including maintaining sobriety and appropriate housing, working with intensive family based services to improve her parenting, and working with the public-health nurse. The CHIPS case was closed on December 6.
On February 27, 2012, J.V.B. pleaded guilty to felony manufacturing/delivering methamphetamine in Wisconsin stemming from an incident that occurred in May 2011. On that same day, the county received a report that J.V.B.'s home had been raided by police approximately two weeks earlier due to allegations of drug sales occurring in the home. The report indicated that police had discovered methamphetamine in the home and that children were present. On March 5, the county petitioned the district court to terminate J.V.B.'s parental rights to U.J.W. An emergency hearing was held, and the district court placed U.J.W. in foster care.
The county provided J.V.B. with a reunification plan, which included undergoing a chemical-dependency assessment and following the recommendations, maintaining sobriety, submitting to urinalyses as requested, participating in visits with U.J.W., attending at least two AA/NA meetings per week, and obtaining a sponsor. J.V.B. submitted to eight urinalyses between March 28 and April 17, all of which were negative, and cooperated with the remaining aspects of her reunification plan. But on April 27, J.V.B. began serving a four-year prison sentence stemming from the Wisconsin controlled-substance conviction.
The district court held a trial on the county's TPR petition over several days in November and December. In the midst of the TPR trial, J.V.B. pleaded guilty to third-degree controlled-substance sale and felony storing methamphetamine paraphernalia in the presence of a child stemming from the police raid of J.V.B.'s home in February. The district court heard testimony from nine witnesses and admitted 22 ...