In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of: E.D.S. and T.L.G., Parents.
Hennepin County District Court File Nos. 27-JV-12-3873 27-JV-11-7904
William Ward, Hennepin County Public Defender, Peter W. Gorman, Assistant Public Defender, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant E.D.S.)
James Brian Sheehy, Assistant Public Defender, Petra Elizabeth Dieperink, Assistant Public Defender, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent T.L.G.)
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, James R. Hanneman, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department)
Mary Jo Brooks Hunter, Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.
E.D.S. did not appear at the district court hearing that resulted in the termination of her parental rights to her two children. The district court denied her motion for a new trial or to reopen the judgment. E.D.S. appeals, arguing that the district court erred by refusing to reopen the judgment mainly because she has an excuse for failing to appear at the hearing. Because the facts of this case make the district court's denial of E.D.S.'s motion to reopen the judgment nonappealable, we dismiss the appeal.
In late July 2011, E.D.S. was at a medical clinic where she screamed at her infant son, told a doctor that she "can't handle him, " and said that she "need[ed] a break" from parenting. Clinic staff reported that her son seemed fearful of E.D.S. but not of others. Washington County human services staff conducted a child-protection assessment, noting that E.D.S. was receiving chemical dependency services but finding no evidence of abuse.
E.D.S. gave birth prematurely to M.S. a month later, and she tested positive for THC. Medical staff again made a child-protection report to Hennepin County based on E.D.S.'s "high risk social situation" and her demonstrated reluctance to care for the infant. The county filed a petition in September 2011 alleging that E.D.S.'s children needed protective services. After a hearing, the district court adjudicated the children to be in need of protective services, citing E.D.S.'s admission that her continuing chemical dependency problems "negatively impact her ability to properly parent her children." It ordered E.D.S. to complete a chemical dependency assessment and follow all treatment recommendations, submit to urinalysis monitoring, and cooperate with other county services.
After the hearing, the children were allowed to remain in E.D.S.'s care. But even before the petition was adjudicated, the county discovered that E.D.S. was not actually caring for the children and had instead left them with relatives. The county placed the children in foster care in November 2011.
E.D.S. continually neglected her case plan. She missed numerous appointments and failed to complete the chemical dependency treatment, missed twenty-five required urinalysis tests knowing that each refusal would be treated as a positive result, and failed all five urinalysis tests that she did take. She left the state for two months, requiring rescheduling of her chemical dependency assessment. E.D.S. also repeatedly missed parenting-assessment appointments as well as scheduled visits with her children. When the parenting assessment was finally completed, the assessor found that E.D.S. was "at high-risk for abuse of children." And after she missed several mental-health-assessment appointments, E.D.S. "was finally brought to [a] mental health center." The ...