In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: A.M.K.V., Parent.
Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-JV-12-2592
Sophia Y. Vuelo, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant A.M.K.V.)
John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Kathryn Eilers, Assistant County Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent Ramsey County Community Human Services)
Thomas Nolan, Jr., St. Paul, Minnesota (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Johnson, Chief Judge; and Connolly, Judge.
Appellant challenges the termination of parental rights (TPR) to her daughter, arguing that clear and convincing evidence does not support the district court's findings that (1) four statutory grounds for termination exist; (2) respondent made reasonable efforts to reunite appellant with her daughter; and (3) termination of her parental rights is in her daughter's best interests. We affirm.
Appellant A.M.K.V. is the mother of O.Y., who was born on December 6, 2011, 11 weeks premature. Weighing less than two pounds, O.Y. was at a high risk of malnutrition and failure to thrive. She needed to be fed more frequently than other newborns; her formula needed to be mixed in a specific way; and the person feeding her needed to use special techniques and to be trained in CPR to prevent O.Y. from choking or vomiting.
O.Y.'s treating doctor and a hospital social worker spoke directly with appellant about what she needed to do before O.Y. could go home with her. On January 19, 2012, the social worker informed appellant over the telephone that she needed to be at O.Y.'s bedside more consistently to learn how to provide for O.Y.'s needs. Appellant agreed to increase the amount of time she spent with O.Y. and to work on learning how to feed and care for her. Appellant next came to the hospital on January 27. The social worker again met with appellant regarding the hospital's expectations, and appellant agreed to a more specific plan, which required her to stay at O.Y.'s bedside for continuous hours, perform multiple consecutive feedings, demonstrate competency in feeding O.Y., and complete an infant CPR course. Appellant failed to comply with the plan. She did not stay at the bedside as agreed; she fed O.Y. only twice; and she was minimally responsive to O.Y.'s needs. Finally, on February 2, the social worker and a child-protection worker met with appellant and O.Y.'s father to create a written bedside-visitation plan. The new plan required appellant to be at O.Y.'s bedside for 8 to 12 consecutive hours on consecutive days and to demonstrate that she was competent to care for O.Y. Appellant again failed to comply with the plan: one of her overnight visits was cut short; she was minimally successful in caring for O.Y.; and she failed to complete the infant CPR course.
Although O.Y. was medically ready to be discharged from the hospital at the end of January 2012, she was not released until February 10, due to concerns about appellant's ability to safely care for her. O.Y.'s doctor was concerned that appellant was not competent to feed and care for O.Y., did not wake up to O.Y.'s cries when she was hungry, and was not at O.Y.'s bedside consistently. Appellant had visited O.Y. on only 28 of the 67 days she was hospitalized and had not completed an infant CPR course. Appellant disagrees that she was not consistently at the hospital with O.Y. She contends that she "pretty much lived at the hospital" while O.Y. was there and was absent from January 18 to 27 only because she was sick. Appellant further stated that she called the hospital daily to let them know when she would not be there and to check on O.Y. According to appellant, she sometimes did not wake up because she was exhausted or because O.Y. did not cry very loudly.
O.Y. was released to the custody of respondent Ramsey County Community Human Services Department and placed in foster care. Respondent filed a child in need of protection or services (CHIPS) petition, and, on February 23, O.Y. was adjudicated to be CHIPS. Respondent assigned a child-protection worker (CPW) to appellant's case, and the district court appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) for O.Y.
When the CPW visited O.Y. on February 29, she learned that appellant had not visited O.Y. since O.Y. was released from the hospital. The CPW held family meetings on March 2 and 8 to discuss a case plan for appellant and temporary placement of O.Y. with a family member. Despite the efforts of the CPW and her staff to locate and notify appellant of the meetings, she did not attend either meeting. According to the CPW, appellant told her O.Y.'s abusive father prevented her from attending the meetings. Appellant claims she did not know about the second meeting and was unable to attend the first meeting because she did not have a ride and had her weekly group session for a program she was required to complete as a condition of her probation for a 2011 criminal offense. During this period, the CPW had a difficult time locating appellant. She was informed that appellant no longer lived at her mother's house, but she was unable to get a new address for her.
On March 9, the CPW met with appellant for the first time. Appellant appeared frail, pale, tired, and angry; she did not pay attention; she texted most of the time; and she left early. Appellant did tell the CPW that she grew up in an abusive family and was not happy, but appellant seemed preoccupied during the meeting. The CPW met with appellant again on April 2 and created a case plan, which required appellant to visit O.Y. weekly; to participate in O.Y.'s medical appointments; to participate in parenting, anger-management, and time-management classes; to keep in touch with the CPW; to maintain stable housing; and to take care of her own health. The CPW described appellant as not focused, negative, and angry. As of April 2, appellant had visited O.Y. only once since O.Y. was released from the hospital; she was 50 minutes late for that visit; and she had not attended any of O.Y.'s medical appointments.
On April 10, O.Y. was placed with Keith Johnson and True Vang, who is related to appellant through her father. Appellant visited O.Y. once in April, four times in May, once in June, and once in July, and she did not attend any of O.Y.'s medical appointments. According to the CPW, respondent scheduled appellant's visits at a fixed time and called to remind her of the visits. The CPW also provided appellant with a bus card to help her with transportation. During May, the CPW and the person supervising appellant's visits with O.Y. noticed bruises on appellant's arm and face, which appellant ...