In the Matter of the Welfare of the Child of: A.M.L., Parent.
Chisago County District Court File No. 13-JV-12-400
Jesse A. Johnson, Lindstrom, Minnesota (for appellant A.M.L.)
Janet Reiter, Chisago County Attorney, Kristine Nelson Fuge, Assistant County Attorney, Center City, Minnesota (for respondent Chisago County)
Considered and decided by Stauber, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's termination of her parental rights. Because the district court's conclusions are supported by clear and convincing evidence, we affirm.
A.M.L. is the biological mother of six children: J.D.L., I.A.L., J.P., M.E.P., M.L., and S.R.L. Between 2004 and 2012, Ramsey County Community Human Services Department filed child-in-need-of-protection-or-services (CHIPS) petitions concerning each of A.M.L.'s first five children. Each petition was based on similar grounds: (1) A.M.L.'s failure to address her chemical-dependency issues, including continuing to associate with methamphetamine abusers and missing court-ordered drug and alcohol testing; (2) her untreated mental-health issues; (3) her failure to maintain stable housing; and (4) her failure to benefit from services.
A.M.L. admitted the allegations of those petitions. In March 2006, she executed a consent of parent for termination of parental rights for J.D.L. and I.A.L. In September 2007, she executed a consent to adopt for J.P. And in February 2012, the district court involuntarily terminated her rights as to M.E.P. and M.L. after she failed to appear at a termination hearing.
In September 2012, A.M.L. entered inpatient chemical-dependency treatment. In November 2012, she entered residential treatment at Journey Home in St. Cloud. S.R.L., the subject of this appeal, was born on December 11, 2012. On December 21, 2012, Chisago County Health and Human Services filed a termination-of-parental-rights petition, alleging that A.M.L. was palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship. Because of A.M.L.'s prior involuntary termination of parental rights with respect to M.E.P. and M.L., the county was not required to exercise reasonable efforts for rehabilitation and reunification. See Minn. Stat. § 260.012 (f)(4) (2012).
Based on the submissions of the parties, the district court issued an order terminating A.M.L.'s parental rights, concluding that A.M.L. is presumed palpably unfit to be a party to the parent-child relationship because of her prior involuntary terminations. The district court further concluded that A.M.L. failed to rebut this presumption and that S.R.L.'s "immediate need for permanency in conjunction with a stable, nurturing, drug-free caretaker outweighs any competing interest of [A.M.L.'s] in preserving the parent-child relationship." This appeal follows.
We review a termination of parental rights to determine whether the district court's findings address the statutory criteria and whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence and are not clearly erroneous. In re Welfare of Children of S.E.P., 744 N.W.2d 381, 385 (Minn. 2008). "We give considerable deference to the district court's decision to terminate parental rights." Id. But we will "closely inquire into the sufficiency of the evidence to determine whether it was clear and convincing." Id. We will affirm the district court's order if "at least one statutory ground for termination is supported by clear and convincing ...