In the Matter of the Welfare of the Children of: K. R. and B. "S." C., Parents.
St. Louis County District Court File No. 69VI-JV-12-158
Bill L. Thompson, Law Office of Bill L. Thompson, Duluth, Minnesota (for appellant cross-respondent B."S."C.)
Mark Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Renae M. Darland, Assistant County Attorney, Virginia, Minnesota (for respondent cross-appellant St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services)
Robert C. Friday, Virginia, Minnesota (for respondent J.H.C.) Patrick Valentini, Chisholm, Minnesota (for respondent K.R.) Cassandra Hainey, Virginia, Minnesota (guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.
KLAPHAKE, Judge [*]
In this consolidated appeal, appellant-father B."S."C. challenges the termination of his parental rights to his three- and four-year-old daughters, C.C. and L.C. B."S."C. argues that the evidence does not support the district court's conclusions that he is a palpably unfit parent and that reasonable efforts have failed to correct the conditions leading to the children's out-of-home placement. Respondent St. Louis County argues that the district court erred by transferring permanent legal and physical custody to respondent-grandmother, J.H.C. Because the record supports the district court's termination decision on the statutory ground of failure of reasonable county efforts to correct conditions and because the district court did not err in transferring permanent custody of the children to J.H.C., we affirm.
In a termination-of-parental-rights proceeding, we review the district court's findings to "determine whether they address the statutory criteria for termination and are not clearly erroneous . . . ." In re Welfare of Children of K.S.F., 823 N.W.2d 656, 665 (Minn.App. 2012) (citation omitted). In order to terminate parental rights, there must be clear and convincing evidence that at least one of the statutory bases for termination exists and that termination is in the children's best interests. In re Welfare of Children of R.W., 678 N.W.2d 49, 55 (Minn. 2004); see Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (2012) (listing nine termination bases). "Considerable deference is due to the district court's decision [to terminate parental rights] because a district court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses." In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1996). A district court's ultimate determination that termination is in the child's best interest is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. In re Welfare of Children of J.R.B., 805 N.W.2d 895, 905 (Minn.App. 2011), review denied (Minn. Jan. 6, 2012).
A district court may terminate parental rights if it finds "that following the child's placement out of the home, reasonable efforts, under the direction of the court, have failed to correct the conditions leading to the child's placement." Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5). It is presumed the conditions leading to a child's out-of-home placement have "not been corrected upon a showing that the parent or parents have not substantially complied with the court's orders and a reasonable case plan" and "reasonable efforts have been made by social services agency to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the family." Id. subd. 1(b)(5)(iii), (iv); see In re Welfare of Children of S.E.P., 744 N.W.2d 381, 386-87, 389 (Minn. 2008) (reinstating district court's termination of parental rights given mother's failure to comply with terms of case plan). B.C. challenges the district court's determination that the conditions leading to the children's out-of-home placement have not been corrected and that reasonable efforts were made by social services to reunite the family.
The district court identified the following conditions that were not corrected following the children's out-of-home placement: stable and safe housing, B.C.'s inconsistent visitation and irregular phone contact with children, B.C.'s chemical abuse issues, B.C.'s anger and violence issues, and B.C.'s motivation to provide day-to-day care for the children in a safe and responsible manner. The district court also found that B.C. was not compliant with court orders and his case plan directives to attend court or appear by phone, sign releases, provide information on how he would care for and support the children, participate in urinalysis testing, and provide employment, housing, and school information. These findings are supported by trial testimony and reports submitted by social services that detail B.C.'s failure to attend visits and maintain contact with the children, and his inability to financially support the children or provide stable housing for the children. B.C.'s testimony further supports the district court's conclusion that he did not comply with the case plan.
B.C. also claims, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5)(iv), that the county did not make reasonable efforts to aid in reunification because it focused exclusively on reunification efforts with the mother and failed to offer him culturally appropriate services. The district court found that the following services constituted reasonable efforts to reunite B.C. with his children: child protection case management, transportation assistance, foster care, parenting assessment, psychological evaluation, supervised visitation, intensive family-based services, domestic abuse programming, home visits, and urinalysis. Two social workers were assigned to the case, and B.C. received other services and accommodations to aid in reunification, such as transportation vouchers to visit the children and scheduling of visitation to suit B.C.'s schedule. As to whether the county offered culturally appropriate services, B.C. discussed with a social worker inclusion of cultural aspects into his supervised visits, but B.C. did not provide the social worker with requested information necessary to include a cultural component in visitation. Because the district court's decision is based on consideration of this statutory factor and is supported by clear and convincing evidence, we affirm the termination of B.C.'s parental rights under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5). We decline to specifically address whether B.C. is ...