In the Matter of CM, BM, AM, EM, and DM, 2015 MT 292 (Oct. 13, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)
Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in concluding that Mother’s conduct or condition that made her unfit to parent was unlikely to change within a reasonable time; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in terminating Mother’s parental rights.
Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) no.
Facts: DPPHS removed the children, ages 16 month to 9 years, from Mother’s home in 2014 after finding methamphetamine there. Four of the children tested positive for meth exposure. In April 2014, Mother stipulated to adjudication of the children as youths in need of care and the court granted temporary custody to the Department. Mother did not appear at a dispositional hearing in May 2014 but was represented by counsel. The court allowed Mother six months to complete her treatment plan. In October 2014 Mother was arrested on federal charges for conspiracy to possess meth with intent to distribute. She pled guilty and was awaiting sentencing at the time of the termination hearing. The Department petitioned to terminate Mother’s parental rights on Oct. 24, 2014.
Procedural Posture & Holding: The district court held a termination hearing on Feb. 13, 2015. IN addition to evidence of non-compliance with her treatment plan, the Department presented letters written by the two oldest children saying they do not feel safe around Mother, and were often hungry when living with her. The children’s therapist testified that the children did not want to live with Mother, and were traumatized by their time with Mother. The district court terminated Mother’s parental rights after making the required findings. Mother appeals and the Supreme Court affirms.
Reasoning: (1) Mother did not object to the treatment plan’s goals or tasks concerning her drug addiction, and her argument that the plan did not give her enough time was waived. Substantial evidence showed that Mother was not complying with the treatment plan, and that the children’s best interests would be met by terminating Mother’s parental rights.
(2) Given the fact that the children were adjudicated youths in need of care, that Mother did not complete her treatment plan, and that there is clear and convincing evidence that Mother’s condition rendering her unfit to parent is unlikely to change in a reasonable time, and giving paramount importance to the best interests of the children, the district court was within its discretion in terminating Mother’s parental rights.