In the Matter of EZC and EBC

In the Matter of EZC and EBC, 2013 MT 123 (May 7, 2013) (5-0) (Wheat, J.)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in finding mother subjected her children to chronic abuse or chronic, severe neglect and terminated her parental rights without requiring reunification efforts and a treatment plan.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: In January 2012, law enforcement searched mother’s home, where she lived with 3-year-old EBC and 7-year-old EBC, and found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. Mother and EBC were at home, EXC was in school, and father was in jail. Mother was arrested and the children were placed in foster care. DPHHS petitioned for immediate protection and emergency protective services, adjudication as youth in need of care and temporary legal custody. The district court granted immediate protection and emergency protective services, held a show cause hearing, and found probable cause the children were youths in need of care and granted the department temporary custody.

Procedural Posture & Holding: In April 2012, the department petitioned to terminate mother’s parental rights and approve a permanency plan. The court held a hearing and took testimony from several witnesses, and determined that the children were chronically and severely neglected, and were youths in need of care. At the dispositional hearing, the court took additional testimony about the department’s 10-year history with mother, including previous treatment plans, and testimony from the CASA, who recommended a treatment plan. In October 2012, the district court terminated mother’s parental rights. Mother appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: As in previous cases, mother’s history of drug use and neglect of her children began several years ago, and despite having received services and a treatment plan in the past, only worsened with time. Children need not be left to twist in the wind before neglect may be found chronic and severe.