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In re Averie G.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

July 30, 2013



Appeal from the County Court for Scotts Bluff County: James M. Worden, Judge. Appeal dismissed.

Todd Morten, of Island & Huff, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Tiffany A. Wasserburger, Deputy Scotts Bluff County Attorney, for appellee.

David P. Broderick, of Douglas, Kelly, Ostdiek & Ossian, P.C., guardian ad litem.

Inbody, Chief Judge, and Irwin and Moore, Judges.


Inbody, Chief Judge.


Christopher G. appeals the decision of the Scotts Bluff County Court, sitting in its capacity as a juvenile court, adopting a case plan which changed the permanency goal for his minor children from adoption with a concurrent goal of reunification to a goal of adoption alone and in finding that reasonable efforts of reunification had been made by the State. He also appeals the court's denial of his application to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.


Christopher is the biological father of Serenity G., born in June 2006; Christopher G., Jr. (Christopher Jr.), born in April 2007; and Averie G., born in February 2009. On December 9, 2011, separate adjudication petitions were filed regarding Serenity and Averie, alleging that they were children within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008). These petitions alleged that Serenity and Averie lacked parental care due to domestic violence between Christopher and the girls' biological mother, Jerah S. The petitions also alleged that Christopher and Jerah left the girls with a family friend, were out of contact for several days, and failed to give consent to treat the girls for medical issues. The petitions were amended to allege additional assertions that Christopher has a substantial criminal history, has been incarcerated repeatedly, was currently incarcerated, and was facing a number of additional criminal charges.

On January 19, 2012, the State filed a petition on behalf of Christopher Jr. after his legal guardian died. The petition stated the "guardianship ha[d] been disrupted" and alleged Christopher Jr. lacked parental care due to the facts that both parents have failed to provide any care or necessities for his care; that his parents have a history of domestic violence between them; that both parents had a history of substance abuse, including methamphetamine; and that both parents had been incarcerated. A supplemental petition added the allegations of a previous adjudication; of Christopher's current incarceration and his facing additional charges; and of a motion to terminate Christopher's parental rights as to Christopher Jr., which motion was later dismissed. The children were adjudicated as to Christopher on April 24, 2012, upon his admission of the allegations contained in the supplemental juvenile petitions.

At the May 22, 2012, dispositional hearing, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommended a primary permanency goal of adoption. The county court adopted the May 2012 DHHS court report and case plan with the amendment of adding a concurrent plan of reunification, resulting in a permanency goal of adoption with a concurrent plan of reunification. The court noted that reasonable efforts were set forth in the court report and case plan. The court ordered all parties to comply with the terms of the case plan "including any Court ordered amendments." Custody of the minor children was placed with DHHS, and pursuant to the provisions of the case plan adopted by the court, visitation between Christopher and the minor children was to follow the recommendations of the children's therapist, Sara Klein, including recommendations as to setting, duration, and frequency. The court's order specifically provided that "part of the evaluation with the children and their therapist shall include the appropriateness of visitation with the father."

A permanency hearing was held on August 13, 2012. Among the exhibits admitted into evidence at the hearing was the August 2012 DHHS case plan, a report by the children's guardian ad litem, and a psychological evaluation of Christopher conducted by a certified clinical psychologist. The psychological evaluation, dated August 6, 2012, recommended that the court "exercise great caution in any attempt to return the children to their father"; described Christopher as "a poor fit" for the children's needs; and recommended that at a minimum, the court should expect Christopher to maintain stability in his living situation, relationships, work, and probation for an extended period of time, at least 1 or 2 years, prior to allowing unsupervised visits or placing the children with him. The children's caseworker recommended that Christopher needed to maintain his sobriety for at least 90 days before having a supervised visit with the children. Klein is Serenity's and Christopher Jr.'s therapist; Klein does not see Averie due to her young age. Klein testified that she had reviewed Christopher's psychological evaluation and that based on the evaluation and her visits with Serenity and Christopher Jr., in her opinion, it was not in the children's best interests to have contact with Christopher at that time as it would be more of a disruption than a benefit. However, Klein testified that she was concerned with the recommendation of a 1-to-2-year waiting ...

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