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In re Gary L.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

September 3, 2013

In re Interest of Gary L. and Leanna L., children under 18 years of age.
Teresa L., appellant. State of Nebraska, appellee,


Appeal from the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County: Christopher Kelly, Judge.

Thomas C. Riley, Douglas County Public Defender, and Zoë R. Wade for appellant.

Donald W. Kleine, Douglas County Attorney, Amy Schuchman, and Emily H. Anderson, Senior Certified Law Student, for appellee.

Moore and Pirtle, Judges, and Mullen, District Judge, Retired.


Pirtle, Judge.


Teresa L. appeals from the order terminating her parental rights entered by the separate juvenile court of Douglas County on October 29, 2012. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


Teresa L. is the mother of Gary L. and Leanna L. In 2006, Gary and Leanna became state wards and were placed in foster care because they were living in a dirty home. Teresa voluntarily worked with the Department of Health and Human Services, and the children were returned to Teresa's home in 2009.

On July 23, 2010, the State filed a petition establishing that Gary and Leanna were children within Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008) due to the faults and habits of Teresa. The petition alleged that law enforcement observed the residence to have crawling and airborne insects; Teresa admitted to using drugs and "having drug equipment in the bedroom"; Teresa's use of alcohol and/or controlled substances put the children at risk for harm; Teresa failed to provide safe, stable, and appropriate housing; Teresa failed to provide proper parental care, support, and/or supervision; and the children are at risk for harm.

The State also filed a motion for temporary custody for the removal of the minor children from Teresa's home, which motion was granted by the juvenile court. The court found it would be contrary to the health, welfare, and safety of the children to remain in the parental home and ordered the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to take custody of the children.

The State's petition was amended on July 28, 2010, to add allegations against the biological father, and no new allegations were added against Teresa.

A hearing was held on the amended petition on August 4, 2010. The court's order on August 4 found Gary and Leanna to be children within the meaning of § 43-247(3)(a) by a preponderance of the evidence insofar as Teresa was concerned. The court ordered Teresa to (1) undergo a pretreatment assessment as arranged by the Department of Health and Human Services, (2) obtain and maintain a legal source of income, (3) obtain and maintain safe and adequate housing for herself and the children, (4) undergo chemical dependency and psychological evaluations with a parenting assessment, (5) cooperate with "Family Support Worker services, " (6) submit to random drug and alcohol testing, and (7) be allowed reasonable rights of supervised parenting time.

The court held several disposition and evaluation hearings regarding Teresa and found that it continued to be in the best interests of the minor children to remain in out-of-home placement. On December 16, 2011, the State filed a motion for termination of parental rights as to Teresa. The hearing on the State's motion took place on June 14 and 26, September 18 and 20, and October 23, 2012.

Angie Williams, a family permanency specialist, testified that she was involved in this case beginning in June 2011. She testified that the children were removed in July 2010 from Teresa's home and that they did not return to the home of either parent at any time prior to the hearings on the State's motion for termination of parental rights.

When Williams became involved in the case, Teresa was provided supervised visitation and was ordered to participate in family therapy and individual therapy. By September 2011, Teresa had supervised visitation with the children two times per week and was provided with transportation or bus tickets to help her attend visits.

Williams testified that dual diagnosis therapy was set up for Teresa but that it did not occur because the provider had a change of staff and there was a miscommunication with Teresa. However, Williams noted that Teresa did not communicate with the provider to find out why the services were not occurring.

Renae Hinrichs was involved in this case initially as a service coordinator, and then as a family permanency specialist for a behavioral health care company. Hinrichs testified that Teresa failed to provide any verification of employment or income and that by December 2010, it was unclear whether Teresa was participating in therapy because documentation was not received by any providers indicating participation. Hinrichs requested Teresa execute a release of information so Hinrichs could speak to the therapeutic providers but Teresa did not comply with this request. Teresa did not participate in family therapy and failed to complete a parenting class, even after referrals were made to the behavioral health care company and two separate family services programs.

Throughout this case, Teresa was ordered to comply with random urinalysis testing. Mary Spittler, who oversaw and implemented the in-house drug testing program with the behavioral health care company testified that the company sent a letter to Teresa explaining the policies and procedures of the testing program. Spittler explained that the times available to test were Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday, from either 9 to 11 a.m. or 3 to 5 p.m. Spittler testified Teresa was supposed to come in three times per week beginning on November 15, 2010. Teresa was removed from the schedule, because she failed to consistently show up for testing between November 15, 2010, and January 7, 2011.

Patricia Studts, a toxicologist, testified to the results of three urinalysis tests from Teresa. She testified that the only way to test positive for methamphetamines was through ingesting or smoking methamphetamines and that methamphetamines could not be absorbed into the skin from particles in the air. Studts testified that on November 6 and 17, 2011, Teresa tested positive for methamphetamines. She also testified that on February 19 and 20, 2012, Teresa tested positive for both methamphetamines and illegal amphetamines. She testified there are certain medications that might lead to false positives, but only on the initial screening. She said ...

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