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In re Hayden S.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

September 17, 2013

In re Interest of Hayden S. et al., children under 18 years of age.
v.
Latosha S., appellant. State of Nebraska, appellee,

NOT DESIGNATED FOR PERMANENT PUBLICATION

Appeal from the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County: Elizabeth Crnkovich, Judge.

Mary Pat Coe for appellant.

Donald W. Kleine, Douglas County Attorney, and Jennifer C. Clark for appellee.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT ON APPEAL

Irwin, Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Latosha S. appeals from the order of the juvenile court which terminated her parental rights to her five children: Hayden S., Krystopher S., Krysteena S., Mariannah S., and Fabienne S. On appeal, Latosha challenges the juvenile court's finding that her parental rights should be terminated pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(2) and (6) (Cum. Supp. 2012) and the court's finding that termination of her parental rights is in the children's best interests. Upon our de novo review of the record, we find that the State presented sufficient evidence to warrant termination of Latosha's parental rights. As such, we affirm the order of the juvenile court terminating Latosha's parental rights to her five children.

II. BACKGROUND

These proceedings involve five children: Hayden, born in October 2003; Krystopher, born in July 2006; Krysteena, born in July 2006; Mariannah, born in October 2007; and Fabienne, born in November 2009. Latosha is the biological mother of all five children. The children's biological fathers are not parties to this appeal, and thus, their participation in this case will not be discussed further.

The current juvenile court proceedings were initiated in August 2011. However, this is not the first time that Latosha and her children have been involved with the juvenile court system. Latosha's history with the juvenile court is relevant to the current proceedings because such history provides insight into her ability to independently parent her children. As a result, we briefly recount that history here.

In December 2008, Latosha's four oldest children were removed from her home after Latosha failed to follow through with voluntary services provided to her by the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department). The services provided by the Department were designed to assist Latosha in meeting her children's medical needs. After the children's removal, the Department assisted Latosha with obtaining appropriate housing, seeking employment, and learning to utilize community resources. Latosha did not demonstrate consistent cooperation with the Department's efforts, nor did she always appear motivated to achieve reunification with her children. The children remained in an out-of-home placement until August 2010.

After the children were returned to Latosha's home, she continued to be inconsistent in her cooperation and participation with the Department's efforts to assist her in parenting the children. Beginning in July 2011, the Department received multiple reports that Latosha was neglecting the children.

Ultimately, on August 20, 2011, law enforcement officers were dispatched to Latosha's home to check on the welfare of the children. The officers removed the children from Latosha's care after viewing the conditions of her home. The officers reported that there was no running water in the home, that there were no beds or food for the children, and that the home was extremely dirty. The officers also reported that Latosha told them that she had discontinued providing necessary medication to her youngest child, Fabienne, who had previously been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia.

Immediately after the children's removal from Latosha's care, the State filed a petition alleging the children were within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008), because Latosha's home was in a "filthy and unwholesome condition" and, as such, Latosha had failed to provide the children with safe, stable, and appropriate housing which put the children at risk for harm. This petition is the basis for the current juvenile court proceedings.

After the petition was filed, the juvenile court entered an order placing the children in the immediate custody of the Department. The children have remained in the custody of the Department and placed outside of Latosha's home since their removal in August 2011.

On October 26, 2011, Latosha admitted to the allegations in the petition which alleged that, at the time of the children's removal, her home was in a "filthy and unwholesome condition" and that this placed her children at risk for harm. As a result of Latosha's admissions, the children were adjudicated to be within the meaning of § 43-247(3)(a).

After the children were adjudicated to be within the meaning of § 43-247(3)(a), the juvenile court held hearings in December 2011 and June 2012 to review the status of the case. At these hearings, the juvenile court ordered Latosha to participate in a rehabilitation plan designed to reunify her with her children. Specifically, the juvenile court ordered Latosha to submit to a psychiatric and a psychological evaluation; to participate in individual therapy and follow the recommendations of her mental health care providers; to participate in family support services; to investigate her eligibility for community resources; and to submit to random drug testing. In addition, Latosha was given the opportunity to have regular visitation with her children.

On August 14, 2012, the State filed a motion for termination of Latosha's parental rights to all five of her children. In the motion, the State alleged that termination was warranted pursuant to § 43-292(2), because Latosha had substantially and continuously or repeatedly neglected and refused to give her children necessary parental care and protection, and § 43-292(6), because reasonable efforts to preserve and reunify the family failed to correct the conditions that led to the determination that the children were within the meaning of § 43-247(3)(a). In addition, the State alleged that termination of Latosha's parental rights was in the children's best interests.

In January 2013, a hearing was held on the State's motion for termination of parental rights. While we have reviewed the evidence presented at the hearing in its entirety, we do not set forth the specifics of the testimony and exhibits here. Instead, we will set forth more specific facts as presented at the hearing as necessary in our analysis below. We do note that Latosha did not attend the termination hearing. The transcript of the proceedings indicates that neither the Department workers nor Latosha's attorney knew Latosha's ...


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