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In re Seth K.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

September 2, 2014


Page 218

Appeal from the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County: DOUGLAS F. JOHNSON, Judge.

Anne E. Troia, P.C., L.L.O., for appellant.

Donald W. Kleine, Douglas County Attorney, and Amy Schuchman for appellee.

INBODY, Chief Judge, and IRWIN and BISHOP, Judges.


Page 219

[22 Neb.App. 350] Irwin, Judge.


Deborah P. appeals from the order of the juvenile court which terminated her parental rights to her two children. On appeal, Deborah challenges the juvenile court's findings that her parental rights should be terminated pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(2) (Cum. Supp. 2012) and that termination of her parental rights is in the children's best interests. Upon our de novo review of the record, we reverse the juvenile court's order which terminated Deborah's parental rights. We do not find clear and convincing evidence that termination of Deborah's parental rights is in the children's best interests.

[22 Neb.App. 351] II. BACKGROUND

These juvenile court proceedings involve two children: Seth K., born in July 2009, and Dinah K., born in December 2010. Deborah is the children's biological mother. The children's biological father, Matthew K., is not a party to this appeal. His parental rights to both children were terminated by the juvenile court during previous proceedings. As such, Matthew's involvement in the children's lives will be discussed only to the extent necessary to provide context.

The current juvenile court proceedings were initiated in March 2013. However, this is not the first time that the family has been involved in the juvenile court system. The family's history with the juvenile court is relevant to the current proceedings because such history provides insight into Deborah's ability to independently parent the children. As a result, we briefly recount that history here.

In September 2009, Seth, who was then about 2 months old, was removed from Deborah and Matthew's home after Matthew admitted to subjecting Seth to inappropriate physical contact which resulted in a fracture to Seth's arm and bruising on his ankles. As a result of Matthew's actions and Deborah's failure to protect Seth from Matthew's actions, Seth was adjudicated as a child within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008) and placed in foster care. While the juvenile court proceedings were still pending, Dinah was born. Immediately after her birth, Dinah was removed from Deborah and Matthew's custody and placed in foster care with Seth.

Shortly after Dinah's birth, the juvenile court terminated Matthew's parental rights to both Seth and Dinah. At this time, Deborah and Matthew were, apparently, no longer residing together. The juvenile court and the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) continued to assist Deborah in obtaining reunification with the children. Deborah was provided with various services, including those of a family support worker, individual therapy, parenting

Page 220

classes, domestic violence classes, and supervised visitation with the children.

[22 Neb.App. 352] In April 2012, Seth and Dinah were returned to Deborah's home, and a few months later, in September 2012, the juvenile court case involving the family was closed. At that time, Deborah declined any further services from the Department to assist her with the children.

In January 2013, approximately 4 months after the previous juvenile court case was closed, the Department received information that Deborah's home was unsanitary and inappropriate for the children. Department workers visited Deborah's home and observed that the house was very dirty and cluttered and had a strong odor. In addition, the workers observed a baggie of marijuana on Deborah's couch. This baggie was within the reach of Seth and Dinah. Deborah admitted to the workers that she was struggling and needed help caring for the children. She also admitted that she used marijuana on a daily basis.

As a result of the condition of Deborah's home and her admission that she was struggling, the Department created a safety plan to assist Deborah. As a part of this plan, the children were temporarily placed in the care of their paternal grandparents while Deborah cleaned up her home. A few days later, after Deborah cleaned the home, Seth and Dinah were returned to Deborah's care. At that point, Deborah agreed to allow the children's paternal grandparents to assist her in taking care of the children and agreed to participate in such services as intensive family preservation, a pretreatment assessment, and a chemical dependency evaluation.

Shortly after this safety plan was initiated, Deborah was evicted from her home due to nonpayment of rent. A new safety plan was then created. Deborah and the children moved in with the children's paternal grandparents. Deborah agreed that she would continue to voluntarily participate in services to assist her with her parenting and with her substance abuse problem.

In March 2013, Deborah was asked to leave the home of the children's paternal grandparents because the grandparents believed that she was not properly caring for the children when she was not working. Deborah would not get up [22 Neb.App. 353] with the children in the mornings and often would not come home on the weekends after her work ...

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