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In re Interest of Zoey S.

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

September 9, 2014


Page 226

Appeal from the County Court for Dodge County: KENNETH VAMPOLA, Judge.

Mary Michele Ellis, of Ellis Law Office, for appellant.

Timothy E. Sopinski, Deputy Dodge County Attorney, for appellee.

Neleigh N. Boyer, Special Assistant Attorney General, of Department of Health and Human Services, for appellee.

Christina C. Boydston, for guardian ad litem.

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


Page 227

[22 Neb.App. 372] Bishop, Judge.

Jesse S. appeals from the order of the county court for Dodge County, sitting as a juvenile court, affirming Jesse's relinquishment of his parental rights to his daughter, Zoey S. The juvenile court found that Jesse relinquished his parental [22 Neb.App. 373] rights to Zoey through a validly executed relinquishment and that his attempt at revocation of said relinquishment was invalid. We affirm.


Jesse is the biological father of Zoey, born in March 2006. Raquel D. is Zoey's biological mother. Jesse and Raquel never married. In March 2007, a juvenile court case commenced due to allegations that Jesse and Raquel physically abused and neglected Zoey and another child. Zoey was removed from the parental home and placed into foster care. The juvenile court case remained open until 2008.

Jesse last had contact with Zoey in 2007 after a protection order hearing in Dodge County Court where a " no-contact order" was put into place between Jesse and Raquel. In 2009, Jesse was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $50 per month. However, Jesse paid no support until November 2012. Jesse and Raquel are estranged.

On August 24, 2011, Zoey was taken into emergency protective custody and placed with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) because she

Page 228

had been exposed to frequent and ongoing domestic violence between Raquel and her live-in boyfriend. On August 26, the juvenile court entered an order continuing the emergency temporary custody and placement with DHHS. The juvenile court also appointed Pam Hopkins to be Zoey's guardian ad litem. DHHS placed Zoey in a foster home. The State filed a petition on September 6, alleging that Zoey was a child as defined in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008). On November 2, Zoey was adjudicated pursuant to § 43-247(3)(a).

Although many pleadings, motions, and orders appear in our record, we discuss only those necessary to address the issue on appeal, i.e., those documents relating to Jesse's relinquishment of his parental rights to Zoey.

From August 2011 through October 2012, Toni Garcia, a DHHS children and family services specialist, attempted to locate Jesse. In August 2011, Garcia reviewed the " N-FOCUS database," the centralized computer system utilized by DHHS, to see if the investigating caseworker found any information [22 Neb.App. 374] on Jesse's whereabouts, but there was no updated address. Garcia also noted that " the social service part" of DHHS had documented a couple of failed attempts to get information to Jesse. Garcia also asked Raquel more than once if she had Jesse's contact information, but Raquel did not. In December, Garcia contacted Jesse's last-known address, but was informed that he no longer lived there and had left no forwarding address or other contact information. From December 2011 to August 2012, Garcia would occasionally check DHHS' computer database to see if Jesse's contact information had been updated. In September 2012, Garcia found an address for Jesse's mother and sent her a letter requesting that she let Jesse know DHHS was trying to contact him. Jesse's mother contacted Garcia and gave her Jesse's father's address. On September 26, Garcia then sent a letter to Jesse's father asking him to have Jesse contact DHHS. On October 5, Jesse called Garcia. Jesse told Garcia that he thought his parental rights to Zoey had been terminated, but that he did want to have her. After doing some research, Garcia could find no information stating that Jesse's rights had been terminated. She arranged to meet with Jesse in November.

On November 1, 2012, Garcia met with Jesse at a library. She explained what the process would be if Jesse became involved in Zoey's case and what services would be offered to him. Garcia told Jesse she would contact him after talking to " the team" regarding a plan to start therapeutic visits between Jesse and Zoey.

Garcia invited Jesse to a family team meeting scheduled for December 28, 2012, and she also let him know about a ...

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