IN RE INTEREST OF OCTAVIO B. ET AL., CHILDREN UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE. STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLEE,
MELISSA R., APPELLANT
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Appeals from the County Court for Scotts Bluff County: KRISTEND. MICKEY, Judge.
Bernard J. Straetker, Scotts Bluff County Public Defender, for appellant.
Dave Eubanks, Scotts Bluff County Attorney, and Kelli L. Ceraolo for appellee.
HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNOLLY, STEPHAN, McCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, and CASSEL, JJ.
[290 Neb. 590] Cassel, J.
In each of these consolidated juvenile appeals, the mother presents two issues. First, did changing the primary permanency objective from reunification to adoption affect the mother's substantial right? Because the juvenile court's actions effectively ended services directed toward reunification, we conclude that it did. Thus, the orders were final and appealable. Second, was changing the permanency objective in the children's best interests? The evidence showed that it was. Accordingly, we affirm.
Parents and Children
Melissa R. is the mother of the six minor children involved in these juvenile proceedings. The oldest child was born in 1999, and the youngest child was born in 2011. The fathers [290 Neb. 591] of the children are not parties to these appeals and will not be discussed further.
Prior Procedural History
In March 2013, the State filed a petition seeking to adjudicate the children under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) (Reissue 2008). The petition alleged that Melissa failed to provide adequate supervision. Melissa was in jail at the time. On that same day, the county court, sitting as a juvenile court, entered an order removing the children from the home and placing them in the custody of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The State later filed a second amended petition, alleging that the children lacked proper parental care through no fault of Melissa. In May, the court adjudicated the children. Since the time of the dispositional hearing in July, the children have remained in DHHS' custody, and DHHS' case plans have been geared toward reunification.
The juvenile court's first review hearing appearing in our record occurred in October 2013. At that time, Melissa was still incarcerated but had been placed on house arrest since early September. She was working full time and having supervised visitations with the children in her mother's home. The court report noted that poor progress was being made to alleviate the causes of out-of-home placement. In an October 1 order, the court directed the parties to comply with a September 24 case plan. The goal of the case plan was for Melissa to be able to appropriately care for her children and to provide a stable home free of domestic violence and illegal drugs in order to meet the emotional, psychological, and developmental needs of the children. The case plan set forth a number of strategies to assist Melissa in reaching the goal.
In January 2014, the juvenile court held another review hearing. Melissa testified she had been attending " NA," but that she had not started a relapse group prevention class because the class was full. Melissa admitted that because she was upset and emotional, she canceled a visit with the children the night before the hearing. During a recess in the hearing, she submitted to a urinalysis--which tested positive [290 Neb. 592] for methamphetamine. The court adopted DHHS' January 7 court report and case plan. The report stated that fair progress was being made to alleviate the causes of out-of-home placement. The plan contained the same goal and strategies identified in the September 2013 case plan. The court additionally ordered random drug testing and a new psychological evaluation and parenting assessment by Dr. John Meidlinger. The court ordered Melissa to follow the recommendations of the substance abuse evaluation, the psychological evaluation, and the parenting assessment.
Proceedings Leading to Instant Appeals
On April 15, 2014, the juvenile court conducted a review and permanency hearing. The family's children and family services specialist testified. From his ...