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In re Joseph S.

Supreme Court of Nebraska

October 9, 2015

IN RE INTEREST OF JOSEPH S. ET AL., CHILDREN UNDER 18 YEARS OF AGE.
v.
KERRI S., APPELLANT STATE OF NEBRASKA, APPELLEE,

Page 142

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 143

Appeal from the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County: ELIZABETH CRNKOVICH, Judge.

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

Donald W. Kleine, Douglas County Attorney, Jennifer Chrystal-Clark, and Amy Schuchman for appellee.

Maureen K. Monahan, guardian ad litem.

HEAVICAN, C.J., WRIGHT, CONNNNOLLY, MCCORMACK, MILLER-LERMAN, AND CASSEL, JJ.

OPINION

Page 144

[291 Neb. 954] Wright, J.

NATURE OF CASE

This case involving termination of parental rights first came before us in In re Interest of Joseph S. et al.[1] The State appealed to the Nebraska Court of Appeals the findings of the separate juvenile court of Douglas County that the three minor children of Kerri S. did not come within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(2) (Cum. Supp. 2014) and that it was not in their best interests to terminate Kerri's parental rights. As a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeals held that a parent's noncompliance with a voluntary placement agreement that did not comport with procedural due process could not serve as a basis for termination of parental rights under § 43-292(2).

We granted further review, reversed the Court of Appeals' decision, and remanded the cause for further proceedings. On remand, the juvenile court concluded that the State had demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Kerri's parental rights was appropriate and in the best interests of the children. We affirm.

[291 Neb. 955] FACTS

Kerri is the biological mother of the minor children: Joseph S., William S., and Steven S. The family first came to the attention of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on March 16, 2009. In that case, DHHS became involved with the family due to concerns about Kerri's drug use and improper supervision of the children. The children remained out of Kerri's care for exactly 1 year. In the fall of 2010, Kerri tested positive for cocaine. During the first case, Kerri did not consistently participate in services offered by DHHS, but ultimately completed a court-ordered and court-monitored plan, and the children were returned to her care. The case was closed in November 2011.

Shortly thereafter, in January 2012, DHHS received an " intake" reporting that Kerri had left the children with a relative and was unable to be reached. Calls to DHHS expressed concerns that Kerri was failing to properly supervise the children and that she might be using drugs.

Following this intake, Kerri was contacted by DHHS. Kerri agreed to a 180-day voluntary out-of-home placement of the children. In a voluntary placement agreement, a parent voluntarily signs an agreement that his or her children be state wards for 180 days, with either relatives or an agency, while the parent participates in rehabilitative services. In the present case, Kerri's brother and his wife took physical custody of the children during the 180-day placement period. At any time during the 180-day placement period, a parent can request his or her child to be returned, provided the parent has met certain requirements. Upon entering into the voluntary placement agreement, the case was referred to Nebraska ...


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