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In the Matter of

December 18, 2012

IN THE MATTER OF H.R. AND D.R., YOUTHS IN NEED OF CARE.


APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause Nos. DN 10-52, DN 10-53 Honorable In-grid G. Gustafson, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Mike McGrath

Submitted on Briefs: October 24, 2012

Decided: December 18, 2012

Filed:

Clerk

Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 The birth mother T.R. appeals from an order issued by the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, which terminated her parental rights to her two children, H.R. and D.R. (the children)*fn1 . T.R. argues that the State failed to prove that her treatment plan was appropriate, or alternatively that the State failed to prove that she had not complied with the treatment plan. We affirm.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶2 T.R. has dealt with mental health issues all of her adult life. T.R. has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, which is schizophrenia with a mood component. When not properly medicated, the schizophrenia causes her to have delusions and hallucinations, and the bipolar part of her disease can cause her to have manic behaviors. She has received treatment in a number of mental health facilities and currently takes three medications to control her symptoms.

¶3 Before this case began, T.R. had received treatment for her mental health issues in a Montana state mental hospital. When the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) initiated this case in May of 2010, T.R. was living in Missouri. For nearly the entire duration of the Department's involvement in this case T.R. has been receiving mental health treatment at various Missouri medical facilities. Much of T.R.'s treatment has been at inpatient facilities. T.R. has received treatment at a rehab center, at a group residential facility, and in February of 2011 she was involuntarily committed to what has been described as a lock-down facility in Salisbury, Missouri. She was subsequently moved to a similar facility in Milan, Missouri, where she was receiving inpatient treatment at the time of the termination hearing on February 9, 2012. It is uncertain when T.R. will be discharged from the facility in Milan, but her Missouri court-appointed guardian testified that it was unlikely that she would be discharged within one year of the termination hearing. Once she is discharged she will likely be placed in a residential care facility with twenty-four-hour staff and medication management. If T.R. is successful in the residential care facility, then she will move to a semi-independent apartment. T.R. may then qualify for a private apartment.

¶4 The State filed a petition to adjudicate H.R. and D.R. as Youths in Need of Care on May 5, 2010. H.R. was three years old and D.R. was four. The State's petition also sought Emergency Protective Services and Temporary Legal Custody of the children on behalf of the Department. Pursuant to stipulations, the District Court awarded the Department Temporary Legal Custody of the children on May 27, 2010, and adjudicated the children as Youths in Need of Care on August 10, 2010.

¶5 The District Court approved a treatment plan for T.R. on September 27, 2010, and the Department served it on her through counsel on September 29, 2010. Cindie Fitch, the Child Protection Specialist (CPS) who drafted T.R.'s treatment plan, testified that the plan had been designed to be fairly simple to make it workable for T.R. in light of her mental health issues. The treatment plan established four goals and listed nine tasks that T.R. had to complete to accomplish those goals. Among other things, T.R. was supposed to complete an anger assessment evaluation, maintain contact with the children through cards or letters, and maintain weekly contact with CPS Fitch. T.R. did not object to any of the goals or tasks.

¶6 The State petitioned to terminate T.R.'s parental rights on September 23, 2011, and the District Court held a termination hearing on February 9, 2012. CPS Fitch testified that T.R. had failed to keep in contact with her, that she did not receive an anger assessment evaluation for T.R., and that T.R. had failed to maintain contact with the children. Fitch explained that she spoke with T.R. three times after being assigned to the case. On September 22, 2010, however, T.R. threatened to kill Fitch. After the threats, T.R. was instructed that she could no longer call Fitch and that she should keep in contact through letters. T.R. did not send any letters to Fitch.

ΒΆ7 Fitch also testified that although T.R. had sent some letters and birthday cards to the children, she had not done so since June of 2011. The Department did not give some of the cards to the children that T.R. had sent because they were deemed inappropriate. Testifying by phone from the facility in Milan, T.R. said that she had stopped ...


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