IN THE MATTER OF: D.A. and M.A., Youths in Need of Care.
Submitted on Briefs: March 6, 2013
APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause Nos. CDN 10-064 and 10-065 Honorable Kenneth R. Neill, Presiding Judge
For Appellant: Elizabeth Thomas, Attorney at Law; Missoula, Montana
For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Pamela P. Collins, Assistant Attorney General; Helena, Montana
Theresa L. Diekhans, Assistant Attorney General, Child Protection Unit; Great Falls, Montana
Justice Brian Morris
¶1 The Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County terminated T.A.'s (Mother's) parental rights to her two daughters D.A and M.A. (collectively "Children"). M other claims that the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) failed to comply with the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and various other federal and state requirements. We affirm.
¶2 We address the following issues on appeal:
¶3 Whether the Department made sufficient active efforts to reunify Mother and the Children to satisfy ICWA?
¶4 Whether the Department provided sufficient evidence that reunification of Children with Mother would cause serious physical or emotional damage to the Children?
¶5 Whether the District Court properly determined that Mother had stipulated to the treatment plan?
¶6 Whether all stipulations in ICWA involuntary termination proceedings must be reduced to writing?
¶7 T.A. is the natural mother of M.A. and D.A. M .A. is nine years old and D.A. is seven years old. The Children and Mother are enrolled members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe.
¶8 Mother has a long history of illegal drug use that includes methamphetamine, marijuana, and benzodiazepine. Mother tested positive for methamphetamine in August 2005 when she was six months pregnant with D.A. The Department removed M.A. from Mother's care the day after Mother's positive methamphetamine test.
¶9 The District Court, in an earlier proceeding, had adjudicated M.A. a youth in need of care and granted temporary legal custody (TLC) of M.A. to the Department. The Department removed D.A. from Mother's care at birth in November 2005 due to Mother's methamphetamine use while pregnant with D.A. T he Department restored custody of M.A. and D.A. to Mother in 2007 after Mother successfully completed a treatment plan.
¶10 Mother also has a long history with the Department. Child Protective Services (CPS) has received at least twelve referrals regarding Mother since 2004. CPS undertook eight child investigative reports during that period. These referrals involved Mother's other child too. The Department required Mother to attend treatment after Mother had left her daughter, A.A., at a daycare in October 2008. A.A. was around five months old at the time. The Department agreed to A.A.'s placement with her birth father with whom she still resides.
¶11 The Children's maternal aunt and uncle agreed to care for the Children so that Mother could attend treatment after the incident with A.A. M other walked away from that treatment program after two days. She chose instead to live at a rescue home without the Children. The Children remained with the aunt and uncle until April 2010 when the uncle informed the Department that the aunt and uncle no longer could care for the Children.
¶12 The Department placed the Children into protective custody on April 23, 2010. The Department filed a petition for emergency protective services, adjudication as youths in need of care, and TLC for the youths on April 28, 2010. The Department originally assigned Amanda Scott (Scott), a child protective specialist, to the case. Scott tried unsuccessfully to contact Mother through Mother's sister, Mother's probation officer, M.A.'s grandmother, and M.A.'s father. Scott finally contacted Mother in June 2010.
¶13 The District Court held a show cause hearing and adjudicatory hearing on the Department's petition on May 25, 2010. The Department notified the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the proceeding. The Tribe did not ...