IN THE MATTER OF: J.A.B. and L.M.F., Youths in Need of Care.
Submitted on Briefs: December 31, 2014
District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause Nos. DN 09-86 and DN 13-42 Honorable Heidi Ulbricht, Presiding Judge
For Appellant: Kathryn McEnery, McEnery Law Office, PLLC, Hot Springs, Montana (Attorney for Appellant and Father)
Jennifer A. Giuttari, Law Office of Jennifer A. Giuttari, PLLC, Missoula, Montana (Attorney for Appellant and Mother)
For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana
Emily Von Jentzen, Assistant Attorney General, Kalispell, Montana
LAURIE MCKINNON JUSTICE
¶1 N.W. (Mother) and J.B. (Father) appeal from orders of the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, terminating Mother's parental rights to her children L.M.F. and J.A.B., and Father's rights to his child J.A.B. We affirm.
¶2 We restate the following issues for review:
1. Did the District Court abuse its discretion when it terminated Mother's parental rights as to L.M.F. on the basis that Mother had not successfully completed her treatment plan and her condition was unlikely to change?
2. Did the District Court abuse its discretion when it terminated Mother and Father's parental rights as to J.A.B. without reunification services on the basis that they had subjected a child to aggravated circumstances?
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
¶3 Mother is the birth mother of L.M.F., born in 2008, and J.A.B., born in 2012. Father is the birth father of J.A.B. C.F., the birth father of L.M.F., is presently incarcerated and has executed a conditional relinquishment of his parental rights. He is not a party to this appeal.
¶4 Mother and Father have struggled with methamphetamine addiction throughout these proceedings. On December 4, 2009, the Department of Public Health and Human Services (Department) removed L.M.F. from Mother's care based upon allegations that Mother had been using methamphetamine and caring for L.M.F. while under the influence of the drug. At the time L.M.F. was removed, Mother was sharing a residence with Father, who was described as her "paramour." It was noted that Father also had a history of methamphetamine use, and the child protection specialist (CPS) then assigned to the family observed that "[L.M.F.] is undoubtedly at a considerable risk if she is residing in the same household as [Father]." The Department had received reports that L.M.F. was left home alone while Mother and Father left the house to use methamphetamine. There were also reports that Mother and Father had smoked methamphetamine in the living room of their home while L.M.F. was asleep in a bedroom. Mother had also left L.M.F. in the care of her own mother, C.H., who was also a methamphetamine user and who had a significant history of involvement with the Department during Mother's childhood.
¶5 L.M.F. was placed with her paternal grandparents, who have cared for her for the majority of the past five years. Following L.M.F.'s removal, Mother had a chemical dependency evaluation and began participating in drug testing and supervised visits with L.M.F. Father was asked to participate in similar services, but refused to become involved. Mother represented to the Department that she and Father had decided to end their relationship. On March 24, 2010, Mother was allowed to begin unsupervised visitation with L.M.F. in her home. At that time, no one else was living in the home, and it was clean and appropriate. Approximately two weeks later, Mother's home was the subject of a drug raid. Father and two other individuals were reportedly living in the home, and drugs were being sold on the premises. On May 17, 2010, L.M.F. was adjudicated a youth in need of care and the Department was granted temporary legal custody.
¶6 On June 10, 2010, the District Court approved a treatment plan requiring Mother to participate in chemical dependency treatment, submit to random urine analysis, undergo a psychological evaluation, participate in individual counseling, maintain a safe home environment and lifestyle, and participate in supervised visitation and parenting education. Temporary legal custody was extended on multiple occasions to allow Mother more time to work on her treatment plan.
¶7 On October 12, 2011, the Department petitioned for termination of Mother's parental rights. At that time, Mother was not compliant with her treatment plan. There were continued concerns about Mother's relationship with Father. The Department suggested that if Mother and Father continued their relationship, Father needed to be a part of the treatment plan. Mother denied having an ongoing relationship with Father, but ...