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In re M.C.

Supreme Court of Montana

October 17, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF: M.C., A Youth in Need of Care.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 27, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Twentieth Judicial District, In and For the County of Lake, Cause No. DN 15-15 Honorable Deborah Kim Christopher, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Katy Stack, Attorney at Law, Missoula, Montana.

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Stephen Eschenbacher, Lake County Attorney, Benjamin Ancieaux, Deputy County Attorney, Polson, Montana.

          OPINION

          LAURIE McKINNON JUDGE.

         ¶1 J.C. (Mother) appeals an order of the Twentieth Judicial District Court, Lake County, terminating her parental rights to her minor child, M.C. Mother raises three issues, however only one issue is properly before this Court for review. We affirm and address the following issue:

         Did the District Court properly admit Mother's psychological evaluation at the termination hearing?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In March 2015, the Department of Public Health and Human Services (the Department), filed a Petition for Emergency Protective Services (EPS), Adjudication of Child as Youth in Need of Care, and Temporary Legal Custody (TLC). The District Court granted EPS and Mother subsequently stipulated to TLC. The Department prepared a treatment plan for Mother, which she signed and the District Court approved and ordered on May 21, 2015.

         ¶3 As part of her treatment plan, Mother agreed to undergo a psychological evaluation:

Psychological Evaluation. To identify all of Mother's mental health issues and narrowly tailor future treatment, Mother will submit to a psychological evaluation with a professional approved by CPS. Mother will follow recommendations made by the professional, including any recommendations that may lead to a higher level of care, including in-patient or out-patient mental health treatment and/or anger management classes.

(Emphasis in original). The treatment plan specifically stated the psychological evaluation's two purposes: (1) to identify Mother's mental health issues; and (2) to narrowly tailor future treatment. Mother agreed to follow the evaluation's recommendations in working towards reunification with M.C. when she signed the treatment plan.

         ¶4 Dr. Theresa Reed (Dr. Reed), a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, performed Mother's psychological evaluation on September 3, 2015. The evaluation consisted of various sections, including background information, family and personal health history, legal history, mental status examination, test results, and conclusions and recommendations.

         ¶5 The Department and Mother worked together for over a year to reunify M.C. with Mother. The reunification efforts were unsuccessful, however, and in November 2016, the Department filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights. The District Court held a termination hearing in January 2017, at which time the court issued oral ...


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