Submitted on Briefs: October 10, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DN-16-118 Honorable
John W. Larson, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: Tracy Labin Rhodes, Attorney at Law, Missoula,
Appellee: Karen Kane, Assistant Attorney General, Child
Protection Unit, Missoula, Montana
T.M. (Mother) appeals from an order of the Fourth Judicial
District Court, Missoula County, terminating her parental
rights to her natural child X.M. We affirm.
We restate the issues on appeal as follows:
Whether Mother was denied due process in the proceedings to
terminate her parental rights.
the District Court abused its discretion in terminating
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Mother recently aged out of foster care. Her childhood was
fraught with physical and sexual abuse. She was removed from
her parents at an early age and spent her adolescence in
foster care, hospitals, and group homes. Due to the negative
experiences in her past, Mother is paranoid and distrustful
of group homes and the Department of Health and Human
Services (Department). Mother also has low cognitive ability.
X.M. was born in March 2016 in Helena, Montana. Two days before
X.M.'s birth, Mother checked out of the women's
residential group home where she was residing. The home
notified the Department because Mother was young and had a
history of mental illness and low cognitive ability.
After X.M.'s birth, the Department helped Mother develop
a voluntary services agreement enabling her to stay at the
home of a family friend. Shortly thereafter, Mother expressed
concern for X.M.'s safety due to domestic violence in the
home. On April 1, 2016, the Department removed X.M. from
Mother's care after X.M. was hospitalized and diagnosed
with non-organic failure to thrive. X.M. was dehydrated and
had lost weight since birth.
On April 8, 2016, the Department filed a petition for
Temporary Investigative Authority (TIA) and Temporary Legal
Custody (TLC) based on hospital reports that Mother had
difficulty waking to feed X.M., needed assistance in making
formula, failed to recognize when X.M. needed his diaper
changed, and was co-sleeping with X.M. to the point of
endangering him. After holding a contested show cause hearing
on May 18, 2016, the court granted the Department TIA for
ninety days. At Mother's request, the Department placed
X.M. with her former foster parents ...