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In re K.C.

Supreme Court of Montana

December 18, 2018

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

          Submitted on Briefs: November 14, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the First Judicial District, In and For the County of Broadwater, Cause No. BDN-2017-05 Honorable Michael F. McMahon, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Gregory D. Birdsong, Birdsong Law Office, PC, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Cory Swanson, Broadwater County Attorney, Townsend, Montana

          OPINION

          MIKE MCGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 P.G. (Mother) appeals from an order of the First Judicial District Court, Broadwater County, terminating parental rights to her child K.C. pursuant to § 41-3-609(1)(d), MCA. We affirm.

         ¶3 The Montana Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (Department), became involved with the family in February 2013, after receiving a report that Mother had been arrested for Partner or Family Member Assault (PFMA) against her male partner and was exposing K.C. and K.G. (K.C.'s half-sister by another father) to domestic violence. Mother, K.C, and K.G. lived in a three-bedroom trailer on family property near Toston, Montana.[1] K.C.'s grandmother also lived on the property, one hundred yards from the trailer.

         ¶4 Child Protection Specialist (CPS) Supervisor Brent Lashinsky testified the fight was over the male partner's meth use and whether he showed nude photographs on his phone to K.C. and K.G. The male partner was on probation for drug-related charges. The girls were asleep when the fight took place. The State later dismissed the charge. The Department was unable to locate the family and could not verify the report. Mother was twice previously convicted of PFMA for physical altercations with male partners, on June 12, 1999, and on June 27, 2011.

         ¶5 On June 18, 2013, the Department received a second report concerning the family. Mother was arrested for punching K.G. several times in the face with a closed fist and pulling her hair. K.G. was ten and K.C. was six at the time. K.C. was present for the incident and told the CPS who investigated that Mother asked K.G. if she wanted to die while hitting her repeatedly. CPS Lashinsky testified that K.G.'s injuries were "extensive enough that she needed to be taken to the doctor," where an x-ray verified her broken nose. When asked by the Department about the incident, Mother explained that she did not know what happened and that she "blacked out" due to her bipolar disorder. On April 2, 2014, Mother pleaded guilty to the charge of assault on a minor, a felony, and the District Court sentenced her to five years, suspended.[2]

         ¶6 On September 17, 2013, the District Court adjudicated K.C. and K.G. as youths in need of care (YINC) and granted the Department temporary legal custody (TLC) of the girls. K.C. stayed with her paternal aunt's family for six weeks during this time.

         ¶7 The Department designed a treatment plan for Mother, which required Mother to engage in counseling with K.G., chemical dependency testing and evaluation, and advised Mother to keep her children away from men that jeopardized their safety. The Department acknowledged that Mother was bipolar and required her to have "medication management done," but did not require her to engage in any form of anger management. CPS Lashinsky testified that this treatment plan was "very basic." Mother quickly completed the treatment plan, was reunited with K.C. and K.G, and the Department dismissed the case in October 2014.

         ¶8 In January 2015, the Department received a report that Mother was arrested for another PFMA, this time for slapping K.C. across the face. Halane Vandyken, the family's neighbor, testified that at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., K.G. ran across the road to her house, knocked, was "crying and frantic," and asked her to call the police because Mother hit K.C. The Vandykens called the police and Mother was arrested. An officer brought K.C. over to the Vandykens' house and asked if the Vandykens could house the girls. Two ...


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