Submitted on Briefs: November 27, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Second Judicial District, In and
For the County of Butte-Silver Bow, Cause No. DN 18-99
Honorable Robert J. Whelan, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Jennifer Dwyer, Law Office of Jennifer Dwyer,
PLLC, Bozeman, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana
Joyce, Butte-Silver Bow County Attorney, Butte, Montana
Vucurovich, Attorney at Law, Butte, Montana
McGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE.
R.T. ("Mother") appeals a March 7, 2019 Second
Judicial District Court order terminating her parental rights
of child ("C.B."). We affirm.
We address the following issues on appeal:
Issue One: Whether Mother was afforded fundamentally fair
procedures comporting with her constitutional due process
rights when the District Court terminated her parental rights
Issue Two: Whether the District Court abused its discretion
by terminating Mother's parental rights following its
determination that circumstances surrounding Mother's
prior terminations of her parental rights were relevant to
her parenting of C.B.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Mother has an extensive history with the Department of Health
and Human Services ("Department"), including
involuntary termination of four of her other children as a
result of severe drug use, inability to provide safe and
stable housing, and inability to provide adequate care. In
February 2013, Mother's parental rights were terminated
for J.T., R.T., and A.T. due to Mother's failure to
adhere to her treatment plan for chemical dependency issues.
Following termination, Mother gave birth to a fourth child,
I.T., who was born addicted to drugs. The court ordered that
preservation or reunification services did not need to be
provided to Mother due to the three previous terminations. On
May 20, 2014, Mother had her parental rights of I.T.
On October 24, 2017, Mother gave birth to C.B., who was
fathered by S.B. ("Father"), a different birth
father than that of her previous children. At the time of
C.B.'s birth, Mother tested positive for THC. However, a
cord stat performed on C.B. returned negative for
drugs. Mother was otherwise deemed to be sober, addressing
mental health issues, and able to meet the needs of C.B.
On November 19, 2018, law enforcement and probation officers
conducted a search of a residence inhabited by Mother,
Father, and C.B. Law enforcement discovered a syringe filled
with an unknown substance located on a television stand
inside the home. Father was arrested for possession of
methamphetamine and other miscellaneous crimes. Mother
admitted ongoing methamphetamine use to law enforcement. When
Child Protection Specialist Jodi Burk arrived at the
residence, law enforcement informed Burk that Mother was to
be arrested for misdemeanor criminal contempt and misdemeanor
possession of drug paraphernalia.
When Burk entered the home, she noted that it was
"trashed" and posed a safety hazard to C.B. Burk
observed clothes piled on the couch, clothes and garbage on a
bed, food, garbage, and dirt on the floor, and dirty dishes
on the counters. Burk asked Mother about the syringe, and
Mother replied that it belonged to Father. However, Mother
admitted that she continued to use methamphetamine but not
around C.B. Burk informed Mother that it was her obligation
to keep C.B. safe and told her that she was taking C.B. into
custody. Burk told Mother to come to the office and speak to
her when she was released from jail in order to discuss
options regarding C.B. Mother was taken to jail but was not
C.B. was placed in foster care. Soon after, it was discovered
C.B. had not seen a doctor since March 2018, five months
after birth, and was behind on immunizations. Burk also
learned of Mother's prior termination of parental rights.
Mother did not go to Burk's office upon release from
jail. On November 27, 2018, the Department filed abuse and
neglect proceedings against the parents of C.B. in the
Butte-Silver Bow County District Court. The Department sought
temporary legal custody ("TLC") of C.B. with
respect to Father. With respect to Mother, the Department
sought EPS, a determination that preservation or
reunification services need not be provided, permanent legal
custody ("PLC"), and termination of Mother's
parental rights. The Department explained in its petitions
that it had ...