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In re NDP

June 3, 2009

IN THE INTEREST OF NDP, JAP, ANP AND ICP, MINOR CHILDREN,
CP, APPELLANT (RESPONDENT)
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, APPELLEE (PETITIONER).



Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, The Honorable Scott W. Skavdahl, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kite, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] CP (Mother) appeals from the juvenile court's disposition order after she was found to have neglected her children. She claims the juvenile court erred by ruling that the Department of Family Services (DFS) did not need to make further efforts to reunify her with the children and ordering it to proceed with establishing a family guardianship.

[¶2] We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶3] Mother presents two issues on appeal:

Did the District Court err in failing to state the standard of proof it applied in waiving reunification efforts?

Was sufficient evidence presented to support the District Court's ruling waiving reunification efforts?

The State's statement of the issues is similar.

FACTS

[¶4] Mother has four minor children, NDP, JAP, ANP and ICP.*fn1 The State took the children into custody on April 19, 2007, after Mother was arrested for violating her probation by testing positive for methamphetamine use. At that time, NDP was 13 years old, JAP was 12 years old, ANP was 7 years old and ICP was 5 years old. The State filed a petition alleging that the children were neglected, and the children were placed in foster care with their maternal aunt.

[¶5] DFS filed a family case plan on May 22, 2007, identifying family reunification as the permanency goal and stating that a permanency hearing would be held 12 months from the date of placement of the children outside the home. In part, the plan objectives required Mother to: 1) attend to her substance abuse needs by completing an Alcohol Severity Index (ASI), following the ASI recommendations, completing random urinary analyses (UAs) and abstaining from all illegal and non-prescribed drugs; and 2) attend to her mental health needs by completing a psychological evaluation, calling "Psych.

Rehab" for a screening, and following all treatment recommendations. Mother did not sign that case plan and initially denied the neglect allegations.

[¶6] The multi-disciplinary team (MDT) held a meeting on June 20, 2007. The report from the meeting stated the DFS caseworker had asked Mother to complete a psychological evaluation and an ASI and submit to random UAs. The MDT agreed that, in addition to the goal of family reunification, a concurrent goal would be relative placement and/or guardianship. Although Mother did not sign the MDT report, her attorney signed it, indicating he agreed with the MDT recommendations.

[¶7] On July 20, 2007, the parties filed a stipulation and order for consent decree with the juvenile court. Mother admitted the neglect allegations, but the finding of neglect was held in abeyance pending her compliance with the consent decree pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-428 (LexisNexis 2007).*fn2 The order expressly stated that reasonable efforts had been made to reunite the children with their parents. The permanency plan continued to be reunification of the children with Mother, and she was ordered to comply with the DFS case plan. A predisposition report, also filed on July 20, 2007, reiterated Mother's responsibilities for completing substance abuse treatment and a psychological evaluation.

[¶8] Mother entered a residential substance abuse treatment facility known as Reflections on July 23, 2007, but failed to complete the program. Thereafter, Mother's probation was revoked and she was incarcerated until October 2, 2007.

[¶9] On October 5, 2007, Mother and DFS entered into another family services case plan. This time the plan required Mother to complete an inpatient drug treatment program with the Wyoming Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery Center (WYSTAR) so that she could meet the plan's goal of leading a clean and sober lifestyle and, ultimately, be reunified with her children. It stated that another case plan would be developed after Mother completed treatment at WYSTAR. Mother agreed to this plan.

[¶10] While waiting to enter WYSTAR, Mother resided at Women's Heart and participated in an Intensive Outpatient Program. She was discharged from the program "due to an incident while traveling to Denver." She then lived with her mother until she was admitted to WYSTAR on October 17, 2007.

[¶11] Less than a month later, on November 13, 2007, Mother was discharged from WYSTAR without successfully completing the program. WYSTAR's report stated:

Please be advised that [Mother] did not complete the WYSTAR Residential Treatment Program and was discharged at staff request on this date. She has not appeared to be invested in treatment, and in spite of numerous attempts by staff to bring about behavior modification; including two formal staffings concerning her readiness to change (Dimension IV of the ASAM Criteria), she has been consistently unwilling to follow directives and has demonstrated a lack of readiness to change. [Mother] appears to be lacking insight concerning her behaviors and attitudes, to the extent that ...


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