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In the Matter of the Termination of Parental Rights To: Zmets, Zcjs, Zpms, and Zkms, Minor Children v. the State of Wyoming

May 16, 2012

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO: ZMETS, ZCJS, ZPMS, AND ZKMS, MINOR CHILDREN, DMM, APPELLANT (RESPONDENT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, APPELLEE (PETITIONER).



Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable David B. Park, Judge

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Appellant, DMM, challenges the district court's order terminating her parental rights pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-2-309(a)(iii) and (a)(v). She claims there was insufficient evidence to support the district court's decision. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Appellant raises the following issue:

1. Whether the Trial Court record contains clear and convincing evidence supporting termination under applicable Wyoming Statutes.

The Department of Family Services (DFS) presents the issues as follows:

1. Can Mother, who failed to timely answer the petition to terminate parental rights, appeal the entry of a default judgment on the basis of sufficiency of the evidence?

2. Was there sufficient evidence presented in the default hearing and in the complaint to constitute clear and convincing evidence to support the termination of Mother's parental rights?

The children's guardian ad litem phrases the issue in a substantially similar manner.

FACTS

[¶3] Appellant is the mother of ZMETS, born in 2002, ZCJS, born in 2003, and ZPMS and ZKMS, both of whom were born in 2005. On October 7, 2009, Appellant's children were taken into protective custody after the police received notice that the children were playing, unsupervised, in the parking lot of a motel where Appellant lived and worked. A petition alleging that Appellant had neglected her children was filed on October 9, 2009, and the children were adjudicated neglected after Appellant failed to appear at a hearing on the petition. DFS initially placed the minor children with separate foster care families, but relocated all of the children in April, 2010 to relative foster care with their paternal grandparents, where they have remained since that time.

[ΒΆ4] Shortly after Appellant's children were placed in protective custody, a DFS caseworker developed a family service plan and began efforts to reunify Appellant with her children. The caseworker scheduled supervised visitations with Appellant, and coordinated visitations with Appellant at a transitional housing facility. The DFS caseworker also helped Appellant obtain treatment for substance abuse and arranged for the children to receive mental health counseling at the Central Wyoming Counseling Center. Despite the caseworker's efforts, however, Appellant did not meet the requirements of the family service plan. Appellant did not attend visitations consistently, and DFS was forced to cancel some visitations due to Appellant's intoxication. Although the caseworker was initially unable to secure Appellant's attendance at outpatient substance abuse treatment programs, Appellant did eventually complete an inpatient treatment program. However, Appellant ...


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