IN THE INTEREST OF SO, a Minor Child: PM and JM, Appellants (Respondents),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner), and FH and RH, Appellees (Respondents).
from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable John
G. Fenn, Judge
Representing Appellants: Timothy C. Cotton, CottonLegal,
Representing Appellee, State of Wyoming: Peter K. Michael,
Attorney General; Misha Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill
E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms.
Representing Appellees, FH and RH: No appearance.
Guardian Ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy Director, Aaron S.
Hockman, Permanency Attorney, and Christopher W. Goetz,
Student Intern, Wyoming Guardian Ad Litem Program.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Appellants JM and PM are the grandmother and step-grandfather
of SO. SO is currently in the legal custody of the Wyoming
Department of Family Services, and has been in the physical
care of Foster Parents since three days after her birth on
February 4, 2013. Grandparents filed a motion seeking to
transfer placement of SO from Foster Parents to Grandparents.
The juvenile court denied the motion and Grandparents
challenge that decision in this appeal. We affirm.
The issue in this case is whether the juvenile court abused
its discretion when it denied the "Motion for Placement
of Minor Child with Grandparents."
At the time of her birth, SO's Mother was in pretrial
custody at the Natrona County jail in Casper, Wyoming.
Wyoming's Department of Family Services took the child
into protective custody. Because Mother's four older
children were already in DFS custody in Sheridan, Wyoming,
DFS relocated SO to Sheridan, where she was placed in Foster
Parents' care on February 7, 2013. On February 21, 2013,
Mother was released from jail on bond and moved to Sheridan.
On March 12, 2013, DFS filed a petition alleging that SO was
a neglected child and that Mother was unable to provide
proper care for her. During the initial hearing, Mother
admitted the allegations, and the juvenile court adjudicated
SO as a neglected child. The court ordered that SO would
remain in the legal custody of DFS and in the physical
custody of Foster Parents.
In April of 2013, DFS sent a "Notice to Relative"
form to Grandparents and other relatives of SO, informing
them that SO had been removed from Mother's care and was
in the custody of the State. The form indicated to
Grandparents that, "[a]s a relative, you may be
considered for short or long term placement of this child, if
you agree, and your home is considered an appropriate
placement option." Grandparents returned the form to DFS
as requested, indicating they were "interested in making
contact with this child and being a positive support in this
child's life." They did not check the box indicating
they were "interested in being considered as a possible
placement resource for this child."
In the meantime, Mother's criminal proceedings continued.
Ultimately, Mother pled guilty to a charge of possession of a
deadly weapon with unlawful intent, and was sentenced to
three to five years in prison. The sentence was suspended,
and Mother was placed on probation with a requirement that
she complete an in-patient substance abuse treatment program.
She entered a treatment program on June 20, 2013. Mother did
not complete the program, however, and was discharged from
the treatment facility ...