IN THE INTEREST OF: DT and NT, Minor Children.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner). ST, Appellant (Respondent),
from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable
Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge
Representing Appellant: Christopher G. Humphrey of
Christopher G. Humphrey, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Misha E. Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E.
Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Christina F.
McCabe, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms.
Representing Guardian Ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State
Public Defender, Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate
Counsel, Wyoming Guardian Ad Litem Program.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
ST (Mother) appeals from the juvenile court's order
changing the permanency plan from reunification to adoption.
Mother claims that the juvenile court erred when it did not
make a determination prior to the hearing regarding the
children's attendance at the permanency hearing, and that
she was denied due process of law when the permanency hearing
was held without the children. Mother also contends that
there was insufficient evidence presented by the State of
Wyoming, Department of Family Services (DFS), to support the
juvenile court's decision to change the permanency plan
from reunification to adoption. We affirm.
1. Did the juvenile court commit plain error when it did not
determine whether the children should be present at the
hearing prior to the hearing?
Mother's due process rights violated when the juvenile
court did not require the presence of the children at the
there sufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's
change in the permanency plan from reunification to adoption?
A Cheyenne police officer responded to a DFS referral to
conduct a welfare check on two children, DT and NT, at the
Big Horn Motel in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Upon arrival, the
officer observed that the motel room was "filled with
various boxes, clothing, furniture, and other belongings to a
height of around 6 feet." When the officer knocked, NT
climbed over the items in the room to answer the door. Mother
and TO (Mother's boyfriend) were asleep inside the room.
The officer could only partially open the door and was unable
to enter the room. He observed that the children were wearing
dirty clothing and had visible dirt on their skin. The
children told the officer that they had not bathed in a week
because they could not get past the piled possessions to the
shower. The officer also observed an open bottle of vodka,
marijuana, and drug paraphernalia inside the room. Based on
these observations, the officer determined that the
children's safety was at risk and placed DT and NT into
The State filed a petition alleging that Mother had neglected
DT and NT. The juvenile court held a shelter care hearing on
August 18, 2014, and in a Stipulated Order for Continued
Shelter Care, it placed the children in the temporary legal
custody of the State, with temporary physical placement with
Mother. The court appointed a guardian ad litem
(GAL) for DT and NT, and an attorney to represent Mother.
On October 9, 2014, the juvenile court held an initial
hearing at which the parties stipulated to a Consent Decree.
Mother admitted to the allegations of the neglect petition,
agreed to complete the DFS case plan, and agreed to undergo
random drug testing at the direction of DFS. The State
requested that the court hold the neglect proceedings in
abeyance. The DFS case plan, with the goal of family
preservation, required Mother to obtain permanent housing and
maintain a clean home, complete parenting classes, complete
the testing necessary to evaluate her on the Addiction
Severity Index (ASI) and follow any recommendations of the
evaluation, and maintain employment. The Consent Decree also
provided that if Mother failed to fulfill any of the terms
and conditions of the decree, the State could proceed on the
petition and Mother would be considered in contempt of court.
The Consent Decree was to be in effect for six months, unless
sooner discharged by the court, and could be extended for an
additional six months upon good cause. The court ordered that
prior to completion of the initial six-month period, the
parties would conduct a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) meeting
to determine whether the decree should be dismissed or
extended. The children continued to be in the legal custody
of the State, with physical placement with Mother.
Mother struggled to comply with the case plan. DFS did a
random drop-in at the end of October 2014, and found the
motel room again filled with various boxes, belongings, and
furniture. Mother told DFS everything would be out of the
room by the following day, and when DFS returned, the room
had been cleaned, and DFS allowed the children to stay in
Mother's physical custody. Mother completed the required
parenting classes. Mother participated in an ASI evaluation
through Pathfinder, a drug addiction treatment center, which
recommended Mother participate in an Intensive Outpatient
Treatment (IOP) program.
DFS requested that Mother submit to weekly urine analysis
(UA) tests, and Mother agreed to do them at Drug Testing
Center of Cheyenne. Mother arrived for her first scheduled UA
on November 5, 2014, and was unable to provide an adequate
sample amount. The following day Mother was able to provide
an adequate, negative sample. Mother then requested that she
be able to complete future UA tests at Pathfinder so she
could participate in the IOP program at the same place; DFS
agreed. Mother provided a second negative UA on November 13,
2014. Mother failed to provide any further urine analysis at
either the Drug Testing Center or Pathfinder, notwithstanding
DFS's repeated requests that she do so. Mother also
failed to participate in any IOP program as recommended by
Pathfinder and required by the case plan.
In its December 2014 Quarterly Progress Report, DFS
recommended that the Consent Decree be revoked based on
Mother's failure to cooperate with her case plan and
court orders. These failures consisted of multiple
unsuccessful attempts by DFS to check conditions of the motel
room, including both unannounced drop-ins and attempts to
schedule appointments to check the conditions, failure to
complete UA tests, and failure to participate in an IOP
program. On December 22, 2014, DFS attempted another
unannounced drop-in at the motel. After Mother failed to
answer the door, DFS asked the motel manager to open the
door. Upon entry, DFS found the room in the same cluttered
condition as it had been in August. The children were hiding
under a table and Mother was hiding in the bathroom. DFS
determined that the children's safety was again at risk
and placed DT and NT back into protective custody.
The State then filed a Petition to Revoke Consent Decree. By
this time, Mother had missed six scheduled UAs, failed to
begin an IOP program, and failed to provide a safe, clean
environment for the children. At the hearing, Mother admitted
to the allegations supporting the petition to revoke the
Consent Decree. Also at the hearing, Mother told DFS that she
could not afford the UA testing, and DFS informed Mother that
DFS would pay for the testing through the Drug Testing
Center. The juvenile court entered Mother's prior
admission to the allegations in the original neglect
petition, and found DT and NT to be neglected children. The
court ordered that DFS would have legal and physical custody
of DT and NT.
DFS completed a Six Month Review report in early February
2015. Mother had been kicked out of the motel, she no longer
had a working phone number, and DFS had been unsuccessfully
trying to reach Mother via e-mail. DFS noted in the report
that the permanency plan was still family reunification
despite the fact that Mother still had not started an IOP
program or submitted to any UA testing since November 13,
The initial MDT meeting was held on February 17, 2015. Mother
did not attend, but her attorney was present. DFS recommended
that the children remain in the legal custody of DFS, with
physical placement in foster care. The State further
recommended that Mother work her case plan. In its
Predisposition Report filed with the court on March 6, 2015,
DFS stated that Mother had still not participated in an IOP
program, or complied with her court ordered UAs, but
recommended that the permanency plan still be family
At a disposition hearing on April 9, 2015, the juvenile court
found it in the best interest of the children to remain in
the legal custody of the State, with physical placement in
foster care. The court ordered Mother to work her case plan
and undergo the previously ordered random UA tests. Mother
requested to change the location of the UA testing to
Foundations. The court also ordered DFS to begin an
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), Wyo.
Stat. Ann. § 14-5-101 (LexisNexis 2015), home study on
the maternal grandparents in South Dakota.
DFS filed another Quarterly Progress Report with the court in
May 2015. At that time the permanency plan was still family
reunification. DFS reported that it had informed Mother that
it could not pay for UA testing through Foundations due to
pricing, but that it would still pay for the testing through
the Drug Testing Center. DFS contacted the Cheyenne Housing
Authority and provided Mother with an application to complete
and return to the Housing Authority, and referred Mother to
several job openings. As of the date of the report, Mother
had still not participated in an IOP program or completed any
UA testing. Mother was unemployed and did not have a stable
residence. DFS had been in contact with the maternal
grandmother (Grandmother) in South Dakota, and had started
the ICPC process.
The second MDT meeting was conducted on May 21, 2015.
Grandmother attended by phone and the MDT Meeting Report
noted that Grandmother had begun the ICPC process, and was
looking forward to having the children live with her. Mother
stated that she wanted the children to go to Grandmother, and
she explained that she could not afford an IOP program, she
had not completed further drug testing, and she did not have
a job or a place to live. The MDT again recommended that the
children stay in the legal and physical custody of the State,
that Mother continue to work her case plan, and that she
complete the required UA testing.
Mother did not attend the third MDT meeting held on August
11, 2015. DFS noted again that Mother had not been working
her case plan and had not completed any UA testing, and
indicated that without significant progress in her case plan,
it would recommend a change to the permanency plan.
DFS submitted a 12 Month Permanency Hearing report, which
indicated that Mother would be required to complete a new ASI
evaluation, as the initial one was no longer up to date.
Additionally, the report informed the court that Mother still
did not have a stable residence, had not participated in the
required UA testing, and had not kept in contact with the DFS
caseworker on her case. DFS still recommended family
reunification, but noted that the ICPC was completed and
placement with Grandmother had been approved. At the
twelve-month permanency hearing held on September 3, 2015,
the court ordered that the legal custody of the children
would remain with the State, with placement in relative
foster care. The children had been residing with Grandmother
in South Dakota since August 20, 2015.
In its November 2015, Quarterly Progress Report, DFS
recommended that the permanency plan change from family
reunification to adoption or guardianship with the maternal
grandmother. At the fourth MDT meeting in December 2015,
Grandmother attended by phone and, according to the ...