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In re JW

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 23, 2018

IN THE INTEREST OF: JW and TLW, Minor Children.
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Petitioner). TW, Appellant (Respondent),

         Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable Michael N. Deegan, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Lisa K. Finkey and Cameron W. Geeting of Finkey Law, LLC, Gillette, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Finkey.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Misha E. Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Shawnna M. Herron, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Herron.

          Guardians ad Litem: Dan S. Wilde, Deputy State Public Defender; Aaron S. Hockman, Chief Trial and Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program, a division of the Office of the State Public Defender.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL [*] , DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] TW is the father of two boys, JW and TLW, who were five and three years old when the State of Wyoming filed a juvenile court petition alleging that they had been neglected. He appeals from the court's order altering the plan for permanent placement of the boys from reunification of the family to termination of his parental rights and adoption. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] TW raises a single issue that we slightly restate as follows:

Did the juvenile court abuse its discretion when it determined that the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) made reasonable but unsuccessful efforts to reunify the family, and that the permanency plan for the children should accordingly be changed to adoption?

         FACTS

         [¶3] On January 28, 2015, the State filed a neglect petition. It alleged that in late December of 2014 the mother of the boys, and of a one-year old girl with a different father, was suspected of using methamphetamine. She was also homeless, and had left the boys with TW's family in the hope that she could retrieve them after she got back on her feet. The daughter was left with her father and Mother's sister. At that time, the boys also needed medical treatment for a severe case of impetigo.

         [¶4] Approximately eight months earlier, reports to DFS indicated that Mother was smoking marijuana and not providing the children adequate medical or general care. She was largely uncooperative with DFS's investigation, and for a period beginning in late October of 2014, the agency could not locate her.[1]

         [¶5] On August 21, 2015, the State filed an amended neglect petition. It alleged that the three children had been placed in DFS custody in Gillette, that the girl was residing with Mother's maternal aunt, and that the boys were in foster care. The allegations of neglect against Mother remained the same, but the amended petition further asserted that she abandoned the children in January and had failed to respond to requests to become involved in the neglect action. The petition also alleged for the first time that TW had neglected his two sons because his incarceration or detention in the Wyoming penal system made him unable to provide them with the care necessary for their well-being. At that time, he resided at a community corrections facility in Casper as a felony parolee.

         [¶6] TW was ordered to come before the juvenile court for an initial appearance and "such other proceedings as are proper" on September 24, 2015. Mother participated in that ...


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