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In re Termination of Parental Rights to AM-LR and TCG

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 6, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO: AM-LR and TCG, minor children.
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Appellee (Petitioner). CHELSEA NICOLE REED, Appellant (Respondent),

          Appeal from the District Court of Carbon County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Linda E. Devine, Devine Law Office, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; Misha Westby, Deputy Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

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

          BOOMGAARDEN, Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant, Chelsea Reed (Mother), appeals the district court's termination of her parental rights to her minor children, AM-LR and TCG. Mother claims she was denied due process of law during the prior neglect proceedings. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mother's sole issue on appeal is: "Were Mother's Due Process Rights violated when she was not given Notice of a Permanency Hearing or her Right to request an Evidentiary Hearing?" We state the dispositive issue as: May Mother collaterally attack the juvenile court's permanency order by appealing the district court's termination of parental rights order?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mother has two children, AM-LR born in 2011 and TCG born in 2014. Proceedings in this case began in late December 2014, when the state filed a juvenile neglect action against Mother[1] following a second report from the Rawlins Police Department about deplorable and unsafe living conditions in Mother's home.[2] Mother denied the neglect allegations at the shelter care and initial hearing; the juvenile court placed the children in DFS custody for familial foster care placement. Mother later admitted to the neglect allegations at the adjudicatory hearing on March 9, 2015.

         [¶4] Following the adjudicatory hearing, the juvenile court appointed a multidisciplinary team (MDT), which recommended reunification as the initial permanency goal. In its October 23, 2015, Order on Review Hearing, the juvenile court found DFS was "making reasonable efforts for a permanency plan of reunification and a concurrent plan of adoption with family."[3]

          [¶5] In January 2016, at the first permanency hearing, the juvenile court adopted the MDT's recommendation to give Mother another three months to comply with the case plan and court requirements to regain custody of her children, notwithstanding Mother's lack of effort during the prior year. The MDT advised Mother it would change its recommended permanency goal from reunification with a concurrent goal of adoption, to termination and adoption, if Mother failed to make substantial progress. Mother failed to make the necessary progress and, consequently, at the next MDT meeting in April 2016, the MDT recommended changing the permanency plan to adoption. Mother was notified of, but did not attend, the April 2016 MDT meeting; Mother's attorney did attend the meeting. The juvenile court accepted the new permanency recommendation after hearing from all parties, including Mother and her attorney, during a review hearing on April 18, 2016. Mother did not appeal the juvenile court's April 25, 2016, Order Upon Review Hearing despite the fact it found "efforts to reunify are no longer necessary" and DFS is "making reasonable efforts at the concurrent permanency plan of adoption."

         [¶6] Mother also did not appeal the juvenile court's July 21, 2016, order following a permanency hearing on July 18, 2016, which incorporated the MDT's continued recommendation for a permanency goal of termination of parental rights and adoption. DFS filed a civil ...


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