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In re Termination of Parental Rights to LCH

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 31, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO: LCH, BLH, and KAGH, Minor Children.
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Appellee (Petitioner). ELIZABETH JOY SWENSON, Appellant (Respondent),

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

          Representing Appellant: DaNece Day of Steven Titus & Associates, PC, Gillette, Wyoming.

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

          Guardian 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. Appearance by Mr. Hockman.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          KAUTZ, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Elizabeth Joy Swenson (Mother) appeals the termination of her parental rights with respect to her three children, LCH, BLH and KAGH. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Mother presents the following issue:

Did the evidence clearly and convincingly establish that Mother's parental rights should be terminated?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mother has three children who are the subject of this case: LCH born in 2009, BLH born in 2010, and KAGH born in 2013. Mother resided in Gillette, Wyoming, with the children, and the children's father resided in Newcastle, Wyoming. In June 2013, Mother was involuntarily hospitalized because of mental health problems, and the State placed the children in protective custody. At that time, LCH was four, BLH was two, and KAGH was about a week old. The juvenile court held a shelter care hearing on June 19, 2013, and placed the children in foster care. The children have remained in foster care since then.

         [¶4] The Department of Family Services (DFS) developed a case plan for Mother and the children, identifying the permanency goal for the children as reunification with their mother. It provided extensive services to accomplish reunification. The children stayed overnight with Mother in August 2014, as part of a trial home placement. That effort ended unsuccessfully when Mother was unable to safely provide for the children. She permitted others, some intoxicated and one who brought a gun, in the home with the children. After the trial home placement failed, numerous counselors attempted to assist Mother in developing skills and abilities to consistently recognize and act on the needs of the children. Unfortunately, although Mother attended visitations and counseling, she was not engaged in the activities, and the children were not developing any relationship with her. To the contrary, visits were chaotic and increased visitation and joint counseling led to increased behavioral and emotional problems for the children.

         [¶5] LCH, BLH and KAGH all have special emotional and physical needs. On October 31, 2014, Mother participated in a "Parent Child Interactional Evaluation" at the Kempe Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The report from that evaluation stated: "The children require permanency as soon as possible; a potential caregiver should be able to meet their safety, emotional, and attachment needs immediately. . . . [A]t the time of the evaluation it was not certain that she (Mother) had the capacity to provide long-term care for them or meet complex emotional needs without intensive support." It determined that KAGH required immediate permanency, and that Mother was unable to provide adequate ...


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