IN THE MATTER OF THE TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS TO: BAD, CMS, and ACS, minor children.
STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, Appellee (Petitioner). CATHY ANN DUNLAP, Appellant (Respondent),
from the District Court of Converse County The Honorable F.
Scott Peasley, Judge.
Timothy C. Cotton, Timothy C. Cotton, PC, Casper, Wyoming.
K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Misha Westby, Deputy
Attorney General; Jill E. Kucera, Senior Assistant Attorney
General; Christina F. McCabe, Senior Assistant Attorney
General. Argument by Ms. McCabe
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, Cheyenne, Wyoming. No argument.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Appellant Cathy Ann Dunlap (Mother) challenges a district
court decision terminating parental rights to three of her
minor children pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
14-2-309(a)(iii) and (v) (LexisNexis 2019). Her only claim is
that the evidence was insufficient to support the
termination. We affirm.
Whether the district court correctly found clear and
convincing evidence supported termination of Mother's
The following facts are based on the standard of review which
requires us to examine the evidence in the light most
favorable to the State, as the party prevailing below,
assuming all favorable evidence to be true while discounting
conflicting evidence presented by Mother. See SAS v.
State of Wyo., Dep't of Family Servs. (In re AGS),
2014 WY 143, ¶ 19, 337 P.3d 470, 477 (Wyo. 2014).
Mother has four children: BD, age 14 at the time of trial;
CS, age 8 at the time of trial; AS, age 6 at the time of
trial; and JE, age 3 at the time of trial. All four children
were removed from Mother's home due to neglect - CS on
April 21, 2015, and BD, AS and JE on July 22, 2015. JE was
reunified with his father, who satisfactorily completed a
case plan and, for a time, disassociated himself from Mother.
The other children have been in foster care ever since.
Mother originally lived in Florida, and BD was born there.
Florida child protective services became involved with the
family two or three times (Mother testified she was not sure
if there were two or three interventions) beginning when BD
was 2. Mother then moved to Minnesota for two months, and
then to Illinois. In Illinois, Mother lived in a truck with
BD and her ex-husband. Illinois child protective services
became involved, and Mother placed BD, then age 5, in a
crisis nursery to avoid having her placed in a foster home.
From there, Mother returned to Florida for two weeks, but did
not stay due to conflict with her siblings. Mother then moved
to Tennessee with her ex-husband and BD. After a very short
stay in Tennessee, Mother moved to Minnesota, and when
"things [didn't] pan out in Minnesota" Mother,
BD and the ex-husband moved to Arkansas. After staying in
Arkansas for two months, Mother moved to California for a
month, and then relocated to North Dakota in July 2009.
Shortly thereafter, CS was born.
In North Dakota, Mother and her children (BD and CS) first
lived in a campground, then someone's basement, then a
trailer, and then a camper. In December 2009, the State of
North Dakota took custody of BD and CS due to inadequate
living conditions. BD and CS remained in state custody until
September 2012. Mother gave birth to AS in August 2011, who
was also placed in foster care by North Dakota. While the
children were in the custody of North Dakota child protective
services, Mother had a case plan, but did not complete it. At
that point, the children's maternal grandmother became
their guardian and moved the children back to Florida with
her. Mother moved to Florida about five months later.
One year later, in February 2013, the children's maternal
grandmother died, and "the children were just back"
with Mother. Mother had encounters with police due to verbal
altercations with her family, and with child protective
services due to allegations of inadequate living conditions
for the children. By the end of 2013, Mother moved to
Converse County, Wyoming. Child protective services from
Florida contacted the Department of Family Services (DFS) in
Wyoming, which investigated the family and identified
concerns for the children because CS was not potty trained
and was not properly dressed.
In September 2014, Wyoming DFS opened a case regarding the
children based on school concerns that CS was dirty and
suffered from social, academic and emotional issues. Mother
refused services offered by DFS. School officials continued
to report CS was excessively hungry, inadequately dressed for
the weather, and reported her sister, BD, was responsible for
feeding her and getting her ready for school. DFS visited
Mother's home in January 2015 and found it very dirty.
After that visit, DFS provided a counselor for BD, who
diagnosed the 11-year-old as suffering from anxiety due to
taking on the role of parenting her younger siblings and
suffering from PTSD because she had frequently been removed
from Mother's home.
In February 2015, the State filed a juvenile case alleging
Mother had neglected the children. Mother admitted the
allegations. The children remained with Mother, who agreed to
"get up in the morning and get her children ready for
school and send them out in appropriate attire." Mother
failed to do so, resulting in CS being placed in foster care
in April 2015. Next, Mother signed a case plan outlining what
she should do to properly care for her children. She failed
to comply with the basic portions of the plan, and the other
children were placed in foster care in July 2015, based on
the recommendations of a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT).
Four months later, Mother moved to Casper (although the
children remained in foster care in Douglas) and lived in a
homeless shelter. She ultimately obtained an apartment in
Casper, where she lived for the next year. DFS assisted her
with visitation and provided counseling and parenting
training. Mother mostly cooperated with DFS but was unable to
sufficiently recall and apply parenting strategies to obtain
custody of the children. Her counselor described the
situation as one where Mother did not remember "what the
kids needed every morning, to make sure the laundry was done,
to make sure homework was done, backpacks were packed, to
make sure that appropriate discipline was used."
From May 8, 2015, to March 1, 2016, Mother agreed to three
"Family Service Plans" with DFS, each of which was
designed to accomplish "family preservation"
(before the children were removed) and "family
reunification" (after the children were placed in foster
care). Each of those plans advised Mother there was a risk of
termination if reunification was not timely accomplished.
Each of those plans required Mother to cooperate with therapy
for the children, participate in parenting instruction and
counseling, put lessons learned into practice, fully
cooperate and remain in contact with DFS, seek employment,
visit with the children, maintain an appropriately clean and
safe household, obtain appropriate housing for the children,
obtain and comply with medical care for Mother's
seizures, enroll in and successfully complete a parenting
class, and obtain services from vocational rehabilitation
leading to employment.
In December 2016, Mother had not sufficiently completed the
case plan to accomplish reunification with the children. She
participated in counseling but was unable to put the things
she learned into practice. She visited with the children but
was often distracted and did not relate to the children. At
times she engaged in inappropriate interactions with them.
She qualified for vocational rehabilitation but resisted
obtaining employment, fearing it would interfere with her
disability income and would cause her "stress." She
participated in counseling for the children but became irate
and refused to cooperate with a plan for BD because she
disagreed with it.
That month, Mother moved to North Dakota to reunite with
JE's father. She did not notify DFS before she moved, and
after the move, she gave DFS a false address. In North
Dakota, she did not participate in any counseling, did not
take parenting classes, did not work with vocational
rehabilitation, and did not maintain employment. She also did
not obtain treatment for her seizures.