In re Interest of Sicily M. et al.

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In re Interest of Sicily M. et al.

Caselaw No.
No. A-15-1229
Filed on
Tuesday, June 28, 2016


SUMMARY: Brandon R., Sr., appeals the termination of his parental rights ordered by the Separate Juvenile Court for Douglas County. He asserts that the Court erred in finding that termination of his parental rights was in the children’s best interests. The Court of Appeals affirms.

 

On January 15, 2014 the Juvenile Court concluded that Sicily, Rayln, and Brandon Jr., the children, came within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) due to the faults or habits of their mother, Autumn. A supplemental petition was filed on December 8, 2014 alleging the children came within the meaning of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-247(3)(a) due to the faults or habits of Brandon, their father.  

 

On March 12, 2015 the Juvenile Court ordered the children to remain in the temporary custody of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Court found that reasonable efforts had been made to return the children to the parental home.

 

On June 8, 2015 an Interstate Compact for Placement of Children (ICPC) request was approved for the children to be placed with their maternal great-aunt, Linda R., in Wichita Kansas.

 

The State filed a motion to terminate Autumn’s parental rights on July 30, 2015 and an ex parte order for DHHS to retain custody of the children was signed. Because this appeal is taken by Brandon, the Court does not address Autumn’s case. A supplemental petition and motion to terminate Brandon’s parental rights was filed on August 13, 2015. The petition against Brandon alleged the children were at risk of harm because he failed to make efforts to reunify with his kids, consistently visit them, and maintain contact with caseworkers.

 

The motion to terminate parental rights was heard on November 20, 2015. Cynthia Lee, a family permanency specialist for Nebraska Families Collaborative, testified about Brandon’s lack of contact with caseworkers, incarceration, good intentions, and lack of effort. On November 25, 2015 Brandon’s parental rights were terminated by the Juvenile Court. It was found that termination was in the children’s best interests and grounds existed under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(2) and (7) to terminate. Brandon timely appealed.

 

Brandon asserts the Juvenile Court erred in finding that there was clear and convincing evidence that termination of his parental rights was in the best interests of the children.

 

Appellate courts review juvenile cases de novo on the record and reaches conclusions independently of juvenile court findings. In re Interest of Jahon S., 291 Neb. 97, 864 N.W.2d 228 (2015). Appellate courts may give weight to fact that the Trial Court observed the witnesses and accepted one version of the facts over another. In re Interest of Joseph S., 291 Neb. 953, 870 N.W.2d 141 (2015).

 

To terminate parental rights, the State must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that one or more of the grounds listed in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292 have been satisfied and that termination is in the children’s best interests.

 

There was no dispute of the finding by the court that grounds for termination existed under the statute. For completeness, the Court of Appeals mentioned that under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-292(7) termination is authorized when children have been in an out-of-home placement for fifteen or more of the most recent twenty-two-months. The children in this case met this requirement.

 

Brandon alleges that the Juvenile Court erred in finding that termination of his parental rights was in the children’s best interests. To avoid TPR, a court should look for continued improvement in a parent’s parenting skills and a beneficial relationship between parent and child. In re Interest of Joseph S., supra. Where credible evidence is in conflict, an appellate court considers and may give weight to the Trial Court’s observation of the witnesses and acceptance of one version of the facts over another. Id.

 

The Court found that Brandon had the best of intentions, but failed to take initiative to establish and maintain a relationship with the children. It has been settled that appellate courts in Nebraska cannot, and should not, allow children to linger in foster care waiting for a parent to mature. In re Interest of Chloe C., 20 Neb. App. 787, 835 N.W.2d 758 (2013). The Court found that the State established by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the best interests of the minor children that Brandon’s parental rights be terminated.


The Court of Appeals affirmed the Juvenile Court’s order.