In re Interest of C.W.

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In re Interest of C.W.

Caselaw No.
NO. 87-008; 226 Neb. 719; 414 N.W.2d 277 (1987)
Filed on
Friday, October 23, 1987

Summary: Termination of parental rights was supported by evidence that the mother suffered from a mental illness, undifferentiated schizophrenia, and was therefore unable to care for her child.   

C.W. (D.O.B. unknown) first came to the attention of the juvenile court of Douglas County, Nebraska following an investigation of the child’s ingestion of an antipsychotic medication in August of 1984. The mother failed to seek medical treatment for 24 hours. Additionally, the mother could not provide a residence for the child, was sentenced to a term in the Douglas County Correctional Center, and was suffering from schizophrenia. C.W. was placed in the care of the Nebraska Department of Social Services after a no fault 3(a) adjudication. Following a disposition hearing on December 19, 1984, C.W. was placed in foster care and the mother was ordered to comply with a rehabilitation plan. In July of 1986, the state filed a motion for termination of parental rights, alleging that reasonable efforts toward reunification had been made and that the natural mother was unable to discharge parental responsibilities because of a mental illness and there were reasonable grounds to believe that such condition would continue for a prolonged, indeterminate period of time. The court found by clear and convincing evidence that the allegations were true and terminated parental rights. 

The mother appealed the juvenile court’s decision as unconstitutional and that there was insufficient evidence for their findings. The mother argued the standard of proof for terminating parental rights should be higher because C.W. is of American-Indian decent. The Nebraska Supreme Court did not consider this constitutional claim because it was not raised to the lower court. The Court found the evidence conclusive that the mother suffered from a mental illness that rendered her unable to care for herself or her child. On its own motion, the Court also noted that § 43-292 requires the court to appoint a guardian ad litem for alleged incompetent parents during a termination proceeding. While the Court found it was not prejudicial in the instant case, the Court urged lower courts to appoint separate guardians ad litem for such cases in the future. One justice concurred with the judgment but dissented from the portion of the opinion regarding the appointment of a guardian ad litem, arguing it would have been unnecessary in the instant case because the mother was already represented by counsel.