In re Interest of Elijah M.

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In re Interest of Elijah M.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Thursday, June 19, 2014

SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was supported by evidence that the mother had had her parental rights terminated as to three other children and the mother failed to take responsibility for her action. In addition, the issue of the constitutionality of a court order relieving DHHS of its responsibility to provide reasonable efforts was not properly before the court. 

The State of Nebraska removed Elijah M. (DOB: August 2011) two days after his birth. Elijah’s mother, Pamela had previously had her parental rights terminated to three of her children, Raven, Trevon, and Breia, due to inappropriate discipline and safety concerns. Elijah’s father, Andy, relinquished his parental rights to Elijah. At a hearing held December 7, 2011, the State made a motion requesting the court to find that reasonable efforts were not required. Pamela appeared in court and was represented by counsel, but her counsel did not argue that the motion would be unconstitutional. A juvenile court order filed April 20, 2012 required Pamela to provide DHHS with an updated parenting assessment, a written plan for visits, and records from her therapy sessions. Though Pamela did complete a parenting assessment, she never provided DHHS with the assessment or a written visitation plan. The State filed a motion to terminate Pamela’s parental rights to Elijah on December 3, 2012. At the termination trial, Pamela’s therapist testified that Pamela experienced depression and anxiety, both of which can negatively impact parenting. In addition, a parenting assessment indicated the Pamela had not acquired the responsibility needed to parent and failed to implement parenting skills. Pamela denied that she ever abused, neglected or used inappropriate discipline toward any of her children. Case workers also testified that termination was in Elijah’s best interests because he had been in out-of-home care for his entire life and had no bond with Pamela. The juvenile court terminated Pamela’s parental rights on September 20, 2013.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of Pamela’s parental rights. Elijah had been in the same out-of-home placement since August 2011. The State established by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in Elijah’s best interests because Pamela failed to fulfill certain requirements to maintain contact with Elijah and continued to blame other individuals for the consequences of her actions. In addition, the issue of whether the court order relieving DHHS of its duty to provide reasonable efforts violated Pamela’s equal protection rights was not properly before the court. Pamela had failed to object or state her position that holding her responsible for the cost of services violated her right to equal protection, and the appeal did not comply with requirements to properly challenge the constitutionality of an order.