In re Interest of Gabrielle Z. & Lillian Z.

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In re Interest of Gabrielle Z. & Lillian Z.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Tuesday, January 7, 2014

SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was proper where the mother continued to have ongoing safety concerns for years while the children were in foster care even though she complied with case plan requirements.

Lillian, DOB 3/06, and Gabrielle, DOB 2/10, were removed from the home of the mother, Crystal, in May 2010 after Gabrielle was found to have a skull fracture, bruising and healing rib fractures. The kids’ father, Jonathan, was eventually convicted of causing the injuries. The family had been involved with DHHS on a voluntary basis from July 2008 to July 2009 due to unsanitary living conditions and nutritional issues. In June 2010, on a supervised visit with Crystal and relative foster parents, Gabrielle sustained a second-degree sunburn to her face. In August 2010, the children were adjudicated under N.R.S. 43-247(3)(a) and several review and permanency hearings were held in 2011 and 2012. Crystal complied with all the services recommended, which included assessments and evaluations, individual therapy, family support, a parent partner and supervised visitation. However, Crystal never progressed passed supervised visits because there always remained safety and nutritional issues and Crystal seemed to repeatedly fail to implement the parenting principles she learned. A psychological evaluation was performed on Crystal which concluded she could be an adequate parent and a parent-child relationship assessment concluded similarly. On March 30, 2012, the State filed a motion to terminate Crystal’s parental rights. Trial was held on February and March 2013. In addition to the facts above testified to by a number of witnesses, testimony was provided by Lillian’s therapist that Lillian is diagnosed with severe reactive attachment disorder which requires she have a stable caregiver. On March 29, 2013, the court terminated Crystal’s parental rights. Crystal appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. It first found that the grounds under N.R.S. 43-292 were satisfied because the children were out-of-home more than 15 of the past 22 months. As to best interests, the Court of Appeals acknowledged testimony from providers concluding that Crystal could be an adequate parent but noted that this testimony was in contrast to the testimony of people who had been involved closely in the case for several years. Although the visitation records had discrepancies with their scoring, the Court of Appeals found that as a whole they show that Crystal had to rely on visitation workers, was not actively engaged, and failed to provide proper supervision. The Court of Appeals concluded that Crystal is an unfit parent and that the children cannot wait any longer for permanency.