In re Interest of Jaiden L.

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In re Interest of Jaiden L.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Tuesday, December 31, 2013

SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was proper where the child had been in foster care for half of her life and did not want to live with the parent, and the parent and child did not have a strong bond or relationship.

On August 23, 2011, Jaiden, DOB 8/03, was removed from the home of the mother, Jamie, after DHHS found the home extremely dirty with no running water and discovered that Jamie tested positive for methamphetamine. This was the second time Jaiden and Jamie had been involved in the child welfare system. Jaiden was removed in September 2005 due to Jamie’s methamphetamine abuse and had been in foster care for 2 ½ years at that time, finally reunifying with Jamie in May 2008. On August 31, 2011, a Protective Custody Hearing was held and Jamie voluntarily agreed to participate in services. In December 2011, the State filed an amended 3a petition and an ex parte motion to suspend visits between Jamie and Jaiden, which the court granted. On January 20, 2012, a hearing was held where Jamie admitted to portions of the amended petition and Jaiden was adjudicated under 43-247(3)(a). The court also permitted Jamie to have therapeutic visitation with Jaiden if Jaiden’s therapist found it appropriate, which she never did. On December 13, 2012, the State filed a motion to terminate Jamie’s parental rights. At trial, Jaiden testified that she does not have a strong connection with Jamie, that she does not refer to her as “mom”, that she does not want to live with Jamie, and that she was excited about a termination of parental rights so that she could move on with her life. A bonding assessment found that Jaiden identified her foster family as her family. Jaiden’s foster mother and two experts all testified that Jaiden does not have a bond with Jamie and that Jamie’s relationship is harmful to Jaiden. After trial, the court terminated Jamie’s parental rights. Jamie appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. It first found the grounds under 43-292 to be satisfied because Jaiden had been out of home 18 months, more than 15 of the past 22 months. As to best interests, the Court of Appeals focused on Jaiden’s testimony that she had no relationship with Jamie and did not want a relationship with her. It noted that the therapist thought Jamie was unwilling to acknowledge Jaiden’s feelings or to genuinely work with Jaiden on things and that this would be a barrier to Jaiden healing. The Court of Appeals found that the overwhelming evidence showed Jaiden and Jamie’s relationship was beyond repair and reunifying Jaiden with Jamie would not be beneficial to her, and concluded the evidence clearly and convincingly showed that termination was proper. The Court of Appeals also addressed Jamie’s challenge of the court denying her motion for continued visitation pending appeal and her motion for family therapy. Because she only requested visitation pending appeal, the Court of Appeals found the issue moot. It also declined consideration of the motion for family therapy because Jamie provided no argument in her appeal in support of it.