In re Interest of Lisette M.

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SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was proper where the mother completed only one of four substance abuse treatments and was arrested for meth possession soon after the successful discharge, failed to comply with drug testing throughout the case.

Lisette, DOB 9/10, was removed from the home of her mother, Ana, on October 3, 2011, after Ana tested positive for cocaine, amphetamines and benzodiazepines. Ana admitted to the allegations in the 3a petition that she had used cocaine and had a history of cocaine use and that these behaviors place Lisette at risk for harm. The first month after removal Ana was active in services. She entered intensive outpatient treatment on November 16, 2011, but did not complete homework or attend 12-step meetings and she missed drug testing due to scheduling. On December 23, 2011, after missing drug tests Ana tested positive for meth. Her treatment was extended, but she continued to miss drug tests and had another positive test on January 20, 2012. Ana re-entered intensive outpatient treatment on March 21, 2012, and graduated on May 2. She was also having regular visits, attending counseling and had completed a parenting course. In June 2012, Ana was charged with possession of meth. She completed another substance abuse evaluation, which recommended short-term residential treatment. Ana began intensive outpatient treatment on October 22 but stopped on January 3, 2013, because she needed a higher level of treatment. On December 27, 2012, Ana refused drug testing and indicated she would no longer be going to treatment. She failed to comply with drug testing for over a month. On January 15, 2013, the State filed a motion to terminate Ana’s parental rights. In February 2013, Ana entered short-term residential treatment but was discharged after two weeks for non-compliance. Ana entered residential treatment again on April 1 and at trial was scheduled to graduate on April 29. At trial, testimony established that Lisette has been in the same foster home since removal and was doing well, although she maintained a strong bond with Ana. After trial, the juvenile court terminated Ana’s parental rights. Ana appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. It first found grounds to terminate were satisfied because Lisette had been out of home more than 15 months. As to best interests, the Court of Appeals noted that Ana had successfully completed only one of four drug treatments, was arrested for meth possession soon after the successful completion, had tested positive for meth at least three times and failed to comply with a majority of drug testing throughout the case. It concluded the evidence established that termination was in Lisette’s best interests. Finally, the Court of Appeals clarified that the requirement to show definite risk of future harm only applies to adjudication and not termination of parental rights.