In re Interest of Symon S.

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SUMMARY: Evidence supported the termination of a mother’s parental rights where the mother had a long history of drug addiction and failed to take advantage of offered services, despite the fact that the mother initially responded well to treatment. 

The State of Nebraska filed an amended petition in December of 2011, alleging Ashleigh placed her newborn son, Symon, at risk of harm because Symon tested positive for methamphetamines at birth. Symon was adjudicated on January 6, 2012, and Ashleigh was subsequently ordered to complete a residential drug treatment program and abstain from drugs. Ashleigh was accepted to the Family Drug Court in February, 2012 but was discharged on January 25, 2013 for reasons that did not appear in the record. The State filed a motion to terminate Ashleigh’s parental rights on April 4, 2013. On April 19, 2013, Ashleigh’s visitations were suspended due concerns about her mental health when she posted Facebook messages that implied she might hurt herself or Symon. The termination hearing was held June 25 and 26, 2013. Evidence was introduced that showed Ashleigh had a long history of methamphetamine use, but responded well to residential treatment and participated in child parent psychotherapy with Symon. Ashleigh initially regularly attended supervised visits and exhibited good parenting skills and a close bond with Symon. However, after Ashleigh graduated from Project Mother Child, she began missing therapy sessions, visitations and drug tests and tested positive for both methamphetamines and alcohol. The juvenile court terminated Ashleigh’s parental rights as to Symon on July 5, 2013.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of Ashleigh’s parental rights. Symon had been in foster care since birth and Ashleigh had never been able to parent without some level of supervision. Though Ashleigh initially responded well to treatment, it was clear she would need sustained treatment and there was no evidence that Ashleigh was committed to overcoming her addiction. There was ample evidence that Ashleigh’s relapse was more than just a single setback. The Court noted that Symon should not be made to wait until Ashleigh decided to take the necessary steps to treat her addiction. Thus, termination was in Symon’s best interests.