In re Interest of Tabitha B.

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In re Interest of Tabitha B.

Caselaw No.
Filed on
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SUMMARY: Termination of parental rights was proper where the parent failed to comply with services until immediately before trial, exhibited erratic behavior, and wouldn’t be in a position to parent for several years due to mental health issues.

Tabitha, DOB 2/11, is the child of Sarah. DHHS has been involved with Sarah and Tabitha since birth when there was an altercation at the hospital. DHHS worked with Sarah on a voluntary basis but discharged her unsuccessfully in the summer of 2011. In August 2011, police were called to the house after a domestic violence incident between Sarah and Tabitha’s father, and Sarah tested positive for methamphetamine at the hospital. Tabitha’s hair also tested positive. On September 6, 2011, Sarah’s mother, Kelly, received an erratic call from Sarah claiming someone took Tabitha. Kelly eventually found Tabitha at Sarah’s boyfriend’s mother’s house and took her home. Tabitha has resided with Kelly since that time. In October 2011, a mental health evaluation was conducted which found Sarah to have inconsistent behaviors and inconsistent stories, and Sarah spoke with a foreign accent during the evaluation. A neuropsychological evaluation was conducted which found Sarah to have a self-inflicted brain injury from meth use. It stated that Sarah was several years away from being able to make appropriate decisions and may never reach the point where she could care for Tabitha. In November 2011, the State filed an amended petition alleging Tabitha to be within the meaning of N.R.S. 43-247(3)(a) and Tabitha was adjudicated on November 16, 2011. Sarah was sporadic in her visits and with drug testing, and would exhibit erratic behavior in front of the family support worker. Sarah was arrested for meth possession and spent time in jail and in the regional center between November 2011 and July 2012. On March 5, 2012, the State filed a motion to terminate Sarah’s parental rights but withdrew the motion but later filed again on December 10, 2012. Trial was held on March 15 and April 11, 2013. Immediately before trial, Sarah started participating in drug testing, with negative results, and completed a new chemical dependency evaluation. After trial, the court terminated Sarah’s parental rights. Sarah appealed.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights. As to the grounds under N.R.S. 43-292, the Court of Appeals found Tabitha to have resided out-of-home for more than 15 of the past 22 months. As to best interests, the Court of Appeals noted that Sarah failed to cooperate with workers or participate in services, never moved beyond supervised visits, never consistently attended visits with Tabitha, had erratic and nonsensical behavior and would not be capable of caring for Tabitha for several years, if ever, and concluded that termination was in Tabitha’s best interests.