A-13-0133, A-13-0134, A-13-0135, In re Interest of Freyja K., et al., Children under 18 Years of Age. State of Nebraska v. Angel K. (Appellant)
County Court for Hall County, District Judge Daniel E. Bryan, Jr.
Attorney for Appellant: Michael P. Kneale (Bradley Elsbernd Law Firm)
Attorney for Appellee (State): Marty Klein (Hall County Attorney’s Office)
Guardian Ad Litem (Children): Susan M. Koenig (Mayer Burns Law Firm)
Juvenile Action: Termination of parental rights
Action taken by the Trial Court: The trial court found statutory grounds for termination of the mother’s parental rights and that termination was in the children’s best interests.
Assignments of Error on Appeal: Did the trial court err in finding that the mother had substantially and continuously or repeatedly neglected and refused to give the children care and protection? Did the trial court err in finding that reasonable efforts had been given to preserve and reunify the family and that those efforts failed to correct the conditions leading to adjudication? Did the trial court err in finding that termination was in the children’s best interests?
Facts: The two older children Zakery, born in 2003, and Freyja, born in 2008, were removed from Appellant’s home in September 2008 due to a filthy house and neglect. They were returned in October 2008. However, a few days later, Appellant was arrested on federal drug charges. The children were removed in November 2008 and never returned. Seth was born on July 2, 2009 while Appellant was incarcerated. He was placed in his siblings’ foster home and has never been in his mother’s custody. All three children have teratogens, a type of birth defect, likely due to Appellant’s abuse of alcohol and drugs. The children have social and learning disabilities and are in long-term behavioral therapy.
In 2009, Appellant was convicted in federal court for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Her anticipated release date was March 2013 with 5 years’ supervised release. She is incarcerated Carswell Federal Penitentiary in Texas. During her incarceration, Appellant has participated in therapy, parenting classes and substance abuse treatment programs. She states she has maintained contact with her case workers and the children’s therapists.
Appellant argues it was error to find she neglected her children and argues that reasonable efforts to reunite the family have not been provided. She admits that her incarceration has created issues with ability to parent her children but argues incarceration alone is not enough to warrant termination. She argues that she has done everything required by her case plan except what was limited by her incarceration. She points to her therapy, drug treatment and parenting classes as progress she has made. She argues she should be given the opportunity to have a gradual transition after her release to be reunited with her children.
The State argues that the children have a need for structured care, which they receive in their current foster home, and that the children’s futures should not be suspended while Appellant needs to “gradually transition” back into society and regain custody of her children. The State argues permanency is best for these children who have been in foster care since 2008 (and Seth his entire life since 2009). The State points out that Appellant had no future plans as to how she would care for her children after release, emotionally or financially.