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Entire record established sufficiency of evidence to support TPR admisssion

State v. J.C., 2017AP1783, District 1, 3/27/18 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

J.C. pleaded no contest to the continuing CHIPS grounds alleged in the petition for termination of her parental rights. She later argued her plea wasn’t supported by sufficient evidence because, at the fact-finding hearing required under § 48.422(3) for no-contest pleas, there was no evidence the child welfare department made reasonable efforts to provide her with court-ordered services. Applying Waukesha County v. Steven H., 2000 WI 28, 233 Wis. 2d 344, 207 N.W.2d 207, the court of appeals holds that even if the record of the fact-finding hearing was deficient, there was other evidence in the record to make up for it.

¶13     Assuming, without deciding, that the testimony taken at the fact finding hearing was insufficient to determine that the Department made reasonable efforts to assist J.C., we conclude that J.C. was not prejudiced by the error and that the error was harmless. Examining the totality of the record, we agree with the postdisposition court that there was sufficient testimony to establish reasonable efforts put forth by the Department. Although the case manager was not directly asked about the Department’s efforts in facilitating J.C.’s compliance with the CHIPS order at the fact finding hearing, Endtoff testified about the various programs J.C. took part in, including parental assessments and individual therapy. At the disposition hearing, when Endtoff was directly asked about the Department’s efforts, Endtoff listed multiple services including parenting assessments, individual therapy, AODA assessments, medication management and supervised visitation. Endtoff also stated that she offered J.C. bus tickets due to J.C.’s transportation difficulties and provided J.C. with a list of services offered closer to J.C.’s residence. The only thing Endtoff refused to do directly was reassign a visitation supervisor due to the parents’ concern about the supervisor’s race; however, Endtoff provided the parents with the information necessary to do so themselves. Thus, in accordance with Steven H., we conclude that the totality of the record supports the postconviction court’s finding that the Department made reasonable efforts to assist J.C. in meeting her court-ordered conditions for A.S.’s return.

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