Brown County DH & HS v. T.H., 2022AP2168, 2022AP2169, 2022AP2170, & 2022AP2171, District 3, 6/13/23 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (for 2022AP2168, with links to other consolidated cases)
T.H. (“Terese”) argues the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion in terminating her rights to her four children based on continuing denial of physical placement or visitation grounds, § 48.415(4), because it failed to account sufficiently for, and give appropriate weight to, her positive change and the progress she made in meeting court-ordered conditions for reunification. The court of appeals disagrees, finding the circuit court analyzed all the dispositional factors for each child, employed a rational thought process, and weighed the important factors that were supported by the record.
¶14 The circuit court examined the facts and properly considered the factors required under Wis. Stat. § 48.426(3). Regarding adoptability, the caseworker testified that each child had a high likelihood of adoption after termination. …. Addressing the ages and health of the children, the caseworker testified that Wren, Adam and Annette had mental health challenges; that Wren is “prediabetic”; and that Avonna, the youngest, is deaf.
¶15 Addressing the children’s relationships with Terese and other family members and the wishes of the children, the records for these cases show a strained relationship between the children and Terese. The caseworker testified that Wren and Adam wanted their mother’s parental rights to be terminated. The caseworker explained that Wren was “nervous” about returning to Terese’s care and that Adam stated that he “does not want a relationship with [Terese]” and that “he does not want to ever see [Terese] again.” Annette and Avonna considered their current placement as their family, and Annette referred to her current foster parent as her mother. The caseworker noted that Avonna had been out of the home since she “was very young,” so she had no substantial bond with Terese. ….
¶16 The County also presented evidence that the separation between Terese and her children had been substantial and ongoing since October 2017. ….
¶17 The caseworker further testified that termination would allow for each child to enter into a more stable and permanent family relationship, one that would allow them to find closure and permanence. ….
¶19 …Terese argues that the circuit court did not properly consider her recent progress. As noted above, however, Terese is incorrect as the court did, in fact, acknowledge her recent efforts. The specific facts that Terese points to on appeal—maintaining a home; working two jobs; paying rent; and having a few active criminal cases—are all facts that the court weighed in its written decision.
¶20 While the circuit court considered it encouraging that Terese had made progress toward meeting her court-ordered conditions, it reasonably weighed the various dispositional factors at the hearing and nonetheless concluded that despite Terese’s progress, termination was in the children’s best interests. ….