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Evidence sufficient to establish TPR grounds

Racine County Human Services Dep’t v. C.C., 2017AP750, District 2, 10/11/17 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The evidence presented at the fact-finding hearing in C.C.’s TPR proceeding was sufficient to establish that she failed to assume parental responsibility under § 48.415(6).

C.C. argues the evidence is insufficient to find that she failed to assume parental responsibility “because she loves T.A., has not subjected him to harm, raised him until he was around the age of five years old (he is now almost ten years old), and has shown a commitment to the relationship through visitation and continued involvement in his life even though he has been placed in foster care.” (¶5). She acknowledges she has problems that make it hard for her to care for T.A., who has special needs, but argues the record shows she has “established a substantial relationship to the fullest of her abilities.” (Id.).

The court of appeals accepts that “C.C. may have the best of intentions and, quite understandably, a strong emotional desire to be with T.A.” (¶5). But after a review of the evidence (¶¶6-40) the court holds the record supports the conclusion that C.C. has been and will continue to be incapable of “exercis[ing] … significant responsibility for the daily supervision, education, protection and care” of T.A., see § 48.415(6)(b):

¶42     The circuit court placed particular weight upon the testimony of the forensic psychologist that, as the court summarized it, “[T.A.]’s needs exceed [C.C.]’s capacity to adequately meet” those needs. After evaluating T.A.’s condition and C.C.’s abilities over a five-year period since T.A.’s birth, the psychologist determined it was not safe for T.A. to be returned to C.C.’s care because “while the poor social interaction had pretty much been the same, now with this additional medical complication and really having to stay on top of … his nutrition and the tube and the feeding and the formula … I just didn’t think she would … ever have that ability.” The totality of the evidence supports a finding that T.A.’s needs were increasing, and due to C.C.’s cognitive limitations, she had been and would continue to be unable to meet those needs, including T.A.’s health and safety needs. Evaluating the totality of the circumstances over the life of T.A., the circuit court reasonably concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that C.C. had not exercised significant responsibility for the daily supervision, education, protection and care of T.A. This had been so since at least early 2013, and a change is not anticipated because T.A.’s needs are not expected to dissipate and C.C.’s abilities are not expected to substantially improve. Based on the record, we cannot say that the circuit court’s finding that C.C. failed to assume parental responsibility is against the great weight and clear preponderance of the evidence. As a result, we must affirm.

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