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Evidence was sufficient to show mother failed to assume parental responsibility

Barron County DHHS v. Maria A., 2013AP2735, District 3, 4/1/14; court of appeals decision (1-judge; ineligible for publication); case activity

Under the highly deferential standard of review for sufficiency claims, State v. Quinsanna D., 2002 WI App 318, ¶30, 259 Wis. 2d 429, 655 N.W.2d 752, the evidence was sufficient to support the finding that Maria failed to assume parental responsibility for her daughter, Aliyana, under § 48.415(6)The evidence showed Maria cared for Aliyana for the first two-and-one-half years of her life and could be a loving and affectionate parent. But it also showed that soon after Aliyana’s birth there were reports about Maria’s mental health problems and homelessness and her inability to meet Aliyana’s nutritional needs. In addition, after Aliyana was placed in foster care through a CHIPS proceeding based on neglect, § 48.13(10), Maria did not exercise the supervision, protection and care necessary to keep Aliyana out of harm’s way, she would “in essence” harass the child, and Aliyana may not have recognized Maria as her mother. (¶¶3-14, 25-27).

Maria also argued her due process rights were violated because the County’s argument about Maria’s failure to assume parental responsibility cited Maria’s absence from Aliyana’s life that was a direct result of Aliyana’s foster care placement, making Maria analogous to the mother in Kenosha Cnty. DHS v. Jodie W., 2006 WI 93, 293 Wis. 2d 530, 716 N.W.2d 845. (¶¶31-33). The court (¶¶ 34-38) concludes the evidence shows this case is not like Jodie W.:

¶37      …. Unlike Jodie W., the record here does not support Maria’s assertion that she was found to have failed to assume parental responsibility based solely on the fact that Aliyana was placed in foster care and Maria did not have twenty-four-hour care of her. Maria overlooks the evidence supporting the jury’s verdict—that she neglected Aliyana, that Aliyana did not recognize her as her mother, that Maria did not appropriately supervise or keep Aliyana safe, and that Maria harassed Aliyana. We therefore conclude Wis. Stat. § 48.415(6) as applied to Maria was narrowly tailored to meet the Department’s compelling interest of protecting Aliyana from an unfit parent.

And while the jury rejected the County’s alternate TPR ground of continuing CHIPS, § 48.415(2), because it found the Department had not made reasonable efforts to provide court-ordered services (18), that does not affect the jury’s finding on the separate and independent ground of failure to assume parental responsibility. (¶39).

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