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TPR supported by sufficient evidence

State v. S.M.T., 2018AP2113, 2018AP2114, & 2018AP2115, District 1, 1/29/19 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The court of appeals rejects S.M.T.’s challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence terminating her parental rights based on the children’s continuing need of protective services and S.M.T.’s failure to assume parental responsibility.

All three of S.M.T.’s children were under CHIPS orders, one of them since October 2013 and the other two since May 2016. After S.M.T. failed to meet the conditions for return of the children, and after visits with the children at S.M.T.’s home were discontinued she missed several scheduled visits with the children. A TPR petition was filed in July 2018. (¶¶2-8).

S.M.T. claims the evidence failed to prove one of the elements of the continuing CHIPS ground—namely, the child welfare agency didn’t make reasonable efforts to provide the services to S.M.T. ordered by the circuit court. The circuit court found the last case manager assigned to S.M.T.’s case could have done more, but also found S.M.T. was in jail at the time after having her probation revoked, and that the case manager came late to the case, after the TPR petition had been filed and after the previous case manager had made “more than reasonable efforts.” (¶¶12-16). This supports the trial court’s conclusion that the elements under § 48.415(2)(a) were proven.

The circuit court also properly found that S.M.T. didn’t have a substantial parental relationship with her children as required by § 48.415(6). This determination was properly based on the totality of the circumstances, which showed that all three children had spent more time in out-of-home care than in the care of S.M.T. (¶¶18-24).

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