Evidence sufficient to support TPR order

State v. J.M., 2016AP817 & 2016AP817, District 1, 7/6/16 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

The evidence introduced at the fact finding hearing was sufficient to establish both continuing CHIPS and failure to assume parental responsibility grounds, and the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in finding that termination was in the best interests of T.M.’s children.

First, the circuit court properly concluded the continuing CHIPS elements under § 48.415(2) were proven:

¶14 It is undisputed that the children have remained out of their maternal home since June 2012 and that they were adjudged to be children in need of protection or services. The circuit court heard from multiple witnesses who testified about the various efforts made by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services to foster reunification between J.M. and her children, including supervised visitation, drug and alcohol services, therapy, and drug screenings. Multiple witnesses testified that while J.M. regularly attended her visits with the children, she did not actively engage the children during those visits. J.M.’s case workers testified that J.M. failed to meet the conditions necessary for the children’s safe return and would likely not do so within the nine-month period following the hearing. The court found the witnesses credible. Accordingly, we conclude that sufficient evidence supports the circuit court’s finding and the court did not erroneously exercise its discretion.

So too with regard to the failure to assume elements under § 48.415(6):

¶17 Here, the court heard testimony that J.M. struggled to provide her children with consistency, could not meet their emotional needs, and seemed disinterested in disciplining her children. The court also heard testimony indicating that the children are well-bonded with their foster families, to the extent that J.T.M. no longer looks forward to visits with his mother. Under the totality of the circumstances, the circuit court did not err in finding that J.M. failed to assume parental responsibility.

Finally, the circuit court properly exercised its discretion in deciding that termination was in the best interest of the children by considering all of the relevant factors under § 48.426(3). J.M. argues the court failed to properly consider the children’s bond with their mother and maternal grandmother, but the court addressed that factor; however, it decided the children’s relationship with their foster family was more substantial and that any harm from severing J.M.’s relationship with her children would be mitigated by the fact the foster parents’ facilitate contact between them. (¶20).