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In re P.T.D.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 17, 2017

In the Interest of P.T.D., a Child Eileen Hoffman, L.S.W., Stutsman County, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
P.T.D., child, T.D., father, Respondents and A.D., mother, Respondent and Appellant In the Interest of C.R.D., a Child Eileen Hoffman, L.S.W., Stutsman County, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
C.R.D., child, T.D., father, Respondents and A.D., mother, Respondent and Appellant In the Interest of P.A.D., a Child Eileen Hoffman, L.S.W., Stutsman County, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
P.A.D., child, T.D., father, Respondents and A.D., mother, Respondent and Appellant In the Interest of P.P.D., a Child Eileen Hoffman, L.S.W., Stutsman County, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
P.P.D., child, T.D., father, Respondents and A.D., mother, Respondent and Appellant In the Interest of N.A.D., a Child Eileen Hoffman, L.S.W., Stutsman County, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
N.A.D., child, T.D., father, Respondents and A.D., mother, Respondent and Appellant

         Appeal from the Juvenile Court of Stutsman County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Mark T. Blumer, Judge.

          Jeffrey P. Davis, Stutsman County Assistant State's Attorney, Jamestown, ND, for petitioner and appellee.

          Kiara Kraus-Parr, Grand Forks, ND, for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          Jensen, Justice.

         [¶ 1] A.D., the mother of P.T.D., C.R.D., P.A.D., P.P.D., and N.A.D., appeals from a juvenile court order finding her five children were deprived under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02(8). We conclude the juvenile court did not make sufficient findings of fact and remand for further findings.

         I

         [¶ 2] On February 10, 2017, the juvenile court held a deprivation hearing regarding A.D. and T.D.'s five children. T.D. is the father of all five children and did not appeal the juvenile court's order. The State alleged the children were deprived under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02(8). The State alleged the children were deprived because of repeated exposure to domestic violence between A.D. and T.D.; A.D.'s substance abuse and the presence of controlled substances in the home; T.D.'s suicide attempts; and other mental health issues.

         [¶ 3] At the deprivation hearing, the juvenile court heard testimony from P.T.D., the oldest child; A.D.'s father, the children's grandfather; Jessica Hartman, sergeant of the 24/7 program at the Stutsman County Correctional Center; Mercedez Holzworth, deputy sheriff at the Stutsman County Sheriff's department; T.D.'s mother, the children's grandmother; Eileen Hoffman, Stutsman County child protection worker; Nicole Heinle, family service specialist at Stutsman County Social Services; T.D.; and A.D. P.T.D. testified that he cared for his younger siblings while his parents were sleeping, did not feel safe at his parents' home, and was scared of his father. The children's grandfather testified about where A.D. was living while the children were removed and his observations of A.D., T.D., and the children. Hartman testified about A.D.'s urinalysis results, showing A.D.'s drug use. Holzworth testified about her experience in responding to calls from A.D. and T.D.'s home in the prior six months. The children's grandmother testified about her experiences with the children, what she observed in A.D. and T.D.'s home, along with how they cared for their children. Hoffman testified about her concerns regarding the conditions of the home prior to the removal of the children. Heinle testified about A.D.'s drug screening results and the youngest child's medical conditions and treatment. A.D. and T.D. each testified about their care of the children and also different issues related to their relationship, drug use, and mental health. Overall, the juvenile court heard a significant amount of testimony about the family's living situation and the relationships between the parents and their children.

         [¶ 4] After the deprivation hearing, the juvenile court found the children were deprived by clear and convincing evidence. The juvenile court ordered the children removed from the care, custody, and control of their parents on February 13, 2017. The juvenile court found the children deprived, as defined in N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02, and provided the following factual findings:

In particular, the children's mother, [A.D.], has recent positive tests for methamphetamine. [A.D.] is known to sleep late in the day, leaving the eldest of the children to care for the others. It should also be noted that when [N.A.D.] (the youngest of the children) is in his grandmother's care, the child "thrives." When [N.A.D.] is returned to [A.D.]'s care, [N.A.D.] ends up in the hospital. The children's father, [T.D.], has numerous recent attempts of suicide. Law enforcement has been dispatched to [A.D. and T.D.'s] residence on several occasions for domestic violence issues due to [T.D.]'s behavior. Furthermore, the eldest child at age 12, [P.T.D.], has expressed multiple occurrences when he has been concerned for his siblings and mother's welfare.

         These were the juvenile court's only written findings of fact following the deprivation hearing, aside from basic information about the family and repeating the statutory language. The juvenile court also made oral findings, including a contradictory finding that N.A.D.'s health issues "have all been related to his birth condition and there isn't sufficient testimony one way or the other as to the causes and effects on that." After finding the children deprived, the three oldest children were placed with the paternal grandparents, and the two youngest children were placed in foster care.

         [¶ 5] On appeal, A.D. requests this Court reverse the juvenile court and return the custody of the children to her. The juvenile court terminated its order and returned the children to the care, custody, and control of A.D. and T.D. on April 28, 2017.

         II

         [¶ 6] A.D. argues the juvenile court erred in finding the children deprived under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02. Additionally, A.D. alleges the juvenile court failed to find "exceptional circumstances" warranting placement of the children with someone other than the children's natural parents. Although custody has since been returned to A.D. and T.D., we review the juvenile court's decision because the nights the children spent in the custody of social services may be used in ...


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