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Dept. of Human Services v. J.L.H.

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 08-14-2013
Case #: A152931
Schuman, P.J. for the Court; Duncan, J.; and Wollheim, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A152931.pdf

Juvenile Law: Under the Indian Child Welfare Act the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the factual basis for terminating parental rights. Additionally, under ORS 419.504, the State must demonstrate the parent's conduct and environmental conditions are seriously detrimental to the child, and will not be resolved within a reasonable period of time.

Mother appealed the trial court's decision to terminate her parental rights to her son, K.M. Because K.M is a member of the Alaskan Native village of St. Michael, the trial court applied the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901 which requires the state to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the factual basis for terminating Mother's parental rights. Mother claimed that the Department of Human Services (DHS) did not carry their burden, and failed to prove that the facts alleged persisted at the time of trial were likely to result in serious damage or determent to K.M. Further, Mother asserted the trial court made their decision based on facts not alleged in the petition, and it is not in K.M.'s best interest to terminate Mother's parental rights. Based on testimony establishing Mother's untrustworthiness and lack of participation in rehabilitation programs, the trial court found that termination of Mother's parental rights was necessary. The Court found that although the trial court may have relied on facts and instances not specifically alleged, they directly relate to the mental and emotional instability that is alleged in the petition. Additionally, the Court found that, based on expert testimony from the tribal family coordinator, it is in K.M's best interest to be placed outside Mother's care. Affirmed.