IN THE MATTER OF THE PARENTAL RIGHTS AS TO R.T., K.G.-T., N.H.-T. AND E.H.-T., MINOR CHILDREN.
WASHOE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, Respondent. JACQUELINE G., Appellant,
from a district court order terminating appellant's
parental rights. Second Judicial District Court, Washoe
County; Egan K. Walker, Judge.
T. Bosler, Public Defender, and John Reese Petty, Chief
Deputy Public Defender, Washoe County, for Appellant.
Christopher J. Hicks, District Attorney, and Tyler M. Elcano,
Deputy District Attorney, Washoe County, for Respondent.
HARDESTY, PARRAGUIRRE and STIGLICH, JJ.
case, we are asked to determine whether one's parental
rights may be terminated due to poverty and, if not, whether
the district court's termination order was improperly
based on the appellant's poverty. We take this
opportunity to clarify that poverty is not, and has never
been, a valid basis for terminating one's parental
rights. Additionally, we hold the district court's
termination order was not predicated on the appellant's
poverty and is supported by substantial evidence. Therefore,
we affirm the district court's order.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Jacqueline G. is a 26-year-old mother of four children: R.T.,
K.G.-T., N.H.-T., and E.H.-T. From October 2012 to April
2013, respondent Washoe County Department of Social Services
(WCDSS) received several reports indicating Jacqueline did
not have adequate housing for her children. WCDSS discovered
that Jacqueline had changed residences several times, had
been evicted from her most recent residence, and had
exhausted all local resources for housing. As a result, R.T.,
K.G.-T., and N.H.-T. were removed from Jacqueline's
custody in April 2013 and placed with a foster parent.
received a case plan, which required her to: (1) obtain and
maintain housing; (2) obtain and maintain a stable income,
either through welfare or employment; and (3) demonstrate
that she could care for her children's basic needs (e.g.,
keep the home clean, pay her bills on time, and get the
children to appointments and school on time).
Jacqueline's case was also placed in a program that
allowed her to receive assistance from the Children's
Cabinet, a nonprofit agency that provides services to
families in need.
January 1, 2014, E.H.-T. was born. Shortly thereafter,
Jacqueline was evicted from her apartment, and she eventually
moved into a trailer with the father of her children. During
this time, WCDSS received a report indicating
Jacqueline's residence was not safe for the child. An
assessment worker visited the residence and observed a broken
window, a broken glass door, a broken refrigerator, a knife
on the counter, dirty dishes, and some trash and piles of
clothes throughout the living room. However, E.H.-T. was not
yet mobile, and the room where E.H.-T. slept was relatively
clean and free of clutter. Therefore, E.H.-T. was not removed
from Jacqueline's custody.
a domestic dispute, Jacqueline moved out of the trailer.
Eventually, Jacqueline moved into a motel room, and an
assessment worker scheduled a time to visit Jacqueline at the
residence. The assessment worker observed significant
clutter, animal feces and urine, and dirty diapers throughout
the room. The assessment worker concluded that the
environment posed a safety risk to E.H.-T. because E.H.-T.
was now mobile. As a result, E.H.-T. was subsequently removed
from Jacqueline's custody and placed with the foster
parent. Jacqueline received another case plan, which was
similar to her first case plan. In addition, Jacqueline was
asked to participate in therapy and to undergo a psychosocial
evaluation to ensure her purported depression and anxiety did
not interfere with her ability to reunite with her children.
October 2012 to July 2015, Jacqueline had resided in
approximately 15 different shelters, apartments, and motels.
Meanwhile, WCDSS and the Children's Cabinet provided
Jacqueline with several services to help her find affordable
housing, including referrals and assistance with the Reno
Housing Authority, Section 8 housing, victim assistance
programs, and low-income energy assistance programs. In
addition, WCDSS and the Children's Cabinet helped
Jacqueline find employment opportunities and apply for jobs.
Nonetheless, Jacqueline quit, or was terminated from, almost
every job she held within a month's time. WCDSS also
referred Jacqueline to several mental health professionals
for evaluations and counseling. Many of these individuals
testified that therapy would have helped treat
Jacqueline's anxiety and depression. Although Jacqueline
was referred to at least three separate therapists, services
were discharged with each therapist after Jacqueline failed
to attend appointments.
WCDSS concluded that Jacqueline had made minimal progress on
her case plan goals. On July 17, 2015, WCDSS filed an amended
petition to terminate Jacqueline's parental rights. A
six-day bench trial was held, in which 21 witnesses
testified, including Jacqueline, several social workers, and
several mental health professionals. After the trial, the
district court issued an order terminating Jacqueline's
parental rights with respect to all four children.
Specifically, the district court held: (1) Jacqueline failed
to overcome NRS 128.109's presumptions with respect to
R.T., K.G.-T., and N.H.-T.; (2) Jacqueline demonstrated only
token efforts to care for her children under NRS
128.105(1)(b)(6); and (3) the best interests of the children